For many students with staggering reading lists in their various syllabi, the idea of finding an abridged version of their stack of weighty tomes, complete with tidy outlines, is a godsend: think Cliffs Notes (Coles notes in Canada where the idea originated). To their professors, however, these slim volumes are literary nightmares, bull-in-a-china-shop desecrations. Be that as it may, the popularity of these little books proves to be a welcome relief to overwhelmed students.

As a previously confessed non-history person, I must further confess that obtaining a helpful guide through otherwise intolerable chapter upon intolerable chapter of written detail, of zero interest, was a blessing for which I thanked God. Enter historical fiction. Where had this genre been all my life? Specifically, Leon Uris. Historically accurate details with names and places and dates, woven into a living story with color and emotion and love and heartbreak, now that I could give myself to, And I did, with gusto. His books (and those of others) were well-researched, but, unlike my textbooks, told a story with interest. I learned a lot of history in those expertly word smithed, thousands of pages.

So, turning my attention to the disciples, I realize those poor dudes were living out unprecedented history so rollercoaster-like, so chaotically, that they could be forgiven for being perpetually confused; always a day late and a dollar short as the saying goes. I would have been right there with them. Only two of the twelve would go on to write Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life: Matthew, and much later, John. Even with the addition of Mark’s and Luke’s versions, there remain so many unknown details. The MESSAGE renders John 21:25 like this: “There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books.”

Now, our turn. Not only do we have these four synopses of the life of Jesus, but we now have 2,000 years of church history, some of which, admittedly, is as dry as yesterday’s toast to slog through. However, there is also much portrayed in my preferred genre of historical fiction, the story itself brought to life in flesh and blood drama. Much of the character of the Kingdom of God is on full display in those pages. Heroes abound. Plus, today, we, the church, are those called of God to live out the character of His Kingdom in this 21st Century. May what we are ever learning, of this Kingdom now ours, through successes and yes, failures, serve future generations well. We’re all kinda like Cliffs Notes in our three score and ten, not the whole picture by any means, but made to be a small part nonetheless. To Aslan!  PD

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