The story since day one
Do you ever have a commercial jingle or a theme song from a TV show that you can remember perfectly years later? Decades might pass, you will have forgotten libraries of information, but you can still flawlessly recite the opening song. For example, the jingle from the old TV show, The Brady Bunch… “Here’s a story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls…”
Stories draw us in, they make us pay attention, they help us remember.
We see Paul using a story for the same reasons. Though, his story is much more meaningful. In his first letter to believers in Corinth Paul wrote:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
(1 Corinthians 15:3-6 ESV)
At first glance, this may look like more of Paul’s theological writing—abstract concepts in the early formulation of faith. But scholars have looked more closely at the language in the last hundred years or so and they saw an intrinsic rhythm and metre of the words: “that Christ died…he was buried…he was raised.” What they found was an ancient credal formula—a compact, memorizable statement of faith that was probably around long before 1 Corinthians was written.
Notice how Paul set this up: I delivered to you what I received. He was sharing something he had received—this creed, this jingle, this poem—something that was already in place and most likely part of his discipleship process.
We are seeing here some of the first “hymns” the church ever sang. Remember there was no internet and a significant part of the first audience was illiterate. This would be the way new believers learned faith, similar to a memory verse or a simple song, or a creed in today’s churches.
Just like we can sing some of the words to The Brady Bunch jingle, so the early believers could tell the story of Christ in song, or poem form. The story was circulated in such a way that people could remember it and share it. We still tell the story today—Jesus is of first importance. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension are the story we share each year as we worship our way through the Christian Calendar. Each year the calendar reminds us of the story of Jesus—the same story that has been shared since day one.
Presented by Greg Williams
About the presenter:
Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA. Word of Life each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life’, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International.
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