Introduction to Living in The Story

I believe the one true loving God faithfully shepherds and sustains all-that-is from its good creation to its ultimate culmination in wholeness and shalom. The Story of this Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer God is written in stars and in DNA so that each of us—with our own individual stories—shares in that overarching story of love and grace. The Bible offers the witness of a particular people to that cosmic story. I believe that—within and beyond the ancient words of the Bible—the Eternal Word is still speaking.

Living in The Story provides a unique opportunity to read the Bible through fresh eyes. Each week, the reading guide leads us across the sweep of The Story of God’s faithfulness for God’s people across the ages. Each week, we will read from the Old Testament and from the Psalms alongside passages from the New Testament and the Gospels. These readings follow some of the great themes of the Bible.

As most reading schedules do, the Living in The Story reading guide begins in Genesis and generally follows the order of the OT canon. What is different in this schedule, however, is the way the companion scriptures from the Psalms, the Gospels, and the New Testament allow readers to watch for comparisons and contrasts in these related texts. Reading across the entire Bible each week helps us see for ourselves how Scripture developed its understandings of The Story as it made its journey across the ages.

For example, in week 2, the stories of creation in the first two chapters of Genesis are read in tandem with several creation Psalms as well as a remarkable chapter from the Proverbs in which Sophia/Wisdom describes the creation event. These ancient stories from Israel are then read together with the thoughtful NT authors who reimagined the stories of creation within the context of Jesus the Christ, the one they confessed as “firstborn of all creation;” the one they now understood to be Source and Goal of all creation.

In week 4, we engage the story of Abraham while also reading Paul’s explanations about how Abraham’s faith offered a template for Christian faith. Abraham also shows up in readings in the Gospel of John, allowing us to consider how John (yet another brilliant first century Christian theologian) saw connections between Abraham and Jesus.

Each week as we read the Bible with the Living in The Story reading guide, we are invited to re-read stories we may have read before with new insights that sharpen our vision and improve our interpretive skills. Asking good and faithful questions of the Bible allows us to deepen our faith in the God who is faithful.

I talk a lot about the “stories” of Scripture, but please understand, these are not “just” stories. I think of the Bible as sacred narrative, as historical theology, or theological history. I understand these writings to be signs pointing us toward divine and human realities that are beyond anything we can name with our limited human words and concepts. These stories seek to express The Story as faithfully as possible—with bold confidence and honest humility.

Beside the reading plan, weekly essays offer insights about these sometimes difficult, culturally influenced, and time-bound biblical stories. These pastoral reflections, in combination with the “As You Read” teaching essays, give context and tools for readers to see connections and find meaning in sometimes odd and troubling texts.

Theology is “faith seeking understanding” (Anselm taught us), and so each week, we seek to understand more clearly how God’s Story intersects our human story. Each week, we will begin with faith that—in some mysterious grace—God is still speaking through the Holy Scriptures of the church.

Although I originally created Living in The Story for the church, I have paid close attention to how the companion essays might be read by people who are not churched. I’ve tried to listen to the questions of my sisters and brothers who may have given up on institutional Christianity but still see themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” If that spirituality might venture a renewed effort to make sense of the Christian Scriptures, then I pray Living in The Story might help address some of the conundrums of faith and doubt. I firmly believe doubt is an invaluable aspect of authentic faith, and that God honors our “asking, seeking, knocking”—and even our most uncomfortable questions.

Some Practical Considerations

Living in The Story can be read at any time of the year at whatever pace the reader chooses. It was designed to begin the first week in January of any given year and to end as Advent begins: forty-eight weeks. These extra four weeks in the calendar year allow readers some extra time to catch up if they have had trouble keeping up with the reading guide. (Some reading weeks have more material than others.)

Because Living in The Story designates the Scripture readings by the week, readers have freedom to distribute the passages over the seven days of a week depending on the demands of their own schedules. Some days may only allow enough time to read a Psalm or a gospel passage. Other days may allow more time to read entire books of the Bible or longer passages in one sitting. Occasionally Living in The Story will encourage the reader to make time to read a particular book in its entirety, for example the book of Jonah, Daniel, or the Revelation. Sometimes this kind of extended engagement with a text is an important way to get its deeper meaning and flavor.

Some readers may choose to use Living in The Story in an abbreviated fashion, engaging only the Psalms and the gospel readings, for example; or only the New Testament passages for a read-through-the-NT-in-a-year experience. Even with a shortened effort, the “As You Read” essays make connections and offer insights into the larger biblical story that can help readers discover deeper meaning.

Numerous online resources give readers a variety of options for reading. Bible Gateway is a free tool that allows readers to choose their preferred translation and search for the chapter and verse where they want to begin. Bible Gateway[1] also offers several audio options, good possibilities for keeping up with the reading schedule while doing other activities such as driving or walking. Sometimes listening to a good reader read provides insights and nuance we miss when we read the printed words ourselves. Several other online versions of the Bible are available for purchase; many provide additional tools that allow readers to research, look up words, highlight passages, or make notes as they go along.

Engaging Living in The Story as a congregation-wide effort would be a good way for preachers to challenge themselves and their church to spend a year going deeper with the church’s Scriptures. My own effort to preach these texts was a significant opportunity for me to grow in my own ability to proclaim the gospel. Small groups of church folks might take on this Living in The Story project, meeting together to share their experiences as they read through the Bible. Or fellow seekers across time zones could get together in cyberspace to discuss the week’s readings and ponder what they are learning. It is this kind of communal “faith seeking understanding” that has been the story of God’s faithful people throughout the ages.

Thank you for joining in this effort to live in The Story of God’s welcome and grace—a divinely beautiful story that emerges from the stumbling story of God’s own people as chronicled within the pages of the Bible.


[1] Explore Bible Gateway at BibleGateway.com.

Author: Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte lives and blogs in Paris TX. She is ordained within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and developed Living in The Story while doing doctoral work at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. Charlotte also blogs about intersections of faith, politics and culture at CharlotteVaughanCoyle.com.

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