Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter - The Same Old Story? by Nola Passmore



When Monica Andermann asked a friend to church on Easter Sunday, her friend replied ‘No thanks … I’ve heard that story before.  I know how it ends’.  Do you ever feel like you’ve heard it all before?  It’s easy to become complacent about well-known Bible stories, especially when you’ve been around Christian circles for a long time.  If I’m in a church service and the minister announces that we’re going to look at The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Sower, I groan inwardly.  ‘Not that one again.’  How sad is that though?  How sad to lose our wonder at the amazing things God has done on our behalf. 

At Easter we celebrate all that Christ did for us on the cross.  How phenomenal is it that God sent His Son to die for our sins so we could spend eternity with Him?  God’s word is just as ‘alive and active’ as it was 2000 years ago (Hebrews 4:12).  However, I think part of our challenge as Christian writers is to communicate Biblical truth in fresh ways.  How could we do that with the Easter story?

A few years ago, our minister invited the congregation to read a book of devotions by Walter Wangerin Jr. for the 40 days leading up to Easter.  I bought a copy of Reliving the Passion thinking that it would all be pretty familiar to me.  However, it was more than a set of devotions.  It was told with drama, dialogue, internal monologues and great emotion.  As I read each day’s entry, I was able to look into the thoughts of Peter and Mary Magdalene.  I was able to see and hear what was going on and it helped me to gain fresh insights.  Here’s a sample based on Mark 15:1 after Jesus has been delivered to Pilate:

Jesus, how do you feel?  What are you thinking?  You don’t talk.  Your mouth has been closed for such a long time now.  Last night, before the legal machinery caught hold of you and began to grind you in its wheels, you said your soul was sorrowful, even unto death—and then your eyes revealed the grief.  I saw it.  But now, in the dawn of your deathday, your face is expressionless.  I can read nothing in your eyes.  Jesus!  Jesus!  How do you feel right now?  What moods contend within you?  What worlds collide inside your soul?  O Jesus, are you hating?  Are you praying?  Are you screaming silently?  Are you thinking about me now? (p. 94)

Singer-songwriter Don Francisco also used first person in his classic song He’s Alive which is written from Peter’s perspective.  Through the lyrics, we see Peter move from doubt to hope to belief as he sees the empty tomb and later encounters the risen Lord face to face.  The song always gives me goose bumps.  To listen to it, click here.

I tried my hand at a ‘different’ kind of Easter poem by writing from the perspective of Barabbas, the criminal released at Passover in the place of Jesus.  There’s not a lot of information about Barabbas in the Bible, so I had to try to imagine how he would have felt.  I took the perspective that he may have thought they were leading him out to be crucified, but instead he found himself a free man.  To read it, click here.
  
As you contemplate what Jesus has done for us this Easter, try looking at it with fresh eyes and meditate on how amazing his sacrifice of love was both then and now.  If you were going to write a story, song, poem, script or devotion about Easter, how could you give it an original spin?  Or perhaps you’ve already written something along those lines.  I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

References


Andermann, M. A.  (2014).  Same old story.  In M. Nutter (Ed.), Penned from the heart (vol. 21, p. 57).  New Wilmington, PA: Son-Rise Publications.

Wangerin, W., Jr.  (1992).  Reliving the passion.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.




Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 140 short pieces published, including devotions, true stories, magazine articles, academic papers, poetry and short fiction.  She loves sharing what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her weekly writing tips blog at their website: http://www.thewriteflourish.com.au

21 comments:

  1. Hi Nola,
    This post helps me think about the true function of creative people. We may sometimes believe that we should only strive to come up with original material, but telling important old stories in fresh and original ways is just as important a skill. It reminded me of the recent post by Rose Dee, in which she mentioned that lots of stories are simply remakes of older stories. Perhaps this is just as it should be, to keep those alive.

    I like your poem from Barabbas' perspective. And speaking of Walter Wangerin Jr., I have his 'Book of God' which is the Bible written as a novel. I'm glad people keep thinking of new ways to present the stories we love.

    I hope you had a happy Easter.

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    1. Hi Paula - Thanks for that encouragement. I'll have to look for some more of Walter Wangerin's books. I'd forgotten about that book until I was preparing this post.

      I was thinking about Rose's post too. It's amazing how similar ideas work in together. I was thinking about the whole idea of remakes this morning and I think one of the big differences is whether a writer has something different to say or a new slant on a familiar story. For example, I have absolutely no idea why they've decided to do a new version of The Odd Couple TV Show (though admit I haven't managed to sit through a whole episode of the new one). But there have been some great examples of writers breathing new life into an old story (e.g. 'Wicked' is a spin off of 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Snow White and the Huntsman' puts a new spin on the classic fairytale). It's a skill to be able to find that 'new angle'.

      Thanks for your feedback Paula. Hope you had a great Easter too. We had a nice family one.

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    2. Yes, I agree. A new slant makes all the difference.

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  2. Thanks so much, Nola. Like Paula, your post sent me back to a Walter Wangerin Jr book I have on my shelf--'Ragman and Other Cries of Faith' which contains so much beautiful writing. But I also really loved your own poem--thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thanks for that Jo. Glad you liked the poem. And thanks for the tip about the Walter Wangerin Jr book. Looks like there are a few I'll have to chase up. Take care.

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  3. Oh, Nola, thank you for this beautiful post. You have given me a bright new perspective on this and other Bible stories. I have decided to write a poem from Mary's POV. How painful this must have been for her. She was His mother (even though He was also her Savior). Her heart had to be so crushed. Thank you, my friend. I am very thankful God brought you and Jenny into my life. <3

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    1. Thanks for that Robyn. We're so glad we met you through MOPs too. I'd love to read your poem when you're done. That sounds like a great idea. I've been writing quite a few poems from the perspectives of different people in the Bible. I think I shared some of them at MOPs. I find it really helps me to think more deeply about a passage as well because you have to try to imagine what they were thinking and how it would have felt. Look forward to reading your poem. I'm sure you'll do a brilliant job xx

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    2. Hi Robyn
      We glad you've been part of our too. I imagine that you could related to the agony of a mother's heart that Mary would've felt. <3

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  4. Good post, Nola. I've been listening to John Eldredge's podcasts this past week as he walks through each day of Jesus' last week reflecting on what Jesus did each day and what might be going through his mind at the time. I've enjoyed thinking more on how he spends time each night (especially early in the week) with his friends just hanging out and enjoying each other's companionship. Knowing what He knew was going to happen a few days later made this time so much more special.

    I guess the ever-expanding catalogue of Biblical fiction titles reflects our desire for old stories being re-told.

    Happy Easter, Nola and all at CWD.

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    1. Hi Ian - Those podcasts sound really interesting. That would be interesting to reflect on what Jesus was thinking earlier in the week. We can know all the facts, but trying to think about the thoughts and feelings behind it brings a totally new dimension. And yes you're right about the Biblical fiction titles. There's certainly a market for it and it can shed a different perspective. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. How come we can read the same passages in the scriptures, including the stories, over and over, and yet the Holy Spirit uses them each time to challenge, smack, comfort, fall more in love with Jesus or whatever HE knows we need at that time? This is the Holy Spirit using the Word to minister to us what He knows we can understand and need at different seasons of our lives. Of course, we also believe He is the One who should give us the insights to present thoughts of Easter in different ways to meet the needs of different age groups, different people. Last Sunday, at a church Ray preached at he asked me to recite one of his many poems. This one was titled Conquered. Just doing that was probably more a real blessing to me than those who listened. Anyone seen the Lego version of Easter on Facebook? Great for children especially. And God keeps marching on presenting His story for each generation!

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    1. Thanks for that Mary. Yes you're absolutely right. There have been many times God's spoken to me anew through a familiar passage. Even though I mentioned The Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Sower, I can think of times when someone has preached on one of those and then I have still gotten something new out of it. Yes, the work of the Holy Spirit is amazing.

      I'm glad you were able to recite one of Ray's poems. Sometimes a poem, song or story can touch people in a different way and open them up to the message they're about to hear. Tim and I were just talking about that this morning. I haven't seen the Lego Easter. I'll go and look that up now. Thanks for your comment Mary. Take care xx

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    2. Hi Mary. Thanks for the tip about the Easter Lego story animation. A great resource.

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  6. Great post Nola. And thanks for the encouragement to try to retell old stories with freshness - something God calls us writers to. It's so easy to think 'we've heard it all before' - but no - we haven't. You have only to ponder on the same passage in scripture 10 different times - and find God speaking in 10 different ways to know that.

    And so as we writers look to the Holy Spirit for inspiration, there is no doubt He will show us how we can use the same well thumbed passages to bring fresh inspiration.

    I loved your poem on Barrabus. Well done!

    You've encouraged me afresh to seek new ways of communicating old truths so thanks for that. I have no doubt God will use your blog in my writing life and I look forward to what He's going to do! Bless you. And by the way A very Blessed Easter to you and Tim.

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    1. Thanks for that encouragement Anusha. I really appreciate it. You're so right about the Holy Spirit. There have been many times when He has shown me something new in a passage. A couple of years ago, I did a two-month Selwyn Hughes' study on the 23rd Psalm (yes - 60 meditations on one psalm!) and it was amazing how many fresh insights he brought out of it. It's just a matter of finding that new perspective and the Holy Spirit is definitely our guide in that. I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with. Take care xx

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  7. Hi Nola
    I loved your poem on Barabbas and the reminder of how we can draw fresh insight from biblical stories we have heard a hundred times. I'm often surprised at how many times I can read a biblical passage and still find something new or a new way to apply it.
    Thanks for your post :)

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    1. Thanks Jenny. Yes that's so true. As others have said, the Holy Spirit can bring fresh insights each time. Really appreciate your feedback :)

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  8. Hi Nola, I too reiterate the comments of the above writers. Your post was a great encouragement to go deeper in my work, ever seeking to find new and creative ways to write about God's work. Thank you so much.

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    1. Thanks for that Susanne. I'm glad it encouraged you. I think it's something we can all learn and I need to apply it more myself as well. Writing blogs is always a good reminder to me too :) Thanks for your feedback.

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  9. A valuable post, Nola. It can be all too easy to think we've heard/know everything about a story or even topic, but it's that willingness to dig deeper, examine things from different angles, and shed fresh light on an account that truly brings it to life. Same applies to any of our writing really. We can too often write only what we know (or a comfortable with), forgetting that a whole new world of characters, plot twists and points of view are just waiting to be penned to life and, like the Easter story, bring fresh perspective to readers.

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    1. Thanks for that Adele. That's so true. It's easy to trod those familiar paths when writing, but stepping out of our comfort zones can bring a fresh perspective and possibilities we hadn't thought of. Looking forward to reading your next plot twist!

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