Thursday, September 12, 2013

Give me an object...any object...

Our text for this week as we continue in our series on the parables is Luke 15:1-10, which can be read here:

One of my all-time favorite movies is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Among the many humorous story lines in the movie, the father, Gus, has a fixation with helping his three children stay connected with their Greek heritage even as they grow up in America. He paints the Greek flag on their garage door. He quizzes them on Greek history at the dinner table. And he has a game that he loves to play with them: "Give me a word," he says, "any word, and I will show you how the root of that word is Greek." Even when some of his daughter's snarky middle school peers challenge him to find a Greek root in the word "kimono," Gus finds a way to make the connection. Every moment was a teachable moment; every word, a teachable word.

It's a very rough analogy, but I think Jesus used a very similar teaching strategy. When he wanted to help people understand what it meant to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven, he would take very ordinary, earthly objects, occupations, and practices that they saw every day in the world around them and show them how, at the root of that ordinary thing, one could see an extraordinary connection to who God is or what God's kingdom is about. Whether it was a tiny seed, a coin, some yeast, a field, fruit, sheep, salt--all these things became symbols of life in God's kingdom, a way to connect earth-bound people with the things God was doing. 

"When casting the meaning of God’s sovereign realm in parables," John Indermark writes in his book Parables and Passion, "Jesus does not turn to lofty symbolism accessible to a limited few. To a culture closely connected to the earth, Jesus speaks through the ordinary of seeds and fruit trees. To individuals who kneaded bread and swept floors, Jesus offers images of God’s purposes in yeast and misplaced coins." It was almost as if Jesus was saying, "Give me an object, any object, and I will show you the deep roots of God's kingdom right here, right now, among you."

In our Tea and Parables gathering Tuesday night, we each chose a random object from my living room and used it to share some insight with one another about the nature of God or God's kingdom as can be seen or taught through that thing. We talked about God in river rocks, in pencils, in pinecones, in the ability to Skype face-to-face with someone miles away. Try it this week--choose an object, any object. Choose a word, any word. Choose a moment, any moment--a relationship, any relationship. How does this teach you something about the nature of God's kingdom? How are the workings of our mysterious God closer to home than we might initially think?

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