Last night as evening fell, I found myself in the country enjoying a mellow and comely summer evening. I aimed my chair toward a far-away tree line in the west and read under a huge walnut tree while Lois took photos of our new grand-niece, Bailey Hope. Her big brothers, Riley and Wyatt (do these people have a way with names or what?) played with Hope nearby. I’m sure pictures of wee Bailey will surface within a few days at www.loispierpont.com.
Just as evening fell into the trees and Lois finished her session, I finished my first book by John McPhee, The Pine Barrens. He has written almost thirty. I suspect I will read most of them. McPhee writes narrative non-fiction. Narrative journalism fascinates me and I see in it a direct link to preaching that is true to the text of Scripture and interesting. I first became conscious of the power of narrative journalism reading Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. He is just informative and interesting. So it is with McPhee. He can make any subject interesting. It is commonly known that pastors have a way of making even the lively narratives of the Bible dull.
The Bible is interesting. This Sunday night I continue my journey through the books of the Bible–one per message. I call the series A Fly-Over of the Bible. This Sunday evening we will Fly-Over Exodus. It is an interesting story. Here is a rough-draft of what I wrote:
This book burns with fire, and roars with thunder. It is filled with thirst and flood. In it is overpowering holiness and great, dark evil. Within its stories are great darkness and explosions of divine glory. It sounds like the crack of an oppressor’s whip, a wail of desperate prayer, a cry of angry justice, a trumpet of announcement, anguished mourning, and a voice that peals like thunder from heaven. It smells like burning flesh, and roasting meat. Some of its stories unfold under cover of darkness and others blaze with glory.
There are stories here of pitiful failure and ringing triumph. There is mortal conflict between Moses, the deliverer of God and a demonic despotic Egyptian Pharoah. It involves detailed obedience and people who are gifted and skilled by the spirit to perform the works of God. There is within it a powerful leader who begins with great privilege and providential protection and falls to failure, murder, and retreat, but he is given a second chance.
In this book you have a small family of seventy people who are exiles in a foreign land and oppressed, to a mighty nation that successfully opposes a superpower. To say the least it is quite a story—as are all the stories of God. And it is more than what it appears to be on the surface. It is an epic story spanning centuries. It is a symbolic story which has fulfillments in other times and other places centuries later. It is a sacred story inspired by the breath of God. It is an eternal story that will never go out of print. It is a story God wants all of his people to know.
If you preach or teach or witness, take a lesson from John McPhee and Sebastian Junger—make it interesting by keeping the information alive with narrative. (incidentally, Lee Strobel has a background in journalism and he has used this technique powerfully in the his books on popular apologetics—The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, etc.).