Acts 3: 12–19; Psalm 4; I John 3: 1–7; Luke 24: 36b–48
This is the homily given at St. John’s, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania on Sunday, April 15th, 2018 by Fr. Gene Tucker.
“FAITHFUL TRANSMISSION OF THE STORY”
Games can bring a party or other social gathering to life. Consider, for example, the game of Charades: A person acts out, using gestures, a saying or an idea, and it is the job of the onlookers to guess what the saying or idea is.
Another game that is played at a party is Telephone. In this game, a person reads a statement, then whispers that statement into the next player’s ear, who, in turn, does the same until the train of messengers reaches the end. The last person to receive the message then says what the message is. Following that, the original message is read aloud. It can be very entertaining and even illuminating to see how the message changed as it was passed from one person to the next. Details are sometimes missed or are even altered significantly. Or in some cases, the original statement is distorted to the point of being unrelated to the statement that began the process. Of course, in fairness to the players of the game of Telephone, a really good team can faithfully pass along the original message.
The biblical story is a bit like the game of Telephone. Before we look at the similarities between the game and the texts of the Bible, we ought to clarify the meaning of the word “story”. Here, we are using the term in the sense of something that is true, not a made-up or fabricated tale.
In Holy Scripture, we find texts that often (though not always) began life as an orally told story. These original authors passed along a story, a story about God’s activity in the human experience, to listeners or even to another generation. Sometimes, a text will bear the markings of its original, oral existence. For example, a text might repeat a central idea, and sometimes, not just once, but more than once. Repetition helps the listener to remember the story.
And so, stories of God’s mighty acts, quite often things that God did in times past to save His people, form the basis for a story. The Passover account is one such story, a story about God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. In Jewish homes on Passover today, that story is repeated to those who are gathered around the Seder table.
Over time, texts that began as oral history became written history. These written accounts, brought together in what we now call the Bible, span a period of many hundreds of years and reflect widely differing human circumstances. But all of them recount what God did in those various times and places in the past.
Now, we should return to the game of Telephone. This game highlights how we human beings handle the things we have experienced or heard. We human beings can miss important details in the things we hear. We can also misinterpret the things we hear, even as we are also capable of faithfully receiving and passing on the things that we experience.
But the written accounts of Holy Scripture help us to faithfully receive the truths of God’s work among humankind in times past. The pages of the Bible serve to remind and educate us about the ways in which God has worked, for the God who is the same yesterday and today and forever will work in similar ways among us today. The written accounts of the things we read in the Bible help us to recognize God’s working today and tomorrow.
Each new day brings with it the possibility that we will be presented with an occasion to pass along God’s story, a story we read in the pages of the Bible, but also a story that is lived out in our own lives. It is our task to faithfully tell that story in the things we say and in the things we do. Our task is to match our lived-out story with the stories that the Bible makes available to us.