Saturday, May 27, 2006

JVG 1: On the Retelling of Stories

Wright makes a lot of the role of story within an oral culture, and of the power of narrative in revealing and communicating one’s worldview (133-42). As such, he spends quite a bit of time with Jesus’ parables and the retelling of Israel’s story he sees within. In his words, “Jesus made a regular practice of retelling the story of Israel in such a way as to subvert other tellings, and to invite his hearers to make his telling of the story their own (174).” The prominent locus of this was in the parables, which told the story of Israel, but tweaked it, often shifting the boundaries and reversing the outcomes of the story. One prominent motif was the divine status reversal, with those well-off in the present often coming out not so well. These stories did something; they painted an alternative future, which countered the visible reality of Jesus’ day. We’d do really well to learn to tell such stories, and the arts are a great starting point for learning the craft, as is interaction with cultures of orality, particularly African cultures.

What strikes me is that the retellings of the story didn’t simply contrast the claims of the politically powerful, but that they also struck a chord against other power bases, nost notably Israel’s cherished self-understanding as God’s favored. The parable of the wicked tenants is a prime example, and it told Israel’s story in a way that would get Jesus in trouble with his own people. The oracles of judgment catalogued on 183-4 paint such a picture, and I get to thinking, ‘if Jesus’ followers were to regularly tell one another these stories, would this necessarily lead to rejection, or might it lead to the formation of a chastened people of God?’ The former frightens me; the latter invigorates this crazy dreamer.

No comments: