Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bible Alive: A Historical Memoir about First Person Narrative Preaching

“Bible Alive” : A Historical Memoir 
about First Person Narrative Preaching
Elder O. Kris Widmer, MDiv
Ordained Seventh-day Adventist Minister
December 2015

A drama-based Christmas series: “Joy to the World: The Stories of Christmas” is being presented this week at the Tracy Adventist Church as an outreach to the community. Every night from December 6-12, 2015, a different character is on the church platform, and through the dramatic arts, giving first-person account of the Birth of Jesus. Two of the church elders and their pastor, Tyler Kraft, in addition to 4 other Adventist pastors from near by churches are puttong on a costume and allow the Bible characters to join us all in "the now" and relate events, lessons and insights from the Bethlehem events.  Pastors Tracy Baerg, Jim Lorenz and Chris Estay have joined the fun.

 I also was asked to preach one evening. I choose “The Watcher: Do You See What I See?"   It was presented December 10, 2015.

 "The Watcher: Do You See What I See" (Simeon)
From the Antioch Church Presentation

This outreach series has given me pause to evaluate my history with this preaching form, take inventory of my past works and collect the sermon titles from all my past “Bible Alive” presentations.  I must say, it has done my heart good to see this program produced. 

I committed myself to attend every evening program - Sunday to Friday, to support the speakers and revel in the sermonic efforts of my fellow Adventists.  What a personal and professional blessing it has been.

It also has prompted me to write these historical stories, recording them here, to document our (Debbie's and my) journey with first-person dramatic narrative preaching. 

 "The Watcher: Do You See What I See?"  at Tracy, CA

My Genesis was Matthew 27:54/Mark 15:39/Luke 23:47

The Holy Week/Good Friday presentation “The Grim Reaper: Why Then is He Smiling?”  (a.k.a. The Centurion at the Cross) is my all-time favorite first-person presentation.  Here is why. (The Chariot Driver, Nicodemus and the Soothsayer run a close 2nd, 3rd and 4th ) 

I was asked (by Mr. Steven Botroff) to portray the centurion in a summer camp Sabbath afternoon program at Pine Springs Ranch (The Adventist camp in South-eastern California) during the summer of 1979.  “Walk Through the Bible” was how the staff kept 200 campers occupied on long Saturday afternoons. 

In a five-minute solo “skit” that ended an hour-and-a-half walk for the campers, I was asked to portray the sorrow of the crucifixion on a rocky outcrop before 3 tall “old rugged” crosses. I would deliver the Biblical line “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  After consulting that one Bible verse and the writings of Ellen White, I made a few notes in a small, loose-leaf book

As of this writing, I still have those notes…I’ll reproduce them for you here, with the original spellings and punctuation…just for fun. (Spelling has never been my strength). 

”Centurian Notes: Volintered for duty.  Background of Centurion.  Worked up to a court centurion, then Exicution!!  Sequence of WWTB (camp abbreviation for “Walk Through the Bible”.)  Order to execute, crosses built. men together.  Started to walk, Procession, Forced Simion at fall.   Arrival at hill. Spikes, Struggle/Passive, 3….6 at a time, Thrust into the Whole, Wrote “Name Card” Pilate said to put “King of the Jews.”   Name: Jesus * Long Waite,  His face, His hands ripped with each breath.  Hurt to watch.  “Father, Forgive…”  I knew what I was doing.  I’d done it hundreds of times.  “I thirst”  Give him pain killer.  He refused sour wine.  Curse – I’ve been called every name in the book.  Black Cloud, Could not see.  Heard “It is Finished”  “Father, into thy hands I comend my spirit.” (I saw his mother, I didn’t see his Father.)  Earthquake.  Rock, Tree.   (It) hit me.  “He’s God!”  It was me.   - nailed him..  - whipped  - told my men they could role dice.  Truely this man was the Son of God.    – Cry  - Kneel.”

So there you have it - my first script for “Bible Alive”, warts and all. I have a second version, written out on both sides of some notebook paper, and a third version that is typed (on my original MAC computer).   Each one was refined and lengthened.

I went on to deliver this monologue 8 times a week for 8 weeks.   64 times.  I got to know and love that centurion really well!

"The Centurion at the Cross"    Pine Springs Ranch, Summer of 1979

The costume that summer was not much.  Most of it was given to me by programming: an old, black baptism robe with a few silver appliques, a gold belt (needing paint), two arm bands, a plastic helmet (with no plume), and a piece of maroon fabric for a cape. (Camp is a low-budget endeavor, where creativity and making due is more valued than dollars!) It kind of looks Roman. 

The first boots I wore were plain cowboy boots, my camp work boots. (barely pictured) Later in the summer; Duane Craw, my life-long friend, loaned me some taller, more “Biblical boots” that he had made previously.  They had cardboard soles, but they’d work!

(At the end of the summer, Duane gifted me those boots.  They were one of the first costume elements I every owned.   They are still in use today!  It is a happy memory every time I put on “Duane’s boots” for a “Bible Alive” presentation.  They have a permanent and hallowed place in “The Go Box”, a travel case of essential items that is with us for every presentation.)

It was a life changing experience.   This dramatic role can be partly attributed to confirming my inner and spiritual call from God to the preaching and pastoral ministry.  That fall, while a freshman in college, I went on to present a slightly longer version of this character after a college week-of-prayer talk by Dr. Roger Bothwell, this time in a rented costume from a San Bernardino costume shop.

For the next 3 summers, I (1 - 1980) portrayed Jonah, also in a solo presentation, (2 - 1981) portrayed Peter’s Denial, with 3 other staff members: Duane Anderson, Judy Kooster and Ruth Sanchez (And I’ve remembered their names all these years.  I didn’t have look them up or nothin’!) and (3 - 1982) wrote, scheduled and staffed the “Walk Through the Bible” program for the summer of 1982.  It contained a favorite Bible story: The Fiery Serpents, in honor of my dad being a rattlesnake researcher.

Bible Alive: The Early Years

I had been mentored early on in the art of first-person preaching through the preaching ministry of Elder Charles Sandefur at the Corona Church.  He would preach one occasionally, in a suit and tie.  From afar, I also observed the occasional character preaching of Elder Richard Duerksen. Good material!

In my first post-college pastorate, I wrote “The Chariot Driver” and “Nicodemus “and preached them from behind the pulpit in a suit and tie.  Then in the early 1990’s, pastor friends Walt Groff, Del Dunavant and Terry Swenson encouraged me to add costumes. 

The name “Bible Alive” was developed and the series of doctrine-focused sermons (12 sermons in 6 weekends) and the series for Holy Week/Easter (10 sermons in 8 days) were developed while at the  Lakeport/Upper Lake district.   Later, the Daniel series (8 sermons in 8 days) was developed and presented first at the Elmshaven Adventist Church.

"Melzar" (Daniel 1) in front of a Carol Jansen painted backdrop.
The Health Message: used in Daniel Series and Week of Prayer and Evangelism Series

We had a few baptisms as a result of the Lakeport meetings, after some follow up Bible studies.  The family that came into the church fellowship have been members and leaders there ever since.  Jon and Robynn Zastrow.  Later, their children were also baptized, along with some members of Robynn’s extended family.  During Holy Week, friends I had made in the Lake County Passion Play attended our meetings.  The woman that had the role of “Mary” in that play came several nights, along with a catholic priest.   She said it was the best holy week she had ever had.

          After those series, I accepted a few guest speaker appointments at friend’s churches or weekend retreats. I was also asked to present one at a meeting of my pastoral peers at Leoni Meadows.  A full page picture of me in costume appeared in the Pacific Union Recorder.

Later, Debbie and I took portions of this growing library of programs and built a 5 message “Week of Prayer” series that we conducted in Adventist schools: from our own parish’s school, to near by schools and even Loma Linda Elementary, with 20 presentations (4 per day) for the week.  We must have done about 20-30 weeks of prayers in this format.

  Melzar, Jonah, Samson, Joseph, and The Chariot Driver comprised this series.  (On two occasions, the falling pillars of Samson bloodied my face, (Ouch) so the program was “retired.”  It was brought out of moth-balls during the summer of 2015, during a series on the Book of Judges at the Antioch Church.)

Bible Alive is Killed:  The Redding Years

When we interviewed for the move to the Redding Adventist church (in the early summer of 1999), I had told their board and the others present about this beloved preaching style.   They were in agreement that I should come: the call was made and the truck was loaded.  A home was purchased.  Kids and wife (and I) were uprooted from friends.  Fortunately Debbie was still in her “stay at home” years, so she didn’t have to uproot her employment.

That Christmas, I wrote and preached the Joseph Christmas message after being at the church for 6 months: It was to be something special at the holidays.  “The Dreamer: Cleave, Leave Believe!”  

Well, that one sermon unleashed a firestorm of conflict in the church.  The Ellen White quotes regarding theatrics in preaching were duplicated and circulated. (Taken totally out of context.) Meetings were scheduled.  The Conference President was summoned to bring order.  I preached one sermon and the congregation fought over it for a whole year. (Behold, the power of narrative preaching.)

Some of the leaders and elders of Redding couldn’t understand that I was still preaching…just in a different form, a different way.  My picture, in a High Priest costume, had been in the Pacific Union Recorder, for crying out loud!  “Don’t you want to hear the Sanctuary message in this way sometime?” It was all to no avail. No amount of appeals to Scripture or Mrs. White’s true intent about “theatrics” or the example other Adventist ministers also preaching in this way would be listened to.   Soon it was not about the topic anymore…it was just about winning.

Finally, we had been backed into a deep corner. (One meeting had 70 people at it…about half of them not even being members of that congregation!  They were invited from the Anderson Church, 10 miles to the South.)  We were accused of splitting the church.  So, to avoid any complete split or for a longer period (though the fallout lasted for years and poisoned many relationships)…I finally succumbed to the pressure.  The church permitted that I preach first person sermons any other time…but not on Sabbath mornings (when the bulk of any Adventist congregation is in attendance at worship.) 

Deep damage had been done to our ministerial souls.  Well intentioned dragons had breathed fire, torching what was good, leaving cold ash in their wake…and cold stares in the foyer.

As a result, we went out of production in terms of new programs and out of presentation mode of established programs. After doing the week of prayer at Redding Adventist Academy, the weeks-of-prayers at other schools stopped.  Our kids got really busy with school anyway.  Besides, what was the point of writing something new…if there was no way to share it with the whole of our congregation…in freedom and joy.  The joy had been killed in the strangle hold of intra-church conflict.  

And I can truthfully say today:  “If I wasn’t the pastor, there is no way I would have continued attending that church.”  I understand why some people leave the church.  If we had simply been a member family of the church…we would have quit attending that congregation.

Scripture says “Do not cast your pearls before swine…” and so we made the decision to not present the pearls of the pleasures and joys of “Bible Alive” for additional trampling criticism at the Redding church.  (We were able to share some of these messages at Palo Cedro Adventist Church and the Shasta Lake Bible Church (a church plant).  In fact, the Palo Cedro had me re-preach the Joseph sermon at that church just all the hub-bub at Redding was erupting!) 

I didn’t preach another first-person sermon at the Redding Adventist Church for the entire 10 years.   

The good and saintly leaders of Redding had won the “Great Drama War of 2000.”  Some of the elders would leave the congregation anyway, seeking the holier confines of the Anderson church.  The Redding church forever lost the good will of their pastor (me), his wife, his children, his parents and in-laws and his church member supporters.  (As you can tell…we are still healing from this ministerial trauma, 15 years later.)

For the sake of our children - enrolled in a wonderful day-school that served students all the way to 12th grade, with established friends - we stayed in town.  We focused on other things.  We loved people.  I did funerals and weddings.  I preached a self-written evangelistic sermon.  We built a ceramic studio and taught it at the school.  I was involved in a church plant and building program in Shasta Lake.  We did hot lunches when our kid’s classrooms were responsible for cooking.  I became the announcer for the Redding Adventist Academy Lumberjack home basketball games.
Life went on.  The “Bible Alive” costumes and props were stored away, taking up a good portion of the garage.

We survived because of a few key supporters in church.  Lauren and Pat Smith, long time members of the church were very vocal in support of our ministry.  He had built the church (and 20% of Redding itself it seemed), and then remodeled the bedrock of the basement into a fellowship hall.  “Smith Hall” is named for him.  It was their support that was a big part in calming the critics, and keeping us in Redding.  Pat said I was old enough to be her son…and with my red hair and freckles, I looked like a family member.  They adopted us into their home and hearts. When Pat passed in early 2015, I was asked to return and preach at her funeral.  Lauren, in his 90’s now, still lives, greeting the employees of his nursing home every morning at the staff entrance with a cheery “Good morning…I’m on the right side of the dirt…again.!”  I will be forever indebted to their Christ-like love and care.

It was also the love of friends that saw us through.  Morris and Diana Ballard, Bill and Judi Adams, Don Talkington and the Turturicas (and others) offered their strong emotional encouragement in the aftermath. People who knew what had transpired from the Palo Cedro church offered their encouragement.  Their pastoral team was also supportive. 

And…there was a small group of people in the Redding Church that offered their unconditional friendship: (Pastor’s sometimes don’t have any deep friendships due to the occasional moves and the pastoral pedestal/”glass house” dynamics.)  Kris and Sherry Hart, Darrel and Vera Carson, Bruce and Dianne Katz, Mark and Linda Haddad, Dorothy Koenig and the Widmers were often found playing table games and enjoying our combined offerings of snacks on Saturday nights and holidays. 

It was not until I announced my departure from that pastorate that a few members approached me and asked me if I would do a first-person sermon at Redding.   So we arranged a final farewell vespers.  Again it was Christmas, now in 2008.  The sermon I preached was “The Watcher: Do You See What I See?” (Simeon)   We had come full circle…and I could depart with a measure of peace.

Still… God did have a silver lining for this dark cloud.  My wife, Debbie, has perceptively noted the positive outcomes and brings it to my awareness. (“All things work together for good...for those who are called according to His word.”)

Having been denied the dramatic creativity of Bible Alive, I delved into writing poetry.  I had written a few poems early on: a few even survive to the present,  even from as far back as 1983.  One had been published in Insight Magazine in the early 1980’s.  (All poets crave to be published.)  After the drama war…my poetry factory kicked into high gear.  To date…I have written about 1,000 poems. (I haven’t tabulated them all yet.) 

So…as you can see…first person preaching has been both a profound personal and professional blessing and a profound personal and professional curse.

Bible Alive is Resurrected:  The Antioch Years

When the Northern California Conference required me to transfer to the Antioch church, it came at a good time.   Both our children had graduated from Redding Adventist Academy. (Well, Rebekah would in 6 months).  It provided a breath of fresh air not only for the Redding church, but for our family as well, and for me in ministry.

During the past 6 years at Antioch, I have enjoyed the freedom to preach first-person narrative sermons once again.  I’ve been able to share a few of the tried and true classics, doing the Easter weekend a few years ago.  I even presented the “Ax-head” sermon two times, once in the gym in 2009 before transitioning to the new Sanctuary and again on a teacher dedication Sabbath in 2014. 

I am thrilled to have been able to write and create new messages again.  These have included a message where I portrayed money in the Bible, through the personification of “The Coin” and the historical figure in Adventism, Hiram Edson on Sabbath October 22, 2011.  That presentation included 3 of the young men of the church, providing the visual aid tableaux of Daniel 2’s dream: Nebuchadnezzer, Daniel and “The Image”, (complete with head of gold, arms of sliver, belly of bronze and legs of iron.)  It was a day not to be forgotten.

The Kubrock Sermon

While in Redding, one of the elders of the Elmshaven church found out he had cancer.  At the age of 90+, rather than fight aggressively with sickening treatments, Elder Daniel Kubrock choose to have a “feeling good” summer with his family and then go to sleep in Jesus.    He had taught many about God through out his life, including being a docent at the Elmshaven house for several years.  Now, he would teach all who knew him how to die.  His appointment with “The Great Physician” ended up being on December 1, 2006.  

I mention him here because when I was his pastor at Elmshaven…he also was still active in dramatic preaching.  (And he was related to Ellen White too!).  Once he portrayed “a Shepherd” on the front steps of the church for a whole Sabbath School feature, holding a stuffed lamb in his arms.   Another time, he took the part of “The Donkey” for the Christmas program.  He made a costume/head piece and on the day of the service, we shoved a microphone up inside and he did his part like the professional preacher he was!  He was amazing!

When we found out he was ill, we went down for a visit.   That started an amazing chain of events.  On his sick bed, he had a brainstorm for a first-person presentation of one of his most beloved Bible heroes:  Paul.  His wife, Gladys, took down the notes for the ideas as they came to his mind.  There should be “bricks” of Paul’s former life as a proud Pharisee and “bricks” of his later life as a converted Christian.   7 words per section.  Wow…what a wonderful idea!

Later…Gladys came to me with the notes…and I promised I would produce the program…someday.  Well, years passed.  We moved to Antioch. Gladys herself wasn’t getting any younger.  Finally, arrangements were made for me to present “Elder Kubrock’s Last Sermon Idea” at “our” church…the Elmshaven church.  February 18, 2012 found me on the pulpit schedule for Gladys’ birthday celebration. The sermon was presented…with Gladys, all 5 of their children and many grandchildren in attendance.   There were times when my eyes were moist with tears as I was able to present this tribute to God…and my friend Daniel Kubrock.

The Perspective of Today

Yes….that June day when the program director during summer camp pitch pulled me aside and said “I want you to be a centurion.” was truly a life-changing moment.  

That original 5-minute centurion skit has morphed into a 40-minute presentation, now presented many times over, often as part of an Easter weekend in a church. 

"The Grim Reaper: Why Then is He Smiling"
Centurion at the Cross:  April 3, 2015,   Lodi Adventist Academy

While in Lakeport, Paul Bergeron (a newly baptized member) used his shoe-repair shop equipment to help us construct a homemade “Centurion” costume: Debbie made a shorter brown tunic and a red cape.  Together we made a light-weight armor piece.  A helmet was fashioned from a yellow hard-hat.  And Duane’s gifted boots were properly resoled.  This costume served our Bible Alive ministry from 1993 until 2015. 

The centurion could be presented again, for the first time since 1980.  Wow!  Good to see you again, Sir!   I found my few notes made the summer of 1979 and wrote out a longer message.  

I paired it with Dallas Holmes amazing song from the “His Last Days” musical.  “I’m the one who spat upon the Savior / I’m the one who mocked His holy name / I’m the who said with all the rest “Crucify Him / I’m the one, I’m the one to blame. / I’m the one who made Him go to Calvary / I’m the one who nailed him to the tree. / Even though I am the one who brought all this on him. / He’s the one who tells me He forgive me.”
“What kind of man is this? / Why does He care for me? / Look what I’ve done to him! / I guess He doesn’t see! / That I’m the one to blame / I caused Him all the shame! / What kind of man is this?   What kind of man is this?”

Those words are impeded in my brain.  What an amazing “Good Friday” moment to give my church during the Lakeport Holy Week event.  It felt just “right”, as well to be doing the centurion again…in my own version of “Bible Walk Through the People.”

Well…This year, in 2015, we were blessed to have presented “The Centurion” on Good Friday once again.  This time for the high school students at Lodi Adventist Academy….having been asked to speak by Principal Tim Kubrock, Daniel Kubrock’s son (Do you see how all this is connected!)

While returning home from the April 3, 2015 presentation, the car that we were traveling in (a nearly stationary 2009 Toyota RAV4) was rear-ended by a sedan at about 50 MPH.  The collision collapsed the right rear of the car and blew out the rear window.  The momentum of this collision propelled the RAV4 into oncoming traffic, striking a 3rd car.   5 airbags deployed in the 3 cars, but through God’s grace, all parties walked away from the accident shaken but unbroken. (The driver of the 3rd car had a few cuts on one arm.) All of the props and other “Bible Alive” equipment survived the accident…except the centurion helmet. 

Thus ended the 22-year service of this costume element made with great love and affection; and preserved by careful handling on many trips and presentations.   (See above for the last picture of “The Grim Reaper” in the “old helmet” that was crushed just hours later.)

A replacement helmet – new and commercially available - has ordered in December of 2015.  As of this writing, it’s delivery is pending.

The Road Crew

Of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without the support of my close friends and family.  In addition to those mentioned above, my nephew and both my daughters have had small parts in presentations as the need arose. 

I'm very grateful to the first backdrops I had to set the stage in the Lakeport church.   They were painted by a good friend, David Aldinger who we knew from Hayfork and Lakeport parishes.  There were two panels to each one, and were only transportable by something larger than a pick up truck. Later, other backdrops, capable of being rolled and transported and then hung on a portable frame, were painted by other artistic people God put in our path: Carol Jenssen and Carl Clemons.  The first wooden frame was made by George Crabtree  When that one broke, an improved metal, tubular frame was made as a gift from Patrick Reeves in Angwin.

Every place we have lived…from Lakeport, to St. Helena, to Redding and now Antioch has seen friends pitching in to help when needed.

But it is my wonderful wife, Debbie, has been a constant support.  She has sewed costumes, flipped cue cards and handled logistics.  She is the person on the other end of the backdrop roll. She has offered amazing critiques and constructive encouragement.  She has listened to me practice and memorize, sing and sigh. 

She has gotten into the act too; giving short presentations as Eve, Mrs. Pilate and Mary of Bethany.  And…she has written and spoken her own full-length first person portrayal of Mary, the mother of Jesus, for a Mother’s day sermon to be remembered. 

I use the pronouns “us” and “our” through out this document.  That’s because I know very well…this is a team effort for God.   I love you, babe.  Thank you so much… for everything.

Final Thoughts

I have sought to promote this preaching form in the church and with my peer pastors. I taught a seminar at PUC for the ministerial students, giving a sample presentation (The Chariot Driver) and then a lecture on my methods of preparation and presentation. 

Particularly notable in our methodology is the crafting of each message’s title:  My wife and I have had many happy brainstorming sessions trying to figure out a title that will be faithful to the character/story and yet be sufficiently vague to maintain the mystery of who will be visiting the auditorium.  I have had many people ask me “Who are you going to be?” and I never tell.  We feel that it builds anticipation of the actual event.

Another constant in each presentation is singing.   At some point in each program, I conquer my fears and launch into an acapella song or portion there of.  Songs from Dallas Holm, Ken Medema, Michael Card, Lamb,  and even a few from our beloved high school Bible teacher, Bill Millard have been featured, in addition to slightly modified hymn texts or my own compositions. (Working at a radio station and having 700 LP records provides a great resource for such selections.)

I have built a considerable collection of articles, position papers and clippings in defense of drama in general and this preaching form in particular in Adventism.  At one point I thought to make it the topic of a D.Min dissertation…but then I received a gifted dissertation in 2000 from Dr. and Pastor Don L. Mulvihill, D.Min (Impersonation of Bible Characters: A Homiletical Method Tested for Improvement, California School of Theology, 1983.)…and knew I couldn’t possibly improve on his 207 pages.  He did his research and testing while at the Lodi English Oaks Adventist Church.

I am currently building a list of retired or current pastors and/or members that have preached in this way: Dick Stenbakken, Daniel Kubrock (deceased), Don Mulvihill, Richard Duerksen, Jim Lorenz, Tracy Baerg, Chris Estay, Tyler Kraft, Bruce Blum, Brent Brusett, Ron Mellor, Cheryl Calderaro, Kevin Seibel, Kim Riddle, Rod Western, to name just a few.  I’m sure there are many thousands of people in the Adventist church and the greater universal body of Christ that have dared to costume up and portray a character from the Holy Bible.  What a great fellowship in which to be a member!

Today, the Widmer “Bible Alive” library holds 51 first-person dramatic narrative presentations; where the Bible comes alive – through writing, song, costume, prop, and backdrop. All have been presented publically at least once…and some have been presented dozens of times.  I currently have 3-5 messages that are percolating away…and each I hope to finish writing and present publically as well.

I promote narrative preaching and practice it because there is no other sermonic form that appeals to all ages at the same time.  Children as young as three sit up and take notice, and most people in between on their way to 93 or 103 also enjoy the portrayal of a Bible story. 

3 years after the week-of-prayer I preached at Foothills Adventist School in Deer Park, a child wrote me a note for Pastor’s Appreciation Day.  “Thank you for the stories you told last year.” And they drew a picture of Samson pushing pillars over.  There is no other form to put the Bible into the hearts and heads of people than First Person Dramatic Narrative Preaching.  If I had preached a topical or textual sermon, with three points and a poem, it would have been quickly forgotten by all.  Because of narrative preaching, the Bible took on an enduring quality…hopefully enduring to eternity.

Through out this document, I have intentionally avoided the word “performance.”  What I (and the others who practice this homiletic craft) do is not entertainment. If you want entertainment; watch TV, go to a blockbuster movie, go to Broadway or cheer at a S.F. Giants game. Observers of “Bible Alive” will often make post presentation compliments like -  “You’re such a good actor.”  Well, I know better.  I’m a very poor actor.  Besides, I’m not acting.   I’m still preaching.  It’s a sermon… injected with some ancient steroids and modern creativity! 
It is the Adventist radio programs “The Bible in Living Sound” and “Your Story Hour” brought to the contemporary moment. 

It is this average preacher doing what Paul did for the Galatians…through his sermons he states “Christ is publically portrayed to you as crucified.” Galatians 3:1. 

It is the working out and talking out of Ellen G. White’s devotional invitation to all in Desire of Ages, page 83.  It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.”

That is what I want!  a constant confidence in God, a love for him that is “quickened” (alive), and to be deeply imbued with God’s Spirit.  I want to be saved at last.

This is why I make a fool out of myself for Christ, using the foolishness of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21)…putting on a costume and preaching a sermon “as if” the Bible has come alive.  “Bible Alive” indeed! In the paraphrased words of Martin Luther.  “Here I stand.  I can do nothing else.  May God help me!”

My favorite moment of presenting the Bible in this way has become a back-stage moment.  One “my public” never sees.  After Debbie has finished making sure the costume looks “right” and just before she goes to take her place at the current computerized cue card system in the front row, she takes both my hands and prays for me.  She thanks God for the privilege of this presentation and ask that God will pour out a blessing on each person that will hear that message. (And I have a 100% chance of a kiss for luck too!).  We know it isn’t about us…it is all about Jesus!  Jesus.   All.  This ministry is surrendered fully to Him.

We continue to praise the ultimate Story Teller…for after all, history is His-story. “To God Be The Glory!”     --- O. Kris Widmer   December 10, 2015

Update: December 15, 2016

This was a wonderful year for Bible Alive preaching.
For the weekend of November 4-6, I was asked to come to Portland, Oregon and join Pastors Dick Duerksen, Dick Stenbakken and Terry Johnsson for a weekend of story preaching.  There were 10 presentations in 2 days (4 meetings)...and I presented The Worthy Student (Axe Head Floating), The Skeptic (Thomas) and The Watcher (Simeon)
I also took part in the Novato churches Christmas outreach to Marin County.   23,000 cards were mailed out for a 4 night series.  Once again I did The Watcher (Simeon), while some of my pastoral peers presented: Mary, The Shepherd, The Innkeeper, Gabriel.  
And...on December 17, 2016...I'm pulling out "The Dreamer" (Joseph) again. (Yes...the very sermon that started the Redding conflict) ...and doing it at the Antioch  Church.


Val Mellor said...

Amen, and Amen!! I think what most people do NOT realize is the extraordinary amount of work the first-person narratives are. But, oh what a blessing. Such a gift. Val

Mark Haddad said...

Beautiful post. I could only wish we had arrived in Redding in 1999 to better support and protect your gift. I'm glad God found other avenues for your creativity during that time. I know Stephanie was mightily blessed by your poetry and encouragement of hers.

Tyler Kraft said...

What a very insightful and moving post, Kris! I'm so glad you've been able to be a part of our series at Tracy!

Kimberly Riddle said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful post and for your willingness to be part of our first-person narrative team this week at our Tracy SDA Church. Blessings to you and Debbie! Kimberly

seeherchange said...

Kris: I have enjoyed reading the history of your Bible Alive and being a part of your beginning church. I haven't seen a presentation in a long time, but would like to. God bless you & Debbie.

PBobM said...

Very inspiring, Kris. And I don't just mean the article. YOU are very inspiring. I thank God for you.

Anonymous said...

Judee and I were so blessed by you Bible Alive sermons! So sorry you had to endure the wrath of the "saints" while here in Redding. We will always treasure your care and compassion for anyone hurting or in need. We miss you!

Poem - Please Drink Responsibly

Please Drink Responsibly O. Kris Widmer Idea: 12/14/2018    Published: 12/14/2018 Based on Experiences in 2018 A Lament for N. H,...