Today's Parables

This fall I'll speak at a retreat sponsored by Voice of Joy ministries (you can check out a few details here.) Voice of Joy is an outreach ministry headed by Amy Barkman, my mom. She conducts this women's retret every fall, and I enjoy participating whenever I'm able, because she always has such fun themes. One year the theme was Fairy Tales. Each of the speakers selected a well-known fairy tell, told the story, and then drew parallels from the story to the Bible. I had a tough one that year - Hansel and Gretel. Another year the theme was Science Fiction and Science Fact. I got to speak on science fiction that year, and of course I donned my Star Trek uniform and spoke about messages of truth found in various Star Trek episodes. I loved it! This year the theme is one I'm really excited about - Narnia!

An interesting approach to a retreat, you might say, taking stories -- fiction, that isn't real -- and using them to point out biblical truth. Actually, that approach has been used for centuries. Throughout the Gospels, we read about the parables of Jesus. A parable is a story with a message. When Jesus told a story, he used themes that would capture the minds and imaginations of his listeners – things they could identify with, and understand. In the 13th chapter of Matthew we read:

“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13: 34-35)

This follows a series of 7 stories Jesus told. There was the parable of the sower whose seed fell in different places. There was one about a farmer with an enemy who planted weeds alongside his wheat crop. (Ah! Intrigue!) We read of treasure hunts, and searching for pearls (I love treasure hunt stories!), of mustard seeds and yeast and fishermen catching fish in their nets.

Jesus knew that people learn through stories. People who love fiction identify with characters in the stories they read. They personalize the message inherent in a story in a way they don’t personalize a lecture. I can so identify with treasure hunts, and searching for pearls. A farmer completely understands what happens when an enemy sows weeds among his crops. It means something to him – he personalizes the message, and the lesson.

I believe parables - stories - are still a wonderful vehicle through which people can still learn profound truths. The stories themselves may be made up, but God's Truths are eternal, and our world is saturated with them. If we look hard enough, we'll see them.

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” (Proverbs 1:5-7)

In preparation for the fall retreat, I spoke at church last night about some of the Truth elements in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Over the next few days I'm going to share a few of those with you, because (1) I think you'll find them interesting, and (2) I'm always trying to come up with blog content so it doesn't look like I'm neglecting my Journal!