Forming Faith Blog

Telling the Good Story (John 20:1-18)

The Good Story (News) of Jesus begins with the proclamation of Mary Magdalene: “I have seen the Lord!” Everything else is explanation. How will you tell this Story?

The Power of a Story

Stories are powerful. Not only can stories be enjoyable, but they change us.

It turns out that a powerful story can have a hand in rewiring the reader’s brain—helping instill empathy, for instance—which is why writers are, and have always been, among the most powerful people in the world.

Lisa Cron in Wired for Story
Mary Magdalene with the resurrected Jesus, the beginning of the Good Story

Cron here is writing a book for novel writers to help them improve their craft, but this quote goes beyond formal writing. It’s not the words on a page that have this power, it is the story that these words convey. So, it is in fact storytellers who “are, and have always been, among the most powerful people in the world.”

Learning from a Story

Stories can be the most effective teaching tools. This can pertain to facts. I learned more about early-twentieth-century English culture from watching Downton Abbey than I ever would from a list in a textbook. I definitely learned more about astrophysics from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (both by what they got right and what they got wrong) than in a science class.

But teaching facts is not where stories have their most power. As in the quote above that gives the example of instilling empathy, stories have the most impact in forming us emotionally, psychologically, and in how we understand the world.

And (faith) formation is one half of the Church’s mission (the other half is spreading God’s kingdom throughout the world).

The First Evangelist

As followers of Jesus, our faith is based on a story. In a way, that story begins with a simple message from Mary Magdalene (according to the Gospel of John):

“I have seen the Lord.”

John 20:18

This basically summarizes the end of “Book 1” of the Gospel (the rest of the Gospel of John being about other people seeing the Lord), “Book 2” being the story of the Church that is still ongoing (according to the author of Luke). This simple message is indeed the most important message in the Good News (or Good Story) about Jesus. To vastly oversimplify, the rest of the Good Story is explanation.

Seen Whom?

Now, I see a bunch of people at one time or another. But “I’ve seen Victor” doesn’t introduce a world-altering story. We need explanations to answer the deep question: “Uh, who cares?”

  1. Who is this Lord?
  2. What’s so special about Mary seeing him?
  3. Who is the speaker/Mary?
The Answers (i.e., the Gospel)

The Gospels are the answers to these questions (primarily the first two) in narrative form.

  1. The Lord is Jesus of Nazareth, the eternal Word of God made flesh, born of Mary by the Holy Spirit, and the Messiah promised in Scripture.
  2. It’s remarkable that Mary sees Jesus because he had been dead, executed by the religious leaders by way of the Roman authorities. So, this is a man who was dead and is now alive. This leads to the next major question: Why was Jesus executed?
  3. Mary Magdalene was an important disciple of Jesus, here honored as the first to see Jesus resurrected (as described in all four Gospels). So, this Jesus had followers/disciples, and these disciples included women, which tells us something about Jesus.
The Cross

The miracle of the resurrection is that Jesus had died—really died—and was alive again. The full significance of what this means comes from Jesus’ crucifixion and the reasons for that (human and divine). I’m not going to get into those reasons, in part because Christians have been fighting about what those reasons are for a very, very long time. Most Christians do agree that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were world-altering-important.

Tease out the Good Story

This Easter, I would suggest that you (faith formation leaders) do a version of what I did here. Start at the end of this Good Story and ask your participants questions to tease out the whole story. Perhaps you could then take their responses and use them to tell the story in order.

Stories in Faith Formation

As faith formation leaders, we need to help participants learn how to internalize this good news. It is only as they do this that they become more confident about telling this Good Story to others, as well as their own stories. It is in hearing, telling, and retelling these stories that our faith is formed.

So, I will end with a different version of Mary’s proclamation: Christ is risen!

Happy Easter,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Good News Spreads” from our intergenerational worship product Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship (NL) though this can be used in any intergenerational faith formation setting

Leave a Reply