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Story: “An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment” (OED)

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 14 October 2012

“I wanna tell you a story!”  I hold onto a nostalgic picture of a small child sitting on its parent’s knee, being read a story, preferably by an open fireside on a freezing winter night.  How fortunate, how very fortunate you are, if you were brought up to enjoy stories and books and reading!

Stories can be for children or adults.  Perhaps children have something to teach boring and blunted adults with their unlimited imaginations and openness, so that they can slip into another world, perhaps Narnia with Susan and Peter, or Hogwarts with Harry, and then be caught up in it.  Our adult reading of scripture, too, can be enriched by bringing our imagination to it.

Whichever literary form you enjoy (be it novel or short story, legend or fairy tale, parable or fable, fantasy, etc.) it’s worth asking, “what is the point the story-teller’s trying to get across?”  There may well be more than one understanding of a story; a good one may work on several levels, and we come to it from our own angle.  This, too, can apply to our reading of scripture.  Whether it’s Old Testament “history” or a Gospel passage, what is the writer wanting to tell us about truth or God or the Kingdom?

Stories usually hold up a mirror to ourselves.  We learn about the complexity of human nature (or even divine nature).  Think of Lawrence or Forster; provoking us to think about English attitudes to class, sex, religion, etc.  Or stories can take us into apparently distant worlds but still ring bells with our own experience and reality.

Perhaps this should have appeared for World Book Day…However, come along to the Autumn Education Programme at St Martin’s, and be encouraged to think again about that very diverse collection of stories that make up much of the library of the Bible.

Revd Colin Midlane