How many sermons do you remember from 25 years ago? Likely not many.
Even the most meaningful and formative sermons from long ago tend to fade and become less a specific memory and more an unrecallable influential moment; a ripple whose impact remains but becomes indistinguishable the further life goes beyond that moment.
I’m sure I have heard many sermons over the years that are impossible to recall yet influential. But there is one sermon from 25 years ago that I do recall with more clarity than any other.
My youth pastor was preaching one Sunday morning, and for his sermon illustration, he took a pair of scissors and cut the back cover off his Bible.
I had never seen anyone do such a thing!
It was surprising, shocking, possibly irreverent (I wasn’t sure) and seemingly sacrilegious. Because of all those things, it was incredibly memorable.
I’m sure he did it for the shock factor, but more than that he did it because he was trying to visually drive home the point that the story of the Bible is not over. Our stories are the continuation of the Bible’s story.
He wanted us to understand that the Bible is God’s story, that our story is God’s story, that they are inextricably connected and that God’s story doesn’t end on the last page of our Bibles; God’s story is an unending story.
This sermon, consequently, influenced the titling of my column: “Tales from the Unending Story.” My stories, my reflections, my wrestling with scripture become part of God’s unending story that is told in the Bible.
Over the last number of years, I have journeyed through the Bible; reading, reflecting, and using everyday stories from my own life to help me, and hopefully you, connect with the Bible in simple but hopefully helpful ways.
Seldom have my musings required elaborate, in-depth study of the original language, or theological research, though I love delving into those things and employing them the best I can.
No, I have tried to model the reality that each of our stories are gifts that can help us understand the stories of God’s people in scripture, if only we take the time to stop, read, reflect, mull, ponder, wrestle and creatively imagine.
Yes, the Bible is full of complex and challenging writing, but it is also, paradoxically, full of simple and understandable realities that are not beyond the average reader’s grasp.
Let your own stories, and the stories of others in your community of faith, aid you as you wrestle with scripture.
The Bible may be canonized and complete, but it is not finished. The story is as unending as God, and we have been invited to be contributors in this holy epic.
This is my final “Tales from the Unending Story” column, but my journey of reading and reflecting through the scriptures is not over. It too continues past this final page.
May you, dear reader, live your life with no back page, no “The End” anywhere to be seen. Grab some scissors if you need help remembering that.
May we live as part of the weird, wild and wonderful ongoing and unending tale of God’s love.
Even after we’ve breathed our last, our stories continue.
May you have eyes to see and ears to hear the most wonderful story.
And may you love to tell the story of Jesus and his love using both Bible stories and your own fantastic tales.
Joshua Penfold lives in New Hamburg, Ontario, and can be reached at email@example.com.