"The ever present ache of exile rises above the comforting sounds of the river, as the image of the house of the LORD in ruins breaks the peace. . . . Despite the warmth of the fire, he feels a chill. He wraps his cloak around him and looks into the eager faces of his people, then closes his eyes. 'Picture this scene . . .'" Before the Bible was a book, it was flesh and blood. In this book, you can travel with Sean Gladding between the lines of the Scriptures to listen in on the conversations of people wrestling with the Story of God for the first time. Whether sitting around a campfire in Babylon, reclining at table in Asia Minor or huddled together by candlelight in Rome, you'll encounter a tale that is at once familiar and surprising. The Story of God, the Story of Us can be read alone but is especially rich shared with a group. Sean Gladding presents an account of the Bible that pays attention to its audience as well as its message. He introduces you to people who may remind you of yourself or your family, friends and coworkers. As much as the Bible is a story about God, it's also a story about you--and all of us--as we encounter God in a new way.
Originally hailing from Norwich, England, Sean Gladding has made his home in the U.S. for the last two decades, where he has served in various forms of pastoral ministry, getting around on his '84 Ironhead Sportster. During his time at Asbury Theological Seminary he first encountered the concept of the metanarrative of scripture, an experience that has deeply shaped his life. His first book, has its origins in a Bible study Sean led during a summer internship at Mercy Street, a church in Houston, Texas, for people in recovery from addiction and from bad church experiences--often both. Sean went on to co-pastor Mercy Street for seven years, during which time he and his wife Rebecca narrated the "Story of God" with people who had never heard it before or who had only heard a fragmented version. Hearing the "Story" with both the enfranchised and those on the margins has continually deepened their understanding of scripture, and shaped their lives and the way they tell the "Story." Over the years they have made "The Story of God" narrative freely available to anyone who wanted to use it. The "Story" has been told in homes, churches, college campuses, coffee shops, pubs and laundromats, spread over five continents. Sean and Rebecca have two children. After their time with Mercy Street they returned to Lexington, Kentucky, to rejoin friends at Communality--part of the family of New Monastic communities--where they are seeking the welfare of the city.
"It is only the person who is long in the study of the Scriptures, and in the contemplation of God through them, who may be granted the capacity in the Spirit to experience the Scriptures freshly, with more of the Light shining in the words and the spaces between them. And if that person is Sean Gladding, then he might write in such a way that a reader is startled at how much he or she missed when studying the same biblical passages. In the classic spiritual tradition of the 'application of the senses' way of reading the Scriptures, Gladding shows us how freshly to see, to hear, to taste and to touch each biblical scene."
"There are those who tell about stories and then there are storytellers. Sean Gladding is of the latter variety. He has learned to tell the Story of God from the inside without succumbing to the elitism of an 'insider.' In fact, he demonstrates a way of telling the Story to outsiders such that they want to come inside. I commend this book to anyone exploring the bestselling, least understood book in the history of the world. As well, I recommend it to leaders and practitioners who long for a fresh approach to teaching Scripture."
"It is fascinating how the wheels of history and culture turn. The ancient cultures of human civilization transmitted wisdom and the tools for survival via story and myth. Now, even in the highly intellectualized corridors of the academy, the story has again become the dynamic instrument of communication. Anecdotal evidence, once frowned upon by modern research methodology, is now sometimes viewed as more enlightening than the static recording of standardized surveys. Thus Sean Gladding has grasped the postmodern method to illuminate us with the drama of redemption by skillful storytelling through the heart of a storyteller, in the heartache of exile.
"Jean Vanier, scholar and lover of the poor, thrilled my heart and mind by a storytelling account of the Gospels' content. This work of Sean's is perhaps even more intriguing in its journey through the redemptive Story pre-Garden to post-apocalypse. The inclusion of a psalm-singing musician in search of the meaning of the divine drama and human suffering is a delightfully contemporary touch for generations whose inspiration and envisioning may come as much through a U2 song as a Sunday sermon. While the language is conversational, and at times as spellbinding as the Australian campfire yarn, it does not lose the complexity on the other side of its simplicity.
"The conflict between original grace and original sin, the stress of balancing mercy and judgment, the mystery of the us-ness of the one trinitarian creator-God, the consistency of God's seeking love through the diversity of cultural evolution, the intimate needs of the individual in the context of social beingall these and many other areas of mystery, controversy and general ignorance are explored with courage and winsome imagery. This is as engaging as storytelling to my grandchildren, but as challenging and invigorating as a discussion after a graduate class in theology. As the writer has declared, I do not know of any other approach quite as innovative and useful for community dialogue over the biblical story. When the heart is warmed, convictions are aroused and the mind is challengedall in one item of literatureyou know this is a good thing. One hasty read for this analysis will not be enough for me. It will be revisited. I challenge you to join me in a journey in which faith and reason are made delectable through story. It is a book to be read and read, alone and with others who thirst for the truth in love."
"Sean invites us to find ourselves in Scripture. He points us back to the Story. It's not a new story; in fact, it is as old as humanity itself. But it is still very much our story, showing us what we already know and feel: that we, like the Israelites, and like all of creation, are in exile, longing for redemption, in search of the promised land. Sean invites us to see that this Story, God's Story, is our story."
"In The Story of God, the Story of Us Sean Gladding takes the reader on an imaginative and fresh stroll through the Scriptures. Reeling in distant theological and historical abstractions, Sean makes the whole of the Bible intimate and readable. Parlanced in an accessible, down-to-earth renarration of the Scriptures, Sean fuses biblical tradition with captivating story, compelling dialogue and nuanced reflection."
"I love it when someone tells a story that we can get lost in, a story that sparks our imagination and connects the dots. Sean Gladding is a great storyteller who draws us into a story of which we have heard bits and pieces. As the story unfolds we realize it is our storyyours and mineand we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. And the story is not over, and it's not just a story after all . . ."
"Everyone loves a story, but even more so when that story sweeps us into its narrative as does the gospel. Sean Gladding shows us how, in fact, his story is our story. As artful as it is significant!"
"'Why another book about the Bible?' The author asks that question. I answer: We don't need 'just another book' . . . but we need this one. Sean enables us to enter the 'Grand Story' by using 'story' and dialogue as effective communication. His style and language make his message easily accessible, enabling us to experience the great movements of the Story, and that's a redemptive dynamic. An added dimension for me is that I know the author, and he lives the Story. The Story of God, the Story of Us makes the Story real for the reader."
"Despite our insistence on the authority of Scripture, we Christians too often let Washington and Walt Disney tell us our story. But whoever tells our story directs our lives. Sean Gladding invites us to hear God's story anewto hear it as our own storyand to let it direct us toward the beloved community we're made to be. Listen to him. Commit this story to memory. Tell it to your kids. Let it direct your life."
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