I am currently re-reading, for the umpteenth time, one of the Cadfael stories by Ellis Peters. As I am enjoying it, I have found myself reflecting on what type of stories I enjoy and what makes for a good story.

 

The Cadfael stories are about a murder-solving medieval monk, whose expertise in herbs and their uses gives him regular excuses to leave the monastery, and whose abbot is willing to allow him to use his skills to support the secular authorities in identifying the culprits. In real life, I would be horrified by the cases Cadfael deals with, and certainly could never find them entertaining! I know that part of what I enjoy in stories is the opportunity to set aside all my normal expectations and responsibilities and to simply ‘watch’ as someone else wrestles with problems. I like the characters in stories I read to be realistic in that I like them to show a plausible mixture of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I like my ‘good’ characters to have flaws, and I like to be able to sympathise with the ‘bad’ characters; I would rapidly get very bored with characters who were wholly good or wholly bad. But I also like to be able to suspend reality in that I’m happy to see murders solved and ‘justice’ served, without having to take notice of any of the complexities of personality and circumstance that would be relevant in real life.

 

The Bible contains some of the most enduring stories in history. Jesus was a master storyteller. The stories, often parables, that he told have been retold countless times, in everything from children’s stories to learned theological journals. Almost every parable he told contains a moral or a message simple enough for a child to understand, and yet has depths of meaning that are beyond the skill of scholars to plumb completely. Many, if not most, of Jesus’ parables can leave us asking, ‘Which character in that parable am I like?’ and can leave us concluding that in different ways we are like most of the characters involved. And like, I suspect, all good stories, the parables can have different things to ‘say’ to us when we revisit them on different occasions.

 

  • Reflect on the type of stories you like, and what it is about these stories that attracts you.

  • What is your experience of Jesus’ parables? Have you a favourite?

 

Prayer for the week - 11th September 2020

 

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