Tag Archives: Storytelling

“Divine-Right” Deceptions

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

Wendy and I have recently binged our way through Netflix’s original series The Crown. It is a dramatic interpretation of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it

One of the subtle themes in the storytelling is the British royal family’s understanding of their role as a “divine right” monarchy. It was very common for the royal families of Europe to view their respective reigns as being God’s appointed rulers. The Queen is not only viewed as a head of state but also head of the Church of England. Rulers taking on the mantel of divinity has a very long and storied tradition in human history. From Pharaohs of Egypt to Caesars of Rome the rulers of Empires have claimed to be gods or to have some divine “right” to rule.

This of course, stirs up all sorts of conflicting feelings, especially here in the culture of the States which was founded on a rejection of monarchy altogether. The founding fathers created a government that was, as Lincoln would put it four score and seven years later, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Nevertheless, this theme of royals and nobles being better than the commoner, or not, still resonates in our storytelling.

Even Shakespeare used this as a device. Henry V was a divine-right monarch like the rest of the British kings and queens, but Shakespeare wrote the heroic “Hal” as a populist King of the people.” Cloaked and disguised as a common soldier, King Henry sits by the fire with his “common” men at arms an waxes on his own humanity:

I think the king is but a man, as I
am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me: the
element shows to him as it doth to me; all his
senses have but human conditions: his ceremonies
laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; and
though his affections are higher mounted than ours,
yet, when they stoop, they stoop with the like
wing. Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we
do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish
as ours are: yet, in reason, no man should possess
him with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing
it, should dishearten his army.

This all comes to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter. Paul addresses those believers of Corinth who have become arrogant and have displayed an attitude of being better, more godly, more authoritative, and more spiritually noble than others believers. They were acting as some sort of “divine-right” authorities within the church.

Paul’s response is to point out that those who follow Jesus, all of us, have nothing spiritually that has not been graciously given to us by Christ. This is a cornerstone of our belief system. We don’t earn God’s favor. We don’t merit Jesus’ love, or forgiveness, or grace, or mercy, or salvation because of what we’ve done or not done. All we have is a gift of God given to all and for all to receive irrespective of gender, race, creed, socio-economic status, standing in society, education, age, or moral/immoral track record.

This morning I’m mulling over my own track record. Along my journey I know there have been times when I’ve spoken or acted out of spiritual arrogance. Some very specific examples spring to mind in my memories. Lord, forgive me. I’ve deceived myself and acted the part of “divine-right” authority from time to time. I’d like to think that age and experience have taught me humility, but they have also taught me that I easily cycle in and out of these things. “Ceremonies laid by” I’m just as human as everyone else, including Queen Elizabeth II.

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time
Once upon a time (Photo credit: steveczajka)

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
Psalm 107:2a (NIV)

This past Friday night a group of friends gathered at our house to read that latest draft of a play I wrote, which is entitled Ham Buns and Potato Salad. The play is slated to be produced by our local community theatre in April and I’ve been scrambling to make a couple of major revisions to the script. Friday night was an opportunity to hear the script, and my changes, read by other voices and to get a feel for what is working, and what is not.

The play is about the stories of a small group of people in a small Iowa town. It is rooted in my experiences of living for three years in a very small town along with bits and pieces of many real stories people have shared with me over the years. In particular, the play revolves around one young woman’s story, which she herself has refused to share with anyone in the town for over a decade. Her refusal to tell her story has become a legendary piece of town gossip and the source of endless speculation. The play deals with the unforeseen circumstances which bring the young woman to share her story and her secret.

I find it interesting that the psalmist didn’t write “Let the redeemed of the Lord:”

  • …tell others what to do.”
  • …make a lot of rules.”
  • …appear perfect.”
  • …act like they’ve got it all together.”
  • …hide their faults.”
  • …judge others.”

I love that the are encouraged to share our stories. We all have stories, and I love to hear other people’s stories. I find them fascinating. Once I have heard a person’s story I understand them better, appreciate them more, and have a greater capacity to love them. The world would be a better place if we all took the time to share and listen to one another’s stories. I love the fact that Jesus wrapped His teaching in stories, and I enjoy being a storyteller, which is why I wrote Ham Buns and Potato Salad.

This week we will all gather with family and friends to share meals, open gifts, worship, play games, and watch football. Today, I am challenging myself and all who read this blogpost to intentionally take the time to ask for, and listen to, another person’s story:

  • Grandma, how did you and grandpa meet? Tell me about falling in love with him.
  • Dad, what was your favorite toy when you were a kid?
  • Tell me mom, what was a typical Christmas when you were young?
  • Tell me, nephew, what is it you are passionate about?
  • What was the high point and low point of this past year for you?
  • What was the naughtiest thing you did as a kid?
  • How did you end up in your career? Are you glad? What did you want to do?
  • Nobody talks about Uncle Sid. What’s his story?
  • Where’s the most exotic place you’ve traveled? What was it like?
  • What is your biggest regret in life thus far?

Trust me, the holidays will be much more enjoyable if people share their stories.