The stories we love to tell…

In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.  Judges 21:25

That is the way the book of Judges ends… a fitting end to a book of gruesome stories.  An explanation perhaps about why these stories are being told.   Who knows.  I was able to go study in Toronto for a week.  The class title was “Bad Boys and Girls of the Old Testament.” As we were reading the stories of the OT and learning why the stories had been written the way the were, something hit me.  The stories we tell are of fundamental importance!!

Have you ever noticed that in our churches we have an approved set of stories we tell.  When it comes to sharing time, the plot might be different, but the outcome and the goal of the story is the same. Where this varies is depending on what church your in.  We congregate around a certain set of stories and presuppositions. We form our own “canons.”

The word cannon according to bible.org “is used to describe those books recognized as inspired of God… Literally, it means (a) a straight rod or bar; (b) a measuring rule as a ruler used by masons and carpenters; then (c) a rule or standard for testing straightness.” So while today we have a canon, or the Canon (the Bible) I have noticed that we have little canons within the larger approved frame of our stories

I have been in churches were the approved stories must end with “but God will work everything out for the best,”  or where every answer starts with “Jesus,” or where some questions are not appropriate to be asked because it is to hard to give answers. How awkward it became when people dared to tell stories that did not fit the canon.  And I always thought I wanted something else… I preached and railed and ranted that churches need to leave more room for vulnerability, questioning, and shying away from easy answers.   But life is not that easy… because I have noticed that “questioning” stories can also become a canon.  They can become the prescribed story-form of a church… and in these places, telling stories of hope, joy, confidence can become as much iconoclastic, awkward, canon defying heresies (in the lightest sense of the word)

What I have seen this week however, that the Bible refuses to tell stories the way we expect.  As a matter of fact, the Bible refuses to tell stories that are easy.  Over and over again we are confounded by who the bad guy/girl really is in the story, and why God uses the ones he uses, and why God acts the way he does (1. Kings 13 is a great example.  I would love for you to point out to me the “true prophet” or the “good guy”). Jesus does the same.  He speaks in parables.  He refuses to make it easy, he refuses to succumb to convention.  Our sin… as it were… is to make the Bible conventional.  Our sin is that we choose were we fit into the Bible and the refuse to ever be found in other parts.  Our sin is that we have approved Bible stories we tell, and unapproved ones we do don’t.

This leaves me with questions.  And you can help me.  What I am saying is, that whether we are in churches that provide easy answers, or in churches that leave all the room for questioning with no answers, we have a canon within a canon.  Is this okay? Maybe people of like needs and minds gather together for like purposes.  Or if not, how can we challenge our mini-canons without becoming creators of new canons, or new conventions?  Is being a iconoclast not just another form of becoming an icon?  How do we challenge approved forms without just creating new approved forms?  Maybe we need approved forms?  The list goes on… I would love your feedback. 

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