Choosing Our Stories
January 9, 2020
After our hometown New England Patriots just suffered an early playoff loss, there was much talk that this may be the end of a stunning two decade run of excellence. Perhaps this could be the end of American football’s greatest dynasty. (If you’re not a sports fan, or a football fan in particular, hang in there for just a moment – we’re taking this somewhere else soon!)
Many New Englanders love the Patriots because of their excellence. Once they were bad to mediocre, but recently they have been dominant. Their talent and efficiency and strength have been predictably great, while the particular ways they have repeatedly triumphed have surprised and delighted us. They’ve given us a winning story, one that many of us in some way feel is a story about our region, even a story about ourselves.
You may know, though, that many people around the country have seen the Patriots with different eyes, and read a different story in the team’s success. For many, the Patriots are a story about ruthlessness, heartlessness, and winning at all costs. Your reaction to this team’s rise to dominance, and the possibility of their decline, depends on the story they tell you, and what you think and how you feel about that.
It turns out this is true about just about everything.
Be it the sports we watch or the products we buy, the public figures we root for or the neighborhoods we live in, we make many of our choices based on the stories they speak to us, and the stories we’re trying to tell about our own lives. This is why successful marketers and politicians and artists and even religious leaders are all storytellers.
As it turns out, though, a lot of them are telling the same few stories.
Two people I appreciate – Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren have created a project about our stories. They’ve called it The Seventh Story. They’ve identified six stories people have been telling each other for ages. These stories are: Domination. Revolution. Isolation. Purification. Victimization. Accumulation.
Being the boss of others.
Getting revenge on those who bossed you around.
Running away afraid.
Turning on those who look different.
Giving up in helplessness.
Taking pride in having more than others.
So much of the time, these are the stories we live by: our families, our friends, our companies, our churches, even our nations. Pay attention, and you’ll see these stories being told in the ads you see online, the words and actions of our politicians, the movies we love and hate, the social media of our friends and ourselves, and, well, pretty much everywhere.
Higgins and McLaren think, though (and I agree!) that these stories don’t end well. They don’t heal us, or the earth, or one another. They don’t make for flourishing.
They notice, though, that there is a seventh story people have been drawn to, a story that binds us together, a story that heals us, and a story that promotes well-being for us all. It’s a story of liberation and reconciliation. And it also just happens to be the story of Jesus – the story Jesus lived, and the story Jesus told.
This winter at Reservoir, we want to tell the story of Jesus, as we do, and explore what it looks and feels to live this story as well. And to do so, we’re going to contrast it with these six other stories we’ve been telling, and listening to, and following for too long.
Join us on our podcast or website sermon feed, or join us in person on Sundays from January 12 through February 16, as Pastors Ivy and Lydia and I tell the seventh story.