#BigRead13 WEEK 1: The God of Surprises (@SheridanVoysey)

For #BigRead13 (Suggested: 13/2/13), using the BigRead Menu.

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We All Have a Story to Tell

http://www.seedresources.com/view/images/we-all-have-a-story-to-tell http://www.seedresources.com/view/images/we-all-have-a-story-to-tell

This week we seek to challenge familiar thinking: using imagination/narrative and story to make the familiar fresh.


This may be the first week for some groups. In preparation, look for ‘icebreakers’ to get to know each other better. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take What You Need:  A roll of toilet tissue is passed around the room.  People are asked to take what they need.  Once everyone has “their supply,” the group is told that they are to tell as many things about themselves as they have tissue squares.
  • ‘Lucky’ Penny: Each person takes a coin out of his/her pocket and looks at the date. When it’s his/her turn, s/he states the year that’s on their coin and recalls something spectacular that happened that year.[1]
  • Tall stories: The leader starts a story with a sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. The next person then has to add to the story with his own sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. Continue the story until everyone has contributed. The story becomes crazier as   each person adds their sentence. Tape it and play it back. For example; ‘Yesterday I went to the zoo and was passing the elephant enclosure when SUDDENLY…..’[2]

Discuss your expectations for the course and how you might contribute to the online  discussions.



This longer video could be also be watched earlier than the first week, to think about why C.S.Lewis at Lent:

This short video is specifically for this week:

Blessed_are_they_who_hear_the_word_of_GodBible Reading

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The Lion's World Book CoverBook Extract

The Lion’s World pages 16-20.
The full chapter can be downloaded from Seed Resources.


Sheridan VoyseyWith Sheridan Voysey (writer, speaker and broadcaster: story and the search for meaning)

Were the angels surprised when the triune God sketched out plans for a universe he didn’t need? Surely they were—as surprised as when they saw the first bird take flight and the first humans blink their eyes; as surprised as when they watched God himself sow garments to cover the fallen humans’ shame.

God surprised Abraham with a promise, Sarah with a child and Moses as he knelt before a tree aglow with flame. All Israel walked in wide-eyed wonder as they followed the cloud and the fire, marched beside walls of water and fled to the new land.

God surprised Isaac with a wife, Jacob with a dream and Joshua with unlikely military victory. He surprised Samuel with a voice, Elijah with a whisper and Rahab with an unexpected legacy. God surprised David with kingship, Solomon with wisdom, Hezekiah with life and Isaiah with a vision.

And one day God surprised a teenage virgin with an angelic visitation.

The child born to that girl surprised the learned with his unusual knowledge of God. After coming of age and learning a trade, he surprised those around him by setting off on a mission. On that mission he surprised blind men by opening their eyes and demoniacs by casting their tormentors into swine. He surprised crippled women by straightening their backs and nervous wedding hosts by turning water into wine. He surprised the poor with his attention and children with his affection, the leprous with cleansing and sinners with restoration. It was a surprise to discover him as the Messiah—a Messiah carrying a towel and not a sword. It was a surprise when this Lord washed feet and called his subjects friends.

And this Messiah came into the world telling stories.

Surprising, beguiling, captivating stories.

Stories that shook awake hearts to see what they needed to see.

To shake the self-righteous from their arrogance he told a story about a good Samaritan. To shake the small hearted from their coldness he told a story of a father who throws a party for his repentant son. And to those about to reject him he tells a story about a vineyard owner who sends his Son to collect the harvest, only to have that Son killed by the vineyard’s tenants.

‘How do you make fresh what is thought to be familiar,’ Rowan Williams asks, ‘so familiar that it doesn’t need to be thought about?’ How do you get the attention of a world that thinks it knows what Jesus is all about, when it is often only familiar with misconceptions?

You do what Jesus did—you tell stories.

Surprising, beguiling, captivating stories.

Perhaps even stories with a sting in their tail.

In telling of the vineyard’s murderous tenants Jesus sought to shake awake the Pharisees who, blinded by their own misconceptions of the Messiah, would crucify him to protect their own interests. By killing him, the Son, the Pharisees were sealing their own doom. They would trip over the very stone they cast away.

In telling his Narnia stories CS Lewis sought to shake awake a less murderous, more indifferent world to the Christ they thought they knew but didn’t. Would they see the Jesus they had cast aside afresh in Aslan? Would they see him as the dangerous-but-good saviour he really is?

The need is no less today—perhaps it’s even greater.

To shake an indifferent world out of its misconceptions of Jesus.

To show that world that Jesus isn’t the distant, otherworldly figure reflected in some of our cathedral artworks, the revolutionary able to be shoe-horned into a favourite political cause, or the happy hipster depicted in those tacky plastic figurines.

No, this is a Jesus who loves lavishly and pronounces judgment. One to be reckoned with, not casually put aside. One who is dangerous but good.

May today’s artists and storytellers speak of him afresh

headphonesThis God of surprises who explodes all our misconceptions.

Available in audio format.

Question (Purchased by Digital Fingerprint)


1) When you are surprised, what reactions do you feel? What is the difference between a pleasant surprise and an unpleasant one? Do any make you feel the need to make changes?

2) What surprises you in the Bible? If nothing does, what do you think should surprise us more?

3) Where do we observe modern Pharisaical behaviour (defined as hypocritically self-righteous and condemnatory)? How can we start to shake this up?

4) What are the most common misconceptions about Jesus today?

5) Rowan Williams writes (p17) “It is not true that large numbers of people reject Christian faith – if by ‘reject’ we meant that they deliberately consider and then decide against it.” What is your experience of this amongst your friends?

6) Dorothy L Sayers & C.S. Lewis “agreed passionately that the writing has to have its own integrity, its own wholeness”, rather than being dictated by a Christian argument, so Christianity remained ‘latent’, but still remained powerful at putting an argument into context. Have you noticed this in Christian novels you’ve read?


strawberry-dessertHot) What Bible stories do you remember? Which have become so familiar that they have lost their wonder? How might you reconnect with that sense of wonder?
Potential Resources:

Cold) Take a story from the Bible, and discuss how you would translate it into a modern day story. What surprises do you find there as we look at it from a modern day perspective.
If you get as far as writing a story, we’d love to see it. We could post it on archive.bigbible.uk, or link to it on your own blog.


To finish with: “God, we pray that you will continue to surprise us in both the stories of our own lives, and as we re-connect with your stories in the Bible.”

Box of ChocolatesAfter-Dinner Chocs

1) Read one of the early Narnia novels in the light of what you’ve discussed this week, and consider where the Christian message is latent.

2) “We all have a story to tell”. Draw a timeline of your own life with significant moments upon it. Think how you would tell the story of one of those moments in a ‘surprising’ way, and thank God for evidence of his work in your life.

3) Take a (prayer) walk along a familiar path – see what you notice when actively looking.

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