God's Grand Story
by James Wakefield, PhD

Telling God's Grand Story

You are invited. Please join me in a conversation. We didn’t start it. It has been going on for many thousands of years. It circles around some big ideas, posed here as questions: Is there any good news? What is it? How do we gospel people faithfully? Let’s focus this: How do we tell God’s Grand Story to our families, friends, neighbors, and even to those who care nothing for us at all or for God?
One goal of this website is to further this conversation. Let’s be respectful. But let’s also keep it real. A second goal is to ask for help. I’m moving forward in keeping my promise to write a book about telling God’s Grand Story. How can you help? I don’t want to do something this awesome alone. I need company, friends and critics who can speak the truth in love. Help me make this useful. Keep me from too many errors and idiosyncrasies. Join me in sharing good news with our world.

Returning to Story (Part 1)

Jesus told a lot of stories:  “The kingdom of God is like…”  Some of his stories were intentionally cryptic. It seems like his first disciples were especially dense—dumb as stumps?  They had to keep asking,  “Okay, what did that mean?”  After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem,  Jesus’ stories changed.  He had less than a week left, and he got right to the point.  He was speaking their language, their idiom, and he was current on their daily doings.  (You might want to pause reading this blog, and read the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, verses 1-12).  The religious authorities understood, and arranged a judicial murder.

 After his resurrection, and ascension, Jesus’ disciples continued to tell stories.  They traveled all over the ancient Mediterranean world telling his stories, and even more stories about him.  Peter traveled as far as Rome. A man named John-Mark served as his translator and assistant.  The church remembers John-Mark by his second name, Mark. He wrote down the stories Peter told, and edited the whole collection into what became known as the “Gospel of Mark.”  Mark was more than a secretary.  He was an expert storyteller! His Gospel is brilliant first century storytelling!  It is best read out loud, and this takes about 90 minutes in English.  It ends with chapter 16, verse 8: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.  They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

 Now imagine yourself, sitting in Rome in the first century.  You’ve just listened to a paid scribe read this to you, and it ends this way… What are you thinking?

 I think the whole Gospel of Mark functions as an extended parable, a mystery, or a puzzle.  The original ending makes you find someone who knows what happened next.  This was brilliant, because you had to find someone connected to Jesus’ own community.  You heard the good news.  You were “gospelled.” (Gospel = good news).

 Unfortunately, people started adding other endings to Mark’s original story.  Not unfortunately, other disciples (Matthew, Luke, and John) wrote their own versions to tell the story to their own communities.  Very unfortunately, other folk wrote false gospels and twisted Jesus’ words to say all kinds of crazy and stupid things.  Within a hundred years, the whole art of gospelling people became very complicated because you had to make sure you were working with the right story!

 I’ll say more about what happened next in my next blog.  But pause with me for a moment, and ask: Did you get the right story?  Which one are you telling?  And which one are you living?  Hmmmm.  I dare you to think about it!

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