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Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 | 0 comments

Short Story Entry

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As followers of Jesus Christ, we are people of a STORY.  Call it the Gospel story or the Biblical story or the story of Jesus Christ, or the “greatest story ever told” or, simply, “the good news.”  Whatever you call it, we are people of a story and we spend a whole lot of time in worship, telling and listening to that story through a variety of mediums (prayers, sermons, stained glass windows, banners, classes, music, video, pageants, etc.).

Here’s the thing: because we tell and listen to a PARTICULAR STORY regularly in worship, many of us have developed very refined STORY LISTENING SKILLS.  I mean we followers know how to listen to a story, right?  We know things like how a story sounds different than other spoken forms.  We know things like how to pay attention to a story that is being told to us.  We know technical things like what a metaphor is, what a parable is, and that there can be multiple levels of meaning.  We know things like how to think like a literary critic who is free to question a story,  and play with it, and suck the marrow from its bones.  We know things like stories, good stories, aren’t only about information, not only about entertainment, but also about education, and growth and transformation.  We know lots of other things about stories too.  Yep, it’s true: because we follow Jesus and worship him many of us have developed very refined STORY LISTENING SKILLS.

For worship leaders, there is an opportunity here to USE STORIES IN WORSHIP MORE OFTEN AND IN DIFFERENT WAYS.  Why?  Well because stories are powerful and because many of your people know how to listen to them!


Here is one idea to get you started:

  1. As the entry into worship (say in place of a greeting from the worship leader, after the announcements, or in place of a call to worship) tell a SHORT story with a theme related to the service
  2. Don’t introduce it, but just pause and begin telling the story (see sample below)
  3. When finished, don’t explain it but just let it be as the service continues

SAMPLE STORY: “WHAT IS COMMUNITY?”

(Note: This story is not mine but it is one I have heard a few times in a few different versions.  I do not know the author or if the author is known.  I retell it here in my own words.)

  • “Seeing no other announcements, I invite us all into this time of worship…”
  • Ring bell or singing bowl
  • Short pause
  • Tell story:

“One evening, two rabbis, one older and one younger, were warming themselves by the fireplace.  It was quiet as the two men lost themselves in thought.  After a while, the younger rabbi was moved to ask a question that he had been pondering.

“Rabbi,” the younger rabbi began, “what is community?”  To his surprise the older rabbi said nothing and didn’t even indicate that he had heard the question.  The younger rabbi, thinking that he may have annoyed the older rabbi with such a question, decided not to repeat his question.  Later in the evening though, as the fire burned down and the evening grew late, the younger rabbi found his courage and dared to ask again.

“RABBI,” the younger rabbi said quite loudly, “what is community?”  Again, and this time to his annoyance, the older rabbi said nothing and didn’t even indicate that he had heard the question.  

“Fine,” the younger rabbi fumed,” I won’t bother him anymore with what is clearly a stupid question.”  Soon it was time to go to bed.  The night was thick outside and the fire had burned down to orange coals.  Still burning with his question though, and quite annoyed at the older rabbi’s silence, the younger rabbi decided to try one final time.

“RABBI,” the younger rabbi said more loudly than is polite, “what is community?”  This time, the older rabbi DID seem to notice the question for soon he got up from his chair.  Without saying a word he walked over the fireplace, picked up the poker, and carefully poked one, single, orange coal out of the firebox and onto the hearth.  Curious and wanting an explanation, the younger rabbi waited for the older one to speak.  His waiting was in vain, though, for the older rabbi said nothing.  

Soon though the older rabbi’s answer about what community is became clear enough.  For as the gathered coals in the firebox still blazed orange with heat and light, the one, single coal sitting on the hearth turned black as it swiftly cooled.

  • After the story music could play, a hymn could be sung, or silence could be kept.

© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2016

Kevin Goldenbogen is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ serving an amazing congregation in the foothills of the Green Mountains of Vermont. He skis, climbs, runs, bakes bread, rides a red Vespa, and tries every day to follow Jesus. He is married to the perfect woman and has two boys who he loves beyond words.

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