“When church becomes a club, parables become pedestrian.” Dr. Amy-Jill Levine
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” Brandon Sanderson
Having been married to a professional storyteller for more than 40 years, I’ve heard my share of stories – from national and state festivals to small gatherings with other story tellers – I love it!
My first impressions of storytellers and storytelling was delight and inspiration. Here were people from all over the world, all different nationalities, all different religious backgrounds, all ages and cultures – mixed together in an atmosphere of attentive and respectful listening, sometimes with great laughter and sometimes with unexpected tears. Stories have a way of reaching past our walls and stereotypes, our expectations, and even our blinders.
Jesus, of course, was a storyteller.
His primary means of teaching was through the use of parables. However, unlike Aesop’s fables or many cultural tales, Jesus’ parables didn’t seem to have one, clear moral. In fact, the “meaning,” if there was one intended, was certainly not clear. Many perspectives and possibilities of meaning abounded!
Recently, in my classes on the parables utilizing lessons from Dr. Amy-Jill Levine (Jewish New Testament professor at Vanderbilt University), I have come to understand the parables from a different perspective, with new insights and new possibilities for interpretation. And that, says Levine, is exactly what parables are supposed to do.
“Religion has been defined as designed to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. We do well to think of the parables of Jesus as doing the afflicting. Therefore, if we hear a parable and think, ‘I really like that’ or, worse, fail to take any challenge, we are not listening well enough.”
Now, if you’re like me, clarity is often what I seek – there is enough confusion in the world! But the parables of Jesus are meant to baffle, and by that I mean to shake off our blinders, to reveal something we had not seen before, to help us think differently about things. In other words, let God continue to reveal God’s own self to us, let God be expansive instead of succumbing to the temptation to make God small, easily understood, and therefore, easily confined to my own purposes or expectations.
This Sunday, May 17, I will interview Tom during the eleven:eleven service – this time on the subject of stories and parables; the stories that shape us, inspire us, rattle and bewilder us, and sometimes entrap us. We’ll also look to Jesus’ tales to help us understand the nature of God’s expansive and sometimes confounding invitation to continue to see the world through fresh (and refreshing) eyes.
And speaking of eyes, ending the service with Jackson Brown’s “Doctor, My Eyes” will be a fitting musical offering under the direction of that amazing Brad Thompson and the 11:11 band, with a beautiful prayer led by Charme Robarts.
See you Sunday!
P.S. Join us tomorrow, May 14, at 7:00 pm
Zoom Improv First Comedy Show
featuring improvisors Chuck Shanlever (FW) and Winn LaRue (NY)
with FW actor, Jakie Cabe!
Fun for all ages with live audience input for our actors to “make stuff up on the spot.”
(brief Q & A afterward re: the benefits of Improv for Life)