When our Sunday night YF starts up again at the end of August, we’re going to go through a series looking at some of the stories Jesus told. The problem is, there are such well known stories. Everyone knows them. They know what happens in them. They know how they end.
So I’m trying to reinterpret them. Make them fresh.
The first one is probably the most famous of all. The Prodigal Son. How do you make that story fresh to people who will have heard it many times before? I’ve taken my first stab at it and the results are below. I’m not sure whether it’s enough but it’s a start. I have a couple of weeks to mull it over. Please let me know your thoughts.
Tom sits staring at the text on his phone. Thinking whether to send it or not.
“Dad, I’m sorry. Can I come home?”
He deletes the message and puts the phone back in his pocket. He leans back against the cold hard cement of the building behind him. The sounds of traffic echoes around his ears. A passer-by throws a twenty pence piece into his cup. He’s been living on the street for three weeks now.
Hard to imagine that just four months ago he had everything. Tom lived in a two story penthouse with his dad and sister. He had everything he ever wanted. Clothes, gadgets, good schooling.
But you know what it’s like when you’re a teenager. You want independence. You don’t want your parents supporting you all the time.
So he left home. Well, more than that.
He got into a fight with his dad one night. Told him, he wanted him dead. That he was moving out and he’d never see him again. Told him that he didn’t understand him. He needed to be on his own. Things escalated. Minutes later, Tom was standing over the bloodied and beaten body of his dad. He grabbed some money from the safe his dad had behind a painting in the dining room, and took off.
His dad was inconsolable. Close friends and family told him to forget Tom. That he was a nobody. He’s better off out of his life. His dad disagreed.
Over the next few weeks, Tom’s sister, Tracy looked after her dad. She nursed him back to health. She did everything for him. Anything to make him happy. That’s just what she was like. She’d always been like that. Trying to get her father’s approval through what she did. What she didn’t realise is that she always had his approval. She didn’t need to do anything to get it.
For Tom, the next couple of months were great. He rented a small flat, went out all night and slept all day. He experienced everything he had ever dreamed of. He had it all. Every desire, he filled.
But soon the money ran out. And the friends that he had recently acquired left also. He didn’t have the money to pay for the flat so he was thrown out on to the streets. He had nobody. Just a sleeping bag and his phone.
He thinks back to what it was like a few months ago. He wants to go home.
He takes his phone out again and tries to dial home. But he can’t. He doesn’t deserve that life.
A voice calls out to him.
“Put the phone away”.
He looks up. The tall frame of his dad stands over him. He stares. Not knowing what to do. His dad reaches out a hand.
“It’s time to come home”.
You see, once his dad was able to walk again, he set about looking for his son. He spoke with bar and club owners, shop managers, any contact he had. And they led him to his son. His sister was outraged. Why does he need him? He threw it all away. He doesn’t deserve his father’s attention. She does. She does everything for him.
“But you’ve already got my love Tracy. You don’t need to do all of this. My son needs my love, just as much as you”.
Tracy doesn’t understand. Tom doesn’t understand either.
But he’s glad to be home.
I’d heard people talk on this story many times. But does the story of a king’s fall into adultery resonate with teenagers. I decided to reinterpret the story. My entire talk would simply be the story, re-imagined. David and Bathsheba as two sixth year pupils. It went down really well. You could hear the silence in the room. Afterwards the group broke into discussion groups and many of the leaders afterwards came up to me and said how much the story had affected the young people and how it provoked such great discussion.
I don’t say these things to big myself up but simply to show that the story worked for these young people. Which is why I’ve decided to finally write down a simple draft of the story for others to use if they see fit. It’s just the bare bones of the story. feel free to add to, remove bits from it. do whatever works best for your group. It’s simply the blueprint. I have changed certain situations but I feel that these are still true to the original narrative.
I love stories. And I think one of the greatest things we can do for the biblical stories is to refresh them and to orally tell them in ways that resonate. I believe that this is one way to tell the story. Later this year, I’m going on a couple of storytelling workshops and I hope to begin translating some more of the biblical stories into good oral stories that reflect the culture of the young people I work with.
Let me know your thoughts on the story.
The Story of David and Beth
Let me introduce you to a guy called David. He’s a sixth year at the local secondary school. House Captain, prefect, good at sports, maths, english. You get the idea. The best thing about him is that he doesn’t boast about anything of it. He’s a good guy to know.
David’s two best mates are James and Beth. David and James have been friends since they started school. they’re inseparable. Beth started hanging out with them at secondary school when James started dating her in 2nd year.
When James was seven, his parents split up and so every second week, he goes to visit his dad down in Portsmouth. One Friday lunchtime, after James has already left to go see his dad, Beth and David sit round the back of the school lying out on the grass. It’s another heatwave. It’s been like this the last few days. Too hot to anything. So they just sit on the grass, talking.
David looks round at Beth. The sun makes the skin on her legs glow. She glances round at him and he looks away. David’s always fancied Beth. He’s been out with a few girls but none of them ever hold up the vision he has of her. The truth is he’d ask her out in a second if she wasn’t going out with his best mate. If only he’s met her before James started-
“you okay?” beth asks. his thoughts are broken by her question.
“yeah I’m fine.” david replies.
“what you going to do tonight?” she enquires.
“was thinking about going out for a few.”
“depends whose out. why, you wanna come?”
“I shouldn’t. James said he’d phone later.”
“Oh gone. just for a couple.”
She should have said no. That would have been the end of it. But she didn’t. They agreed to meet at 7.30 at the bar in the centre of town. They sit and have a couple of drinks together. But that soon turns in a few and before they know it, they find themselves stumbling out of a club just after 2am.
They’re giggling and laughing. Beth falls back and lands up against a wall. She feels David’s breath on her neck. She’s too drunk to think any better. They have sex there against the wall, in the side street. Afterwards, they stumble home, ashamed of what they’ve done.
It’s weeks later. David and Beth have tried to act like nothing’s happened but things aren’t the same. there’s an awkwardness around them. A sense of guilt. David betrayed his best friend.
David’s in his room on facebook one night when Beth messages him. She says they need to talk. can she come around. What could it be? has james found out? He panics.
Later, there is a knock at the door. David goes down to answer it and Beth is standing there.
“Come on in”, David says. They go up to his room. He shuts the door.
“I don’t know how to say this David. I’m pregnant.”
“How do you know? Is it James’?”
“It’s mine? How can it be mine?” How can you be sure?”
“You’re the only one I’ve had sex with”.
“And you’re sure?”
“I took three tests.”
David panics. What’s he to do? His life will be ruined. He’ll lose his best mate. The teachers will be disgusted with him. he’ll lose the respect of everyone at the school.
“You need to get rid of it.”
“No, I’m not going to kill my baby”.
“Well I need time to think.”
Beth leaves. David thinks about it for hours. What is he going to do? Then he has an idea. An idea that will clear them both. If Beth tells everyone that james raped her when they were both drunk, they’re saved. Beth won’t be known as a slut and David’s reputation will be saved.
David goes round to see Beth and tells her the plan. She is appalled by it and refuses to go along with it. But David persists. What will her parents think? What will the school think? This is a way for both of them to be free from it. And James will get out in a couple of years. It won’t be so bad. So she finally agrees. there’s no other way.
The next night, when Beth’s parents are out, she invites James round and they both get horribly drunk. James passes out. He wakes up to screaming. Beth is on the floor, her shirt torn. He can’t quite make out what she’s saying at first. Rape. Is she saying rape? He doesn’t remember anything. He wouldn’t have done that would he?
The case goes to court. James pleads guilty. he doesn’t remember what happened but Beth is so sure. He can’t believe he would do a thing like that but Beth wouldn’t lie about it. James gets three years.
Beth has her baby and goes to college whilst her mum looks after her little girl. David goes to Cambridge, far away from everything that happened. Some nights he cannot sleep. the guilt bears down on him so hard sometimes that he cannot breathe. But he still has his reputation. It was worth it wasn’t it?
- David & Bathsheba (hhce100.wordpress.com)