There are lots of ways to tell a story. The one that comes most naturally is to start at the beginning and move ahead to the end. A to B, pillar to post, a straight a line as possible. There are other methods such as using flashbacks, telling the story in a non-linear fashion moving the reader/listener back and forth across the timeline, letting the story stitch itself together in the imagination of the audience. There are lots of ways to tell a story.
There are lots of places we tell the stories: around a campfire on the savanna of the Serengeti, around the family dinner table, leaning against a car in the school parking lot, the coffee machine at work, family reunions, as many places as there are people and memories.
And then there is the story. We all have stories, I have certainly told some of mine as part of these years of homilies. We all have stories, but different stories. But we share a common story, the one that brings us here on Easter Sunday morning – the greatest story ever told. Here is part of our common story, told in the course of a single week of gospels.
- Sunday – the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
- Monday – the anointing of Jesus in Bethany, as one being anointed for death
- Tuesday – Judas beginning to think about betraying Jesus; Peter swearing he will always be there for Jesus.
- Wednesday – Spy Wednesday when Judas accepts the 30 pieces of silver
- Thursday – the Last Supper and celebration of the First Eucharist
- Friday – the Passion of the Christ: betrayal, arrest, trials, scourging, “Crucify him” they shout, the long walk to Calvary, death, a mother’s sorrow, at last laid to rest, the stone rolled into place
- Saturday – we wait. We wonder. We doubt. We Hope. We wait.
- Sunday – “the first day of the week” when we discover the empty tomb and our amazement as doubts are erased, as Hope finds its new spring of living water. Jesus raised from the dead.
And the morrow comes. When, where and how will you tell the story? There are lots of ways to tell a story, lots of places, but it begins with the story and how you tell it.
I think good story telling has some common features:
- Tell a personal story: “I am Peter. I was with Jesus from the beginning. I left my boat and nets to follow this man. I saw miracles, I heard how the Patriarchs and Prophet all pointed to his coming. I heard him preach forgiveness and the love of God. I saw him transfigured, revealing the glory of God. I followed him to Jerusalem.”
- Create suspense. “I saw him arrested and moved around from Caiaphas, to the Sanhedrin, to Pilate, to Herod, and finally back to Pilate. Maybe there was hope. Maybe the army of angels would come. Maybe all this movement from judge to ruler was just for show, to scare him… and us! We all waited for this long night, this nightmare to end.”
- Immerse your audience in the story: “I swore my fidelity and love for him; that I would never abandon him. After his arrest, I was there in the courtyard outside the house of the high priest. It was a cold night. A heartless night. We all drew near to the fire. We huddled together for warmth, for assurance, for hope. The crackle of wood and ember were the only sound until, for all to hear, she asked me: ‘Aren’t you one of his followers?’ A thousand embers sparked and flamed in that moment, suspended, when all my promises came to nothing. ‘I tell you, I do not know the man!’ I answered too loudly, too boldly. I saw the disbelief in their eyes. Then I saw the eyes of my Lord and Savior. His look … it was still was one of love – even for someone like me.”
- Bring characters to life. “I wasn’t there at the foot of the cross. Others, braver than I were there. His mother, one of the disciples, some of the women, and Mary of Magdalene. There was nothing she would not do for Jesus. He rescued her from possession by seven demons. It was as though she was raised from the dead. She understood what He told us. She was ready for his death. She anointed him at Bethany. She followed him on the way to Calvary. She waited until the end, hearing his final breath: It is finished… but she knew it was only just beginning. They call me the rock. She was the real rock
- Build up to S.T.A.R. moment (Something They’ll All Remember). “I will never forget that first day of the week, when she breathlessly broke into the upper room to tell us she’d found the tomb empty and stone rolled away. When she told us, our Risen Lord had appeared to her. It was as he had said: in three days he would be raised from the dead. He is risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!!
- End with a positive takeaway. “That was so long ago. Not long after I again saw the look of love from my Savior’s eyes, when he forgave me for my betrayal. After that, He sent me to the world, to you. So that you might hear the story, and in hearing begin to believe, and believing come to the newness of life: forgiven, loved, and sent to tell this story.
And the morrow comes. When, where and how will you tell the story? There are lots of ways to tell a story, lots of places, but it begins with the story and how you tell it. The story now depends on you!