I had the great privilege of attending and providing leadership for two conferences over the last two weeks: the Festival Gathering of the Network of Biblical Storytellers and the Go Disciple Live conference on discipleship and evangelism. You can read more about my talk at the GDL conference here.
I used a few resources over those days, and as promised, I am sharing them here.
“To God, before whom I fall” was written and read by the amazing Sarah Agnew. You can find more of Sarah’s poetry and storytelling on her site Sarah Tells Stories. This poem was taken from the book On Wisdom’s Wings. Sarah is doing some incredible work in storytelling, and you should definitely check it out!
LoveCatena by Casey FitzGerald: A weaving of 1 Corinthians 13 with other stories from scripture. (Feel free to use, with credit.)
Story on Fire –learn to tell the Pentecost story with this quick video series! (Method can be used for any story!)
To those at the Go Disciple Live Conference who want to read more regarding Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins lecture on digital/social media, I highly recommend my friend and colleague the Rev. Keith Anderson‘s book The Digital Cathedral.
To pair with the annunciation/magnificat narrative (Luke 1:26-56):
To pair with the story of Jacob meeting Rachel (Genesis 29:1-12):
To pair with the story of Moses fleeing to Midian (Exodus 2:11-22):
To pair with the story of Jesus speaking of friendship (John 15:12-17):
To pair with the story of the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35):
Elizabeth Adkisson tells the Pentecost story (Acts 2:1-21)
You can also listen to the Pentecost narrative on Story Divine (though nobody tells it like Elizabeth). What follows are story learning and telling prompts meant for all ages.
Pentecost: The word “pentecost” comes from a Greek word which means “fifty.” Pentecost is the fiftieth day–its tradition began in Judaism as a celebration of the fiftieth day after Passover. For Christians, it is the fiftieth day after Easter and celebrates the beginning of the church.
People were gathered from far and wide on the day of Pentecost. Check out this map–it shows you how far people traveled to worship in Jerusalem on that day! I wonder what it must have been like to be gathered in a room with people from so many different places, speaking so many different languages…
Can you PICTURE that?
Take a plain piece of paper and fold it into quarters. Unfold. Using the sections draw each of the following to tell the first part of the story:
1. When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Using only your picture, tell the first part of the story to someone else!
Imagine what it would have been like to be gathered with people who spoke so many different languages–to be in a room with a bunch of people you couldn’t understand for worship.
1. What might it have felt like to suddenly understand one another?
2. Sometimes it is hard to understand even when we speak the same language! Is there anything you have a hard time understanding during worship?
3. Tell a story about a time you finally understood something.
Each year on the second Sunday of Easter we encounter the story of Thomas. This year the story seems especially important. Will we let fear and doubt be our primary narratives, or will we learn to tell a different story?
WATCH and WONDER
as told by Casey FitzGerald
BREAK IT down
A great way to start remembering the story as an adult and to help children get the basics is to break it down to the main points. Yes, the details are very important…but you will be able to tell the story with much more confidence (and remember it better) if you know the key parts. This is akin to naming “episodes,” but with full descriptive sentences.
For the younger set: You may want to learn the story summaries in parts. To begin, just learn the initial appearance. If I were breaking it up into a child-friendly summary, it might look something like this:
Jesus had been killed
The disciples locked themselves in a house because they were afraid.
Jesus appeared in the locked room!
He said, “Peace be with you.”
The disciples rejoiced because Jesus was ALIVE!
Before learning the “abridged” version, be sure to read/tell the whole section/story aloud so that they can hear it from you first. HERE is a link to the story from GoTell Communications. After reading/telling the whole story, learn the simple version. See if they can repeat the story. See if they can remember what was left out in the simple version (i.e., showing his hands and side).
This is one of my all-time favorite stories. It was the first that I recorded for my certification through the Academy for Biblical Storytelling. I thought about showing you that recording and letting you compare, but I’m not quite ready for that yet. Let’s just say I moved around…A LOT. I most recently told it at the 2015 NEXT Church national gathering.
There are so many reasons to love this story. Though it’s often called the “doubting Thomas” story, it is clear that the other disciples also doubted. The other disciples also had to SEE to believe. (They don’t actually recognize Jesus until he shows them his wounds: he showed them his hands and his sides–THEN the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.)
I love the ending commentary of the story:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples,
which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Messiah,
the Son of God,
and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Though we don’t see Jesus in the way that the disciples did in that locked house…it just might be that we see him when we hear and tell the stories. These stories of Jesus are the means through which we have LIFE.
So GO and TELL!
in a room filled with fear
A story from last year (2014):
A few months ago, I got a call in my office from the administrative assistant–“Don’t leave, we are on lock-down.” In the late morning, a beloved woman in the church neighborhood received a knock on her door and was gunned down by a stranger. So we were on lock-down. It happened that the lock-down was enforced just minutes before the release of our weekday preschool. Parents waited in locked cars in our parking lot. Kids sheltered in dark bathrooms. Our teachers made instant transformations into heroes. And we waited…locked in the church. Police with dogs and guns came, searching the building as their colleagues searched the neighborhood. Rumors of ties to other unsolved local murders swept twitter-feeds and the news outlets. It was scary at the time, but perhaps more scary in the days following…especially for our parents.
Lying in bed that night, I was trying to imagine what story I would tell myself and the members of my church (many of whom reside in this neighborhood, many of whom knew and loved the victim). I thought about the parents in the parking lot…how afraid they must have been…and how, because the murderer had not (and has not) been caught, I could not offer them easy assurances. The threat still seemed to loom. That’s when I remembered this story from John. The disciples had real reasons to be afraid. Their leader had been crucified. They were under threat of similar persecution. They were mourning and fearful. So they locked themselves in a house and tried to regroup. In the midst of this fear and sorrow, Jesus entered with the gift of peace…and everything changed. Actually, nothing on the outside changed. They still had every reason to fear the authorities. Yet, in that moment when they saw the risen Lord, they were freed from the bonds of fear. Jesus’ appearance re-framed their story. The details are mostly the same, but the way that they saw the world was forever changed. “Peace be with you,” Jesus said…and they rejoiced.
I told myself the story a few times that week. In simple ways I told it to a number of members. Seeing the risen Lord has the power to re-frame all of our stories.
May the peace of Jesus Christ enter into every fear-filled room in which you find yourself.
This post is a mash-up of previous posts on the story of Jesus in the wilderness for Lent 1. Though the stories told are from Matthew’s gospel (and we are in Luke this time around), they can still be applied!
WATCH and WONDER X 2!
This is one of my favorite kid-telling videos we made at our church. The wonderful Alex Bryant filmed and edited this one, which is why the quality is so great. My own children (who are not in the video) could not stop watching it. Got kids around? Share it with them!!!
Matthew 4:1-11 As told by Rev. Leslianne Braunstein
Thank you, Leslianne!!!
FASTINGTo “fast” is to intentionally not eat food as a way to become closer to God. Here is an explanation of the practice of fasting in biblical times offered by Bible.org:
“The [Old Testament] uses fasting and abstinence from food to point to something even more necessary for life—communion with and dependence on God. Fasting behaviors were sometimes commanded, sometimes voluntary, and sometimes even ritualized, but the Hebrew Bible rather consistently portrays fasting in conjunction with themes of disruption and restoration. In the midst of disruption, fasting comes to symbolize hope. Through repentance and prayer, fasting can signify the centering of the self in humility, the renewal of the relationship to God’s sustaining force. As such, fasting takes on a dual significance of mourning and hope.”
Have you ever fasted? What was it like? What was the hardest part? Did it make you feel closer to God?
If you haven’t fasted, find someone who has and ask them about their experience! Better yet–try a fast yourself–even a brief fast might help you tell the story!
learn it BY HEART
Verbal Threads Look for the words or phrases that are repeated through the story. Click HERE for the text from Matthew and HERE for the text from Luke (thanks again to gotell.org). There is a lot of repetition in the story, which makes for great storytelling! I like to print out a copy of the story and with my colored pens circle and connect the verbal threads. What do you notice about the repetition?
Giving VOICE to the devil I am always struck by what good things the devil offers Jesus. If he’s meant to be the savior of the world, wouldn’t it be great if he was well-fed and already ruled everything??? In order to consider how the devil sounds, you might want to think about (or tell a story about) what tempts you. Is the devil angry or…persuasive…or something else? What works better when one is trying to be tempting?
Looking for CLUES What does Jesus look and sound like in this story? Consider what it would be like to fast for 40 days and nights…how might this have affected his speech or the way he stands? Was he hangry? (When I am hungry, I am almost always also short-tempered and angry.) Does he start off the same way he begins, or is he changed over the course of the story? (For example, does he start of weak and get stronger, or could it be the other way around?)
WAYS to WONDER
For all ages: STORY BOARDINGThis story has great visuals (some kids may need a bit of explanation from adults).
Draw Jesus alone in the wilderness (consider…what is the wilderness?)
Draw the temptation of the bread (consider…what do we “live by”?)
Draw Jesus and the devil on the pinnacle of the temple (consider…how do we test our God?)
Draw them up on a high mountain looking at all the kingdoms (consider…what things in this world are particularly tempting to you?)
Draw Angels attending Jesus (consider…when have you felt God caring for you?)
Before you begin with the story-watching/learning process, check out this beautiful song by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, musician, Psalm scholar and liturgical theologian! His gift to us this Epiphany. You can see/hear more of Richard’s work at Worldmaking Publishing and Psalm Immersion –or hear his wonderful weekly segment on the Pulpit Fiction Podcast!
WATCH AND WONDER
As told by Elizabeth Adkisson
HOMAGE–What does it mean to “pay homage”? To pay homage is to pay respect. The wise men wanted to go to find Jesus to show him respect and honor him. Do you think King Herod really wanted to find baby Jesus to “pay him homage”? In what ways did the magi (the “wise men”) pay him homage? How would you or have you paid someone homage?
EPIPHANY This story is called the story of the “Epiphany.” An “epiphany” is an appearance–often an incredibly special one. On January 6, we celebrate the Epiphany (appearance) of Jesus Christ to the Magi (wise men).
WAYS to WONDER
For all ages:
***What makes someone wise? Who are the wise men and women that you know today? Who are the wise people in the world?
***Get out your “nativity set” (it can be an actual nativity set or just about any kind of moveable objects)! Since most nativity sets don’t have Herod (he’s not the most popular guy), find something to play Herod. Got a Darth Vader figure, great! Even a salt shaker will do. Be creative! As Ms. Adkisson’s story plays, have your family play out the Epiphany scene. (You can also read another version of the story here.) Then try to tell it yourself as you move the pieces around. (What parts of the story did you remember? What was left out?)
For the older set:
***If I were telling this story, in order to connect with Herod, I might think about a time I struggled with jealousy (fear that something I have will be taken away by someone else). Recall a story of jealousy from your own life.
***Later in Matthew, Jesus says this: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25) Are you worried about what might be taken away from you (or what you might have to give up) in order to follow God? Tell a story about a time you gave something up to follow God–or witnessed someone else make a sacrifice to follow God.
I begin 2016 with a great joy–getting to participate in an improv class through Washington Improv Theater. I have always loved theater and improv, but have not taken formal classes since I was in school. I have wonderful friends who are doing serious work on the theology of improv–check their blogs out here and here. I am particularly interested in the ways improv can aid us in going deeper into the biblical stories and our stories. While I hope to post more on the connection between improv and storytelling/learning, it strikes me that today’s story involves a great deal of improv on the part of the wise men.
One of the first rules of improv is to say, “YES”–to agree to the situation presented to you, and to move on from there. Much like in life, especially when life throws us unexpected circumstances which force us to be flexible and adjust, for improv to “work,” one must be willing to enter in to what is being offered. The brilliant Tina Fey has a great description of “Yes, AND” in her book, Bossypants:
The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if you say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You ________!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun….
The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own…. To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion.
In what ways do you see the wise men saying, “yes” to the circumstances presumably unusual circumstances unfolding before them?
Today we’ll use three steps to work toward learning Mark 4:35-41 by heart. These three steps can be done by almost every age. If you have non-readers, have them repeat the story out-loud after you when reading is required.
Step 1: Read-Aloud
Click on the text from Mark to see a PDF version of the story formatted for storytelling. Read aloud, walking around (if able). Do this three times. (For those wanting to, you may use the “episode” spaces to name each section–use these names later to jog your memory as you try to tell the story by heart.)