31 May 2018 The Power of Story
by Allen Wolf
Stories can have a profound impact on our lives. I was reminded of that when I was attending a fundraising dinner I helped plan in Los Angeles for an organization that taught kids with psychiatric issues how to create stories. I had just met Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck and was making my way toward Ted Danson to thank him for attending. They were all there because they knew how creating stories could help these kids experience healing. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and while I was involved with the film industry, I was also helping to launch a new church that partnered with pastor/author Tim Keller’s church in New York City. This characterized my life: one foot in film, the other in ministry.
When I took the position at Northshore as the Pastor of Arts and Communication two years ago, I loved the idea that I could continue to be a part of those two worlds. At Northshore, I oversee the Sunday worship service along with the communications side: filmmaking, graphic design, and storytelling. Meanwhile, I’ve continued to work on film projects on my own time. This summer I’m leading a Northshore Summer Group where we’ll be making a feature film together to tell a story that highlights the issue of human trafficking. Whether it’s at Northshore or beyond, I’ve been able to see how stories have impacted how people have experienced life and understood Jesus.
...I’ve been able to see how stories have impacted how people have experienced life and understood Jesus.
J.R.R. Tolkien understood the power of stories when he had a long conversation about God with C.S. Lewis. This was years before Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings or Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis was an atheist at the time, and as they walked along a path together, Tolkien shared about his grounding in a deep belief in something else that Lewis didn’t share. They did share, however, a love of mythology and the myths of ancient cultures.
That shared appreciation led Tolkien to ask Lewis if all those ancient and beautiful stories could be echoes of something larger and truer. Perhaps they could be signs that humans knew of another world that had once existed and would exist again and even now existed in another realm, outside of time.
Lewis was familiar with the myths of the gods who died sacrificially but who would rise again and live, but he didn’t think they were connected to the world of reality and history. For Tolkien, though, those stories were echoes of a larger reality.
For Tolkien, though, those stories were echoes of a larger reality.
Tolkien asked Lewis to consider whether it was possible that this myth could have coincided with history. Perhaps at one time this eternity broke through into time. Tolkien suggested that it had, that the myth of the god who had died and come to life was an echo of a greater story that had changed everything forever.
This was the first time Lewis considered that possibility, and it began to transform the way he looked at stories and the world, eventually leading him to put his faith in Jesus.
During our Summer at the Movies series that start Sunday, June 3, we’re going to be looking at popular movies to discover what each story tells us about ourselves and about God. We’ll be looking for the story behind the story, just as Tolkien and Lewis once did. And just as Tolkien took the risk to invite Lewis in that conversation, we have the same opportunity to invite our friends to experience this series and to consider how they are echoes of a larger reality. Stories do have the power to change people’s lives. Hollywood knows it, but most importantly, Jesus knows it, which is why He invites us to be part of the story of His life, the greatest story ever told.
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