Acts 10:34-43; Acts 17:22-31
If I were to ask you to tell the story of Cinderella in two sentences, could you do it? Anyone willing to give that a try? . . . (volunteer?)
How did s/he do?
Now, there’s a lot of detail that had to be left out, but the main points of the story can be covered, right?
Most of it, probably. If we were all to do share the story of Cinderella in two sentences, each of us would do it a bit differently. None of us would have identical sentences.
Why would that be? Some of us have influenced by the Disney animated version from 1950. Or the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version. Or any of the at least 36 movie versions of this story. Then there’s the Grimm’s Faerie tale version. Or even the original version from France published in 1634.
Add to that, we each use language a little differently.
What if your life resembled Cinderella’s?
And because of my own personal perspective, what may be a critical point for you might be a little different than a critical point for me. Are the glass slippers an essential part of the story? How important is the goodness of Cinderella even in her circumstances? Is the moral of the story an important aspect? And if so, would we all agree exactly on what that moral is?
Trying to boil down a story with a lot of detail and a lot of history into a couple of sentences might be more difficult than we thought.
Then there’s the audience you’re telling the story of Cinderella to. What if your audience was preschool children living in poverty? Or a wealthy person who abuses hired help? Or a group of college professors, all of whom have PhDs in literature? It might change a bit.
That is Paul’s difficulty in Acts 17. And Peter’s in Acts 10. Both are trying to condense a history-changing story down into a few sentences. To people they don’t know well, but who’ve asked to hear it.
How would you do that?
Peter and Paul each tell the story of Jesus differently, in part because of vastly different audiences. Peter starts out by saying, “You know the message [God] sent to the people of Israel”. But Paul starts by saying, “I found among [the objects of your worship] an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’”
Peter’s version of the story of God’s forgiveness and love is based on his personal friendship with Jesus; as an apostle and disciple who witnessed the crucifixion and the resurrected Christ.
Paul was not one of the original disciples. He knew very little about Jesus until the resurrected Christ came to him on the road to Damascus.
So of course their accounts will be different. They are telling this story of God’s grace and new life based on what is important to each of them. They have different experiences of God’s grace in Christ, God’s forgiveness in Christ, and God’s new life in Christ. So the story is going to come out differently for each of them. They even argue about a few of the important points, but they know their story, their experience, the difference in their lives. They tell it from their perspective.
Just like each of us. We have a story to tell because we have experienced God’s forgiveness, love, grace, and compassion. Each differently. And so the way each of us tells about that is unique.
The story is ours to tell according to our experience with it. And we might even argue about what are the most important parts.
So, what are the very foundational, most important parts of God’s story in the world for you? If you had to reduce your faith down to two sentences, what would those be?
Whatever those two sentences are, they are yours. They are unique based on your experiences with Christ. They are yours. And those two sentences need to be spoken.
Next week we’ll talk about whether people hear our stories or not. That actually isn’t our problem. Knowing what our stories are, and having the ability to articulate our own story in our own unique way is essential.
So take some time now, and like [name] did with Cinderella, write out two sentences that encompass the main points of your faith, your experience with God.
Once you have that, if you’re willing, I’d like you to go back to the prayer table, write them again, and place them in the prayer basket. As part of the prayers of the people later on, it would be really cool to hear a whole bunch of two-sentence faith statements, our collective stories of God in Christ, forgiveness, and grace.