Growing up as a child in a Christian home, I was always told that the Scriptures were sacred. They were God-breathed. Divine. Different from other sorts of stories and books, they were set apart. We were not to laugh when we read the Bible. Reading the Bible was an ongoing act of discipline. It was an intellectual pursuit with the goal of knowing, so I memorized Bible verses to accrue more gold stars than the rest of my classmates in Sunday School. I filed away the strange names of the Biblical books and the even stranger stories about characters like Moses, David, and Esther. I learned them all, but the learning was void of joy because I was blind.
I read and listened to what I was told and carefully took notes from the opinions of those much older and more learned than I, and I inhaled their dry stale stipulations and theology. The Bible was a valley of dry bones and barren words. I didn’t dare to read between the lines and let my imagination run free like I did when reading the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. I never stayed up late enraptured by the Israelites escaping into the desert, David flinging stones at giants and fleeing from Saul through the wild wilderness, or Esther scheming to save her people.
I’m not a child anymore, and I no longer hear the stories of the Bible for the first time, but at 25 I am beginning to truly see them for the first time. I am coming back to well-worn pages in my tattered Bible scrawled with notes and highlighted in hideous neon yellow, but this time I come in search of a story. This time I let my mind wander and wonder what it sounded like when the waters of the Red Sea parted. Were David’s hands sweaty and shaking as he reached them into his pouch standing before the hulking mass of Goliath? Did Esther kiss her handmaidens goodbye before she walked into the King’s chamber?
I see now that “sacred” does not mean dry. “Divine” does not mean no imagination allowed. The Bible is filled with stories of sorrow and humor and joy. They are brimming with life if we dare to drink deeply. The words are waiting to rise up and dance if only we would have eyes to see and ears to hear them. It is our task as pastors to rekindle the art of storytelling. It is our job to take well-worn words and breathe life into them just as God has breathed life into our dry and barren souls. It is a sin to bore people with the gospel, to open the sacred words of Scripture and preach without passion and conviction and creativity. We do not tell stories merely for the sake of telling stories or to entertain. These are not ordinary stories. These are the stories of God at work in the world. These are holy stories set apart and preserved throughout the ages. These are sacred stories chosen by God for the people of God through which the Holy Spirit moves in power. Let us become pastors and storytellers who practice resurrection by bringing dead words to life.