Narrative Convergence

Our 3 year old Avery (well, she’ll turn 3 this week) has two favorite books. She carries them around together, always. One is a small scrapbook of the day she was born. The scrapbook has pictures that tell the story of her birth and has pictures of people who held her for the first time. The second book is her thinline, black Bible. 

Avery will routinely tell one the story of her birth, flipping through the scrapbook, page by page, introducing the listener to the people who are holding her. And, interjecting her embellished comments (that her mom and I find hysterical).

Then, she will bring out her Bible and preach a sermon to the listener from beginning to end. (Good Biblical Theology, by the way) Sometimes the story will resemble one of her favorite movies and usually has “a big lawnmower” in the plot.

Avery’s two favorite books resembles an important spiritual formation technique, narrative convergence. The basic idea is that the Bible’s story and our own must overlap and interlock. There is a temptation, in true Dualistic form, to keep the Bible and our lives separate. I contend that this is the typical treatment of the Bible. 

– Often times, applying the Bible means, to some, to cement its contents in the past, or re-creating the first century in the 21st century. FF Bruce once lamented at this process saying, “The Apostle Paul would roll over in his grave if we treated his letters at Torah.” Nevertheless, some readers crave 1st century re-enactment, as if the Church was at its pinnacle of existence in the first couple of generations. One should read Acts again and ask themselves if this is really the case.

– Some treat the Bible as history; something that has come and gone. The NT got us started and we simply entertain ourselves by studying it, memorizing a few more verses, etc., until we finally die off and go to heaven. But, one should read the NT and discover that the students of Jesus were fully engaged in God’s world, not just reading the “ol’, ol’ stories”.

Here we can receive help from the Pentecostal/Charismatic brand of Christianity. Since the beginning of their movement, they seemed to read the Bible as an inheritance, something that they could not just read and interact with, but “live” in the present day. The Bible’s story, in short, is also mine and ours and our children’s.

1st Century, 2nd Temple Judaism seemed to mirror this idea. Take note the conversation Jesus has with his disciples in Matt 16. Jesus asks, “Who do the people say I am?” The disciples list off a myriad of heroes from the OT; the crowds were wondering if Jesus was one of those characters, from the past, re-visiting them and playing their redemptive role among them, in the present.

This idea is important. For it allows us to embrace the Christian belief of the hope of the resurrection; God is not finished yet. His plan is still working out and we are not folks watching it from the seats, following the program, watching the play unfold. We are on the stage, in the middle of all of the redemptive action.

That is Good News, even better than we originally thought.


Published by joeskillen

I'm a husband, dad of 2, Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, KS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: