Telling the story of the Bible in 60 minutes as written by Rev’d Terry Elsberry of Christ Church
By Anne W. Semmes
Imagine if one could read the Bible in 60 minutes. To that end there is now a quite thin but magical edition subtitled “The Bible in 60 Minutes” so written by the Rev’d Terry Elsberry, Priest Associate of Christ Church Greenwich. Its title is “No Greater Love,” as Elsberry considers the Bible as a story about love. “It’s God communicating his love to his people through all time,” he says.
But how to tell that story in 47 pages to be read in 60 minutes? Elsberry does it in rigorous story telling with small scale but effective color illustrations by Nadia Omer. It’s a tale of triumphant Christianity. As Elsberry writes, “Jesus went around the countryside…calling people to value and even to treasure each other as they had never done before.” The idea came from his family when Elsberry was rector of St. Matthew’s Church in Bedford, NY. Over dinner with his daughter and son-in-law also living in Bedford his son-in-law spoke of wanting to read the Bible but being “so busy” and seeing the Bible as “kind of complicated,” Elsberry shares. He countered to his commuting son-in-law, if he could read the Bible “between the train station in Bedford Hills and Grand Central, would you read it then?” Yes, said his son-in-law. “So, the whole family was on board with it…and on my next summer vacation I wrote ‘The Bible in 60 Minutes.'”
“The love story of God with His people begins with Adam and Eve. It begins in a garden called Eden…located in the southern part of what we call Iraq…Imagine the most spectacular scenery you’ve ever seen, magnify it by a thousand, and you have some idea of Eden’s beauty.”
Elsberry reflects on the challenges he had teaching his church’s confirmation classes. “I was always trying to make the Bible more accessible, and I couldn’t for teenagers and young kids.” But then, “When I started telling the stories, they really sat up and took notice of the great characters in the Bible.”
“God decided to start over with Noah,” Elsberry writes. “He instructed Noah to build an enormous boat that would be able to ride out the storm. Noah was to take his wife and their children and two of every animal onto the boat, called an ark. Just as the entrance plank banged into place, the rain began.”
Elsberry has taken inspiration from those “old Irish storytellers.” “There was this tradition in Ireland,” he tells, “where the storyteller would travel from house to house, from village to village and just tell stories about the history of Ireland. The storyteller would show up unannounced, and the word would spread…’The storyteller is here!’ – and by nightfall, the little house would be packed with people. The peat moss fire would be going, and all ages, from new children to the great grandparents would be crowded in to listen to what the storyteller had to say.”
“God’s people were free for a hundred years,” Elsberry’s Bible tale continues, “Then they fell subject to yet another super power: the Roman Empire. Again, God had a plan…The deliverance would come in the form of a man, an all-powerful king who would also be the Messiah, the Savior foretold by Isaiah.”
Elsberry’s story continues, “So Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world in a stable. She called her baby Jesus, as the angel had ordained. She wrapped him in the traditional swaddling clothes – little bands of cloth to keep him warm and laid him in a manger, a feed trough, for a bed…”
And then those three wise men, “powerful leaders of distant nations,” Elsberry writes, came searching for that baby Jesus. “Many months spent searching the chronicles and reading the stars now brought them to Jerusalem. They appeared at the palace of Herod, puppet king of the Jews who reigned in great luxury but by Roman control.”
Elsberry begins to wrap up with, “The kingdom of God was Jesus’ primary message, his theme song, the foundation of all he did on earth. He said we are called to be part of God’s kingdom…It is a relationship in which we acknowledge God as lord of our lives. But in a happy twist, the relationship is not one of subjugation, but of freedom, a relationship of righteousness, peace, and joy which comes to all who live according to His guidelines. In such relationship we discover meaning for our lives, why we were created, ultimate satisfaction.”
His final take on his 60-minute tale of triumphant Christianity he shares with this reporter. “The Bible is the one book that we call the living word of God. So, it’s a living word because God still communicates to us through the stories of what he has done, what he’s doing, and will do. And I think that it’s alive and it nourishes the soul. You know, we spend a lot of time going to the gym and making sure we have picture perfect bodies and everything. But what do we do for our soul and our spirit? That’s where we need the Bible.”
On Thursday, May 19, at 6 p.m. there will be a book signing at the Dogwood Book Store at Christ Church of “No Greater Love – The Bible in 60 Minutes.” The book, and ebook, are also available on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. The book’s audio will soon be available on Audible, Google Play, and others.