A narrative sermon on a storm stilled
Whenever I teach about narrative preaching, I cite the episode in C. S Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawntreader where the children find themselves ‘drawn into’ a picture on the wall:
I’ll smash the rotten thing” cried Eustace, and then several things happened at the same time. Eustace rushed to towards the picture. Edmund, who knew something about magic, sprang after him, warning him to look out and not to be a fool. Lucy grabbed at him from the other side and was dragged forward. And by this time either they had grown smaller or the picture had grown bigger. Eustace jumped to try to pull it off the wall and found himself standing on the frame, in front of him was not glass but real sea, and wind & waves rushing up to the frame as they might to a rock. He lost his head & clutched at the other two who had jumped up beside him. There was a second of struggling & shouting , and just as they thought they had got their balance a great blue roller swept them off their feet & drew them down into the sea.
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In essence, the nature of narrative preaching is just that – to plunge into the story and experience its power.
Yesterday, after a long break, I employed the narrative technique once again on Matthew’s account of the calming of the storm
After the harsh words on the beach, the boat was like a refuge. None would catch the other’s eye as the words of Jesus bounced back and forth and back again in their heads
Click-clack, rattle rattle rattle
Nowhere to rest
No safe haven
Let the dead bury their own dead
What an earth had they signed up to? Who was this man?
To be honest, it was a relief to see him sleeping now. At least asleep he could not squidge their certainties and snap the elastic of their minds as he had been doing.This was their place now: their waters; their element. Rocked in it like a babe in a mother’s arms everything seemed a little better now. The creak of the boat and the slap of the waves was as familiar as the ticking of an old clock on a grandmother’s mantelpiece.
Tick – tock
Tick tock tock tock tock tock
Suddenly, the clock was running wildly out of time – hands whizzing round like a mad thing. Gentle breeze whipped up into screaming banshee in seconds. Comforting waves were now like the back of some beast disturbed beneath the boat and rearing up to wreak its revenge. An old terror of the sea – passed on with the blood from their fathers’ fathers ran cold in their veins now. Even in sight of the land, their graves could be here in this evil, broiling water. And what was he doing? How was he helping? Asleep in the stern as if nothing had happened he was no more than cargo on this tiny boat. “Wake up” they chorused “We’ll drown if not”
An open eye, another too, and then a word which sounded like ‘coward’ …and he was fully awake. Standing in the prow of the bucking, rearing boat he looked at the waves, swept his arm across the troubled sky and told it all to stop- which it did. Instantly. Who is this man? , they mouthed at one another, as the boat resumed its course to the other shore.
On the far side, two men knew just who he was. Their skin was filthy and covered in scars. Their hair had not seen any water but the rain these many years. The place of the dead was home to these semi-living things. Their mouths had long since given in to the devils within. As if on auto pilot someone, something inside roared ‘what do you want with us SON OF GOD’.
We all know what he wanted. It was the same thing he always wanted -to set free, to poke Satan in the eye, to live up to the ancient description of him as one who would
‘open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness’
This is our Jesus, and we know all about it. We would have drowned out the squealing of the pigs with our clapping and cheering if we had been there. Or would we? Would we have curled up in the hull of the boat with a disciple who maybe wished it would all go away? Would we have joined the crowd asking Jesus to please move on and do his disturbing breed of magic elsewhere?Would we have gazed wistfully at the now-calm sea and wished that things could have been the way they were before the before?
Swimmers in Lake Garda -click for full size