Most of us have family stories which we keep alive in the retelling. These stories define our identity and shape how we see the world. We enjoy hearing stories. One family favourite and memory of mine is my Great Granddad driving the tiny, bendy roads of Cambridgeshire in his Robin Reliant with a bag of potatoes in the passenger seat to stop it tipping over on its three wheels as we sped too fast along country lanes. Eccentricity and country humour were the story of my upbringing. Christopher Booker took 34 years to write his 2004 book; “The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories”. Using Jungian analysis he proposes that all stories fit into seven archetypes driven by our deepest psychological desires. He defines these as; overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy and rebirth. Our own life stories may reflect these categories giving structure and understanding to our experiences. The plot may radically change over time but the stories we tell ourselves and each other deeply shape our future.
What narrative do we see around us in society at large? I write this on the eve of Brexit and with no knowledge of what shape our country will be by the time you read this. Certainly for many Brexit is either overcoming the monster or a tragedy! Only time will tell. For many the story it represents has been disturbing. Others have sensed liberty. Will the Brexit story give us the freedom promised or make us a less tolerant and welcoming land?
There is a long tradition within the Jewish faith of festivals and ceremonies that recall and remember the past deeds of God. Personal faith and the wider society were always interconnected. This often involves reading scripture, symbolic actions and eating food. The Christian faith picked up this tradition. The church year is divided up to reflect the stories of God found in the Bible. These stories become a commentary on our own experience. By enacting the stories as families and communities we do more than remember, we enter into the stories ourselves constantly re-visiting their truths and remoulding our own lives and communities. This time of year we enter into the Easter story. It has all the plot archetypes packed into one. At its heart is a story of hope and rebirth in the face of cruel tragedy. Lent and Easter provide space to enact and let these stories change us. Church provides opportunities to be a community, to travel together rather than think we have reached a destination.
This Easter I encourage you to stop, to give thanks where you can and to act as a community. Our own stories are yet to be written. Which plot will be ours as a nation, community and personally? I hope you overcome the monster like Luke SkyWalker, go from rags to riches like Cinderella, complete your quest like Frodo Baggins, voyage and return like Scarlett O'Hara, have laughs along the way like Bridget Jones or survive tragedies and be reborn like Ebenezer Scrooge. Most of all I hope you have opportunity to enter the Easter story and find your story reflected in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. Happy Easter!