It’s a Story

I’ve been reading the book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, by Brian Zahnd. Mr. Zahnd made an impression on me a few years ago with his book, A Farewell to Mars. That book helped me tremendously along my journey of being a struggling pacifist.

I’m about half-way through, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. It’s a play on words to Jonathan Edward’s classic sermon, preached in the 1700s, titled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It’s required reading for every pastor who has ever taken a homiletics course.

In his book, Mr. Zahnd discusses how to deal with the Old Testament view of God being a God of incredible, intolerable, and unimaginable violence. What do we do with the image of God in the Old Testament as a warrior god? Like many others, I have struggled with that question. Zahn’s argument is based on the following truth: Jesus is the Word of God! Thus, the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, must be interpreted through Jesus. Now, Mr. Zahnd’s argument is more complicated and nuanced then that one statement, but that is the beginning point.

At the end of chapter three, there is a poem. I assume it was written by Mr. Zahnd. It’s a wonderful poem. It’s worth the price of the entire book. The title of the poem is “Reading the Bible Right.” I have reprinted it here, without his permission, but I am giving in full credit.

It’s a STORY

We’re telling news here

Keeping alive an ancient epic

The grand narrative of paradise lost and paradise regained

The greatest “Once upon a time” tale ever told

The beautiful story which moves relentlessly toward—“They lived happily ever after’

Never, never, NEVER forget that before it’s anything else, it’s a story

So let the story live and breathe, enthrall and enchant

Don’t rip its guts out and leave it lifeless on the dissecting table

Don’t make it something it’s really not—

A catalog of wished-for promises

An encyclopedia of God-facts

A law journal of divine edicts

A how-to manual for do-it-yourselfers

Find the promises, learn the facts, heed the laws, live the lessons

But don’t forget the Story

Learn to read the Book for what it is—

God’s great big wild and wonderful surprise ending love story

Let there be wonder

Let there be mystery

Let there be tragedy

Let there be heartbreak

Let there be suspense

Let there be surprise

Let it be earthy and human

Let it be celestial and divine

Let it be what it is, and don’t try to make it perfect where it’s not

This fantastic story of—







With its cast of thousands

More like a Tolstoy novel than a thousand-page sermon

It’s a Story because we are not saved by ideas but by events!

Here’s a plot line for you: Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Yes, it’s a story—not a plan, not an ology or ism, but a story

And it’s an amalgamated patchwork story told in mixed medium

Narration, history, genealogy

Prophecy, poetry, parable

Psalm, song, sermon

Dream and vision

Memoir and letter

So understand the medium, and don’t try so hard to miss the point

Try to learn what matters and what doesn’t

It’s not where and when Job lived

But what Job learned

In his painful odyssey and poetic theodicy

It’s not how many cubits of water you need to put Everest under a flood

But why the world was so dirty that it needed such a big bath

Trying to find Noah’s ark

Instead of trying to rid the world of violence

Really is an exercise in missing the point

Speaking of missing the point—

It’s not did a snake talk?

But what the damn thing said!

Because even though I’ve never met a talking snake

I’ve sure had serpentine thoughts crawl through my head

Literalism is a kind of escapism

By which you move out the crosshairs of the probing question

But parable and metaphor have a way of knocking us to the floor

Prose-flattened literalism makes the story small, time-confined, and irrelevant

But poetry and allegory travel through time and space to get in our face

Inert facts are easy enough to set on the shelf

But the Story well told will haunt you

Ah, the Story well told

That’s what is needed

It’s time for the Story to burst out of the cage and take the stage

And demand a hearing once again

It’s a STORY, I tell you!

And you allow the Story to seep into your life

So that THE STORY begins to weave into your story

That’s when, at last, you’re reading the Bible right.

About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider, that order.
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