I love the TV advert for Audible that begins:
“The greatest storyteller always had the perfect story whenever you needed to hear it.”
Three things I have seen over Christmas have reminded me of the compelling power of stories.
Firstly, I have watched the ITV programme Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Actor, Toby Jones plays Alan Bates, who over a twenty-year period has been the main organiser for the campaign to clear the names of hundreds of sub-postmasters who had been falsely charged with theft as a result of the introduction of a new computer system, Horizon.
Toby Jones, speaking to the real Alan Bates on the radio, admitted that the original news stories of these miscarriages of justice had passed him by. Yet as soon as he had read the script for the four-part series, he began to feel the power of story and the need to put things right.
Since the shows aired, they have grabbed the attention of people in high places and a petition has been started to urge the government to renew efforts to deal with all the compensation claims and seek to bring to justice those who were responsible for the tragic fiasco.
Telling a story in a memorable way can achieve things like that.
Secondly, I went to the cinema to see the film One Life, that tells the story of Sir Nicolas Winton who, in the run up to World War 2, managed to arrange the transportation of 669, mainly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to safety in England. Perhaps one of the most moving parts of the film was when Winton appeared in 1988 on the BBC programme That’s Life. The host, Esther Rantzen asked:
“Is there anyone in our audience tonight who owes their life to Nicholas Winton? If so, please stand.”
When the whole audience stood, it was impossible not to shed a tear. One of the children who was rescued, Rev. John Fieldsend, said of Winton:
“If there was something that needed doing and nobody was doing it, Nicholas would step in; that was the motto for his life.”
As with Alan Bates, this story highlights how important the story of one life can be. We all have one life. The key question is: What do we make of it?
Thirdly, I read Glen Scrivener’s new book, How to See Life: A Guide in 321.
In this book Glen shows how the one life of Jesus can transform our lives.
He does this by framing the book in a variety of stories that assist the reader to see more clearly. Scrivener talks about the importance of reframing: “It is about changing perspectives in order to look at life again.”
That is the task preachers tackle week by week. With Bible in hand we seek to reframe the way people think by reigniting their interest in the greatest story ever told.
When we read the Gospels, we see that so many of life’s stories are reflections of this greater story.
Jesus, like Alan Bates, is the little man who takes on the establishment.
Like Sir Nicolas Winton, his is the one life that transforms the lives of others by rescuing them from the greatest danger and bringing them to true freedom.