Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Read it to me again

This Sunday we open our Bibles to one of the most familiar Bible stories of all time – David and Goliath. Almost everyone knows the story of David and Goliath. People who have never even read the Bible somehow still know the story of David and Goliath. Most of us first heard the story when we were very little children. Because of that fact, it’s easy to think this is just a children’s story. It is a children’s story – a wonderful children’s story – but it’s not just a children’s story. That is, it’s not a story that we simply stop needing to hear once we get older. In fact, most of the stories we learned as children are stories that we need to keep on hearing again and again – for stories, unlike other types of information continue to teach new truths long after their first hearings.

Eugene Peterson, a wonderful writer and teller of stories, explains, “Learning stories isn’t the same as learning the multiplication tables. Once we’ve learned that three times four is twelve, we’ve learned it and that’s that. It’s a fact that doesn’t change. The data is stored in our memory for ready access. But stories don’t stay put; they grow and deepen. The meaning doesn’t exactly change, but it matures. Having learned the meaning of love, for instance, we don’t for a moment suppose that we’ve passed that course and can now go on to other things, deciding perhaps to sign up computer science” (from Peterson’s Leap Over a Wall, his excellent work on the life of David).

The stories we tell our children tend to teach them (and us) the basics of life. But the basics of life, like what it means to love one another or what it means to trust God are something we never truly master. The basics – faith, hope, and love – are things we must keep learning to put into practice again and again and again. Which is exactly why we need to keep hearing the stories of our faith anew. We need to hear the story of that young boy facing that ugly giant once more, because, frankly, we’ve all encountered new giants since the last time we heard David shout out, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty.” We’ve struggled to internalize that same holy bravado. We’ve grown timid in our old age. We need to hear the story again so that the great truths of the scripture may reach deeper into our hearts and spring afresh into the those moments of our lives when we find ourselves unexpectedly facing an intimidating giant with only a slingshot, a handful of stones, and a prayer.

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” – Matthew 17:20.

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