Church After Church
Recently, Jonathan Alderman and I were talking in the parking lot after Wednesday night church. Most veteran FBCers realize the parking lot, as well as the sanctuary, can be holy ground. Often, in encounters on the asphalt, "church after church" unfolds.
That evening, Jonathan and I were talking about his sister, Amelia Anne, who died much too young in 2009. He recalled Amelia Anne's love of stories. Indeed, those of us who knew and loved Amelia Anne can vouch that "story" was her primary dialect.
"Whenever I needed an answer from Amelia Anne about something," Jonathan said, "I could never get a simple yes or no answer. With her, it was always, ‘Let me tell you a story.' Eventually, she would give me an answer to my question, but only after she told her story. Sometimes, the story was the answer."
Jesus shared Amelia Anne's love of story. Whenever someone asked him a probing or thorny question, his most characteristic response was, "Let me tell you a story."
Jesus' stories are called "parables" from a Greek word meaning "to cast alongside." He didn't invent the genre, but he used it to maximum advantage, teaching God's truth with poignancy and punch and staying power. With his stories, Jesus usually avoided the direct hit, preferring to "cast alongside" a pivotal truth, like a master fisherman casting just to the side of a fallen tree in the shallows. When a big six-pounder ambles along and clamps down on the lure, that bass is a goner.
Or to use another metaphor, Jesus' parables function like depth-charges to the soul. He tells a simple story about a lost son, a mustard seed, or leaven. His first hearers and we nod in appreciation. But then Jesus' story stays with us, working its magic, turning and twisting in the back of the mind and in the depths of the heart. Then a day or two later, or maybe a month or even a lifetime, some new facet of Jesus' truth discharges in the hidden places of the soul. "Oh!," we say in wonder and awe. "So that's what he was talking about."
This Sunday, we begin a sermon series on some of Jesus' best stories as told in Matthew's Gospel. These are stories about organic farming and poor etiquette and unfair labor practices and cold-hearted jerks who get what they deserve (see front cover for entire series). But again and again as Jesus tells these stories, he sneaks up on us from behind and taps us on the shoulder with some surprising, world-altering truth about God.
"What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like?," asks Jesus. "What parable shall we use to explain it?" (Mark 4:30). A grin forms at the corner of his mouth and there is mirth in his eyes as he looks as us and says, "Let me tell you a story."
“LET ME TELL YOU A STORY”
A sermon series on some of Jesus’ stories from Matthew’s Gospel
- July 3: A Story about Good and Evil: The Wheat and the Tares (Mt. 13:24-30)
- July 10: A Story about going Deep: The Sower and the Soils (Mt. 13:1-9)
- July 17: A Story about Passion: The Pearl of Great Price (Mt. 13:44-50)
- July 24: A Story about Forgiveness: The Unmerciful Servant (Mt. 18:23-35)
- July 31: A Story about Grace: The Landowner and the Laborers (Mt. 20:1-16)
- August 7: A Story about True Obedience: The Two Sons (Mt. 21:28-32)