If any of you have seen the movie, The Life of PI, you'll remember that Pi was the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and is asked to tell his story to the men investigating the shipwreck. He recounts a tale of animals; a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan, and a tiger, all crammed into one small lifeboat. They prey upon and kill each other until only the Tiger survives. The investigator responds that he needs a simpler story, one that the insurance company can believe. Pi proceeds then to tell the story as it actually happened and how he was able to survive. After telling both stories, PI asks the investigator which of the two stories he preferred. The investigator said "the one with the tiger."
The bible verses cited above come at the end of the last chapter of the book of the bible we know as "Acts of the Apostles". It's a history book which chronicles some of the important events, movements and leaders of the early church, born out of the stories of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The book is filled with stories of the great missionary journeys of Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy and others who traveled throughout the Roman Empire telling the stories of Jesus. At each city Paul visits, he addresses the people, telling them about the how he was touched by Jesus Christ and establishing churches with new disciples, entrusted with the mysteries of faith.
Some of the stories about Jesus and the apostles, that we have learned, some of us from childhood age, can be hard to believe. Many defy the laws of science as we know them today. In an age where science regularly makes incredible discoveries, and in an age where information is so easily shared in milliseconds, we always want the simple stories, the ones we can easily believe - the ones we can know are true. That is not really faith, is it?
The words St. Paul spoke to the Romans as we closed the stories of Acts of the Apostles remind us that the stories of Jesus are not so much meant to be understood as news accounts, but as they contain truths about how God works in our lives when we live purely by faith. Not a faith that claims to know the detailed truths of each story in scripture, but a faith that seeks the eternal truth found within the stories and sometimes those truths are best revealed using the language and images of what seems impossible. Stories of the impossible capture our imagination, exercise our minds and lift our spirits in ways that biblical newsreels (if that were possible) could not. These stories of faith are given to us, as Paul says "so that we might not look with our eyes, and listen with their ears, but understand with their heart and turn and God will heal them."
Ask your self, as PI asked the investigator, "which story to you prefer"? I think you'll pick the one with the tiger too!
What are your favorite bible stories that speak to you because they tell stories of seems impossible?
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About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.