“All Jesus did that day was tell stories – a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy: I will open my mouth and tell stories; I will bring out into the open things hidden since the world’s first day.”
-Matthew 13:34-35 The Message
Next Halloween I want you to count the number of children (and teens) who are dressed up like Hermione Granger or Harry Potter – 16 years after the release of the last “Harry Potter” novel. 16 years later the story of the mistreated underdog who, along with a collected cast of other underdog figures, defeats the most powerful wizard in history is still inspiring children who don’t feel as powerful as society would like them to be. (It’s also filled with really cool magic and dripping with biblical images of forgiveness, mercy, justice, love, and resurrection)
But here’s the confusing part of it all. School counselors and self-help experts have been putting those truths out into the world in plain English for decades before J.K. Rowling captured them in her magical world. Why weren’t we compelled before?
Let’s try another example. How many friends do you have that rant on Facebook about the threats of totalitarian government that you just scroll by and think they’re crazy? But, do you remember the feeling you had when you read “Animal Farm” or “1984” or “Fahrenheit 451?” The outrage of controlled speech, burning/banning books, and surveillance everywhere scared the heck out of many who read about the same threats your Facebook friend may be pointing out – so why don’t we listen to her/him?
Why did Jacob Riis’ “How The Other Half Live” and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” do more to inspire social reforms and the anti-slavery movement than nearly any president or politician with the power to do so?
- Because stories are powerful.
- Stories are immersive.
- Stories help abstract concepts become personal.
- Stories help us feel what the other half is feeling.
- Stories conjure emotions that become reality.
It’s no wonder Jesus did nearly all of his teaching by telling stories.
This summer we’re going to explore many of The Parables that Jesus taught. Some of them are feel-good stories of The Good Samaritan and others a more harsh reality of the Unjust Servant. Each story is meant to shape and form us to be more connected to God and more aware of God’s presence and desire. Each story represents a reality that already was written in abstract law, but Jesus combines morality with empathy.
Not many take seriously the label of hypocrite. All of us wouldn’t want stories told of our hypocrisy.
Not many feel flushed with pride when they are told “Good job.” All of us walk a little higher when someone shares a story of our success.
I hope that you’ll join us each Sunday for a new story designed to shape us into more of God’s image, and I hope you’ll encounter a deep empathy for the way God feels about you and how you ought to feel about your neighbors, enemies, friends, and everyone in between.
See you Sunday.