From a very young age, I was a gigantic film buff. Not a weekend went by where I didn’t see a movie in the theater or rent one with my friends after riding our bikes to the town Blockbuster. Yes, Blockbuster was still around in my youth. (I’m young, but not THAT young!) While I still love the entertainment value that TV and movies bring to my life even to this day, it always came down to the story. It doesn’t matter how great the special effects are or how captivating the music is, if the story isn’t of interest, the whole thing just falls apart.
Stories give us the opportunity to experience feelings or situations we normally don’t encounter our daily life or they allow us to walk a mile in a character’s shoes who may be different from us. They can help you relate to others and maybe even help you find things within yourself that you didn’t even think about. I bet you don’t have spider powers like Peter Parker in Spider-Man, but I’m sure some of us can relate to being an awkward teenager who has to start taking responsibility. I’m sure none of us are quite literally living the same exact day over and over again like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, but I am sure we’ve wondered what it would be like to do the right thing after messing up and wishing we had the chance to do things over.
No matter how high-concept they may seem, the best stories have lessons for us and ways to relate to the characters. Which is why diving deeper into the stories Jesus told is the perfect way of beginning Hoboken’s Grace’s brand -new series, In Real Life. Reading the Bible is comforting for many, but for others it can feel like you’re grasping at thin air. Often times stories make sense to those at the center of them, but for others you may be left wondering “where do I fit into all of this?” To help us understand how we can relate to these stories in our daily lives, Pastor Chris spent the first sermon in the series talking about Luke and the parables that Jesus often shared as a way to understand His teachings better. Luke traveled a lot with Jesus and made sure to make an account of all the stories Jesus told so that he could remember and pass them down.
In week 1 of the series, Pastor Chris discussed the story about a farmer who would throw his seeds around during his planting. The seeds the farmer threw haphazardly would fall on some rocks, get eaten by birds, and even land on the hard ground; not exactly the best-case scenario for trying to grow crops. But when the seeds landed on the good soil, it produced more than one hundred times what was sown. It wasn’t a coincidence that Jesus used a farmer as an example in the story. Pastor Chris pointed out that He was telling this story in an agricultural area and this was the best way that He could relate to the listeners and help them understand who God was. The different places where the seeds landed represented different people who would hear the word of God and how they would absorb the word and grow. Even though the disciples were initially confused by this, Jesus took them aside and told them what all the symbolism meant, knowing that that they would pass this story on in the future.
This past week, Anthony continued the series of Jesus’ parables with the story of the lost sheep which was another example of Jesus creating a story that related to a major occupation during this specific Biblical time and place. None of us in Hoboken are shepherds, at least in the Biblical sense, but we can all relate to the idea of someone who cares for us, loving us so much, that they will stop at nothing to protect us and save us no matter how weak or insignificant we may feel compared to everybody else. Its stories like this one that give us a poignant grasp on what the love of Jesus looks like and how powerful it is. Sometimes our own stories about being lost and found are so personal that they are difficult to put into words. When telling your own story you may find that using examples of everyday life to help paint a picture like Jesus often did, can help you get your point across and make it easier when sharing how He has impacted you with others.
During his message, Anthony also said that when he was growing up he wanted to be Indiana Jones. While not a real person, Indiana Jones still represented an adventure-seeking part of Anthony that he related to. Anthony could imagine himself in middle of an exciting adventure like Indy and it made his own dreams feel attainable. That’s the power of a great story. They can make us dream about what we could be, or help us understand things that we normally wouldn’t think about. It can sometimes be difficult to read the Bible and understand how to interpret the stories or figure out how they fit into our lives in the year 2020 but when you read between the lines, you’ll discover that the stories are universal. Stories connect us all and when we consistently weave them into our daily lives, we will find that they can have new meaning and significance at different times. That’s why I’m excited for what’s still to come in this series because stories are always teaching us and the stories of Jesus can connect us, impact us, and speak to us whatever we’re going through.