Most of us are brought up only hearing one story. This story is told over and over again by our parents, our relatives, our friends. And because like seems to attract like, the story we hear remains much the same from wherever we hear it.
That is, until someone comes into our circle and starts telling a different story. That person may have a different take on life. They may be given the title ‘Black Sheep’ by the rest of the clan. Their story may be so radical that we never give it a second thought–after all, we have lived in, and are surrounded by the one story all our life; any other story must be suspect.
But we need more than one story. Without a multiplicity of stories being told, we would live (as it were) in a two-dimensional world. One story is not possibly big enough, grand enough, or complete enough to convey the whole picture.
Take a look at the diagram on the right. Each coloured circle is a different story. These are the stories we live in. Some of them intersect as if they were a Venn Diagram. Others may touch slightly in one area, but largely take place exclusive to any other story. Some again may be totally outside of the scope of agreement.
In the places where these stories overlap, we can gain certainty that what they say is true. Where one or two stories meet, we can gauge the probability of accuracy by how much they share in structure, style and content. No one story can be understood apart from the context of all the others.
I think this is why the Bible includes four gospels and not only one. If we view the Bible as a Community Library rather than a history book or answer book, we can appreciate the value of each book’s unique contribution to the over-arching story of God and his people.
While each gospel is a complete story, each other one complements and adds to our understanding of Jesus, his life and teaching. Each story is told uniquely from an individual viewpoint. Words and the language used in telling the story vary from one to another. There are some events only recorded in one gospel–and some of these have the scholars questioning the factuality of the event. But others occur many times and therefore, lend credibility to the witnesses.
There are many other examples both in Scripture and in life. We could examine the Jewish and Christian stories and see intersections at numerous points. We could compare our western story and the stories of the Orient and see how they vary from–and how much they are the same as–our own. We could take a look at your family’s story and my family’s story and see that, in many ways, we are alike–and others not so much alike.
And in the context of the church, we can take all of our stories, tell them, treasure them, and add to the richness of faith and tradition by seeing so much we have in common, as well as so much we can learn from each other’s narratives. Our stories won’t always–and shoudln’t be expected to–be the same. We are complex creatures with even more complex and embedded understandings.
Perhaps in listening to each other, we may see parts of our story that need to be edited or revised. We may also see moments that need to be celebrated and embraced. In this constant telling and retelling, we need each other. And because we choose to weave our storylines into and around each other’s stories, our stories become larger, grander, and more complete as does the life we live together.