I went to the small town again yesterday, to the people on the hill. The room was full, once again. Different from my storying experience in the big city, this group has not dwindled down, but rather has invited at least one new person a week to hear a story and decide if they want to form a storying group on their neighborhood. So far, there are a lot of positive feelings about our storying time.
The first story was the call of Abraham. I told the story and I nailed it. It was faithful to the Bible, interesting, everyone listened smiling. And then when I asked someone to tell it back there were blank faces all around. No one wanted to even start the story. I asked one man to try and he said. "hmm. too many names and places." I told the story again, this time, everyone was concentrating and the result was... no one remembered the story.
So I thought about the names in the story (in portuguese) --Tera, Abrão, Ló, Sarai, Ur, Babelônia, Canaã, Harã, Siquem, Morê, Betel, Ai -- Too much. I remembered that 4 new names were about the limit for stories, so I told it again leaving only the most essential names. I called Terah "Abraham's father" and I called Haran "another place" and things like that, leaving only Abraham, Sara, Lot, and Canaan in the story. It worked. They remembered and retold the story. (But this whole process took a long time, and I had 3 more stories to tell).
In the discussion time we talked about Abraham's obedience, his social status, and we talked about altars. They remember altars from Cain and Abel and from Noah after the flood. I asked them about altars in the small they first mentioned the shrine to Mary outside the Catholic church. Then after talking, the started to talk about the altars in their homes as devotion to saints.
The next story was of the separation of Lot and Abraham, with Lot settling in the Jordan valley and later the 3 visitors coming to Abraham's home and telling of the future birth of their son. The third story was the story of Abraham's prayer and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The last story was the birth of Isaac and the testing of Abraham.
When questioning them about this last story, I was surprised at the fact that they didn't have a problem with Abraham's obedience to God. I've heard so many people complain that God was asking something unjust of Abraham. These listeners didn't see it that way.
Our discussion on this last point.
Q: What did God ask Abraham to do?
A: Burn his son as a sacrifice on the altar.
Q: Did Abraham obey?
A: Yes he did.
Q: Did Abraham lie to his servants when he told them that he and Isaac would return after worshiping God on the mountain?
A: No, because Abraham knew that God would do something special. Remember... later he promised Isaac that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice. Yes... and God also promised Abraham he would have many descendants through Isaac and that all the land would be his. Abraham had faith.
Q: What if Abraham had brought some products from the field like Cain? Would God have accepted that sacrifice?
Q: What if he had brought a lamb?
A: No. God told him what the sacrifice had to be and God provided the substitute.
This moved me, because they were hearing this story for the first time, and I am not used to getting good answers like this from even long-term Christians.
I gave them 3 DVD movies to watch this week. Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. I will tell the story of Moses next week.