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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Jesus—Story Teller

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Stories are good. Everyone loves a good story. When my twin sons were very small, they loved a bed time story. After outgrowing the Three Bears and Red Riding Hood, they still wanted some tale to be told. I started telling them the story of a young star fighter named Luke Skywalker and his arch enemy Darth Vader. For a year, my sons thought I made that story up. If fact, one night after a telling of Skywalker destroying the death star, my son Matt hugged me and said, “Dad, you are the best story teller ever.” Shhhh! don’t tell them…they still don’t know.

Regardless, when we talk about the best story tellers ever, Jesus would certainly be on that list. He is well remembered for his sermons, no question. That one about “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile,” for example can really cause some self examination. But some of his words that best sticks in your mind are the stories, The Good Samaritan . . . the Prodigal Son … the Lost Sheep, and so on. This is probably why Jesus liked to tell stories.

All of Jesus’ stories address spiritual issues in a way that (a) isn’t boring, (b) sticks in your mind, and (c) challenges you to think for yourself.

Take the Prodigal Son, for example. The religious leaders were getting deeply stressed with Jesus for hanging out with the “spiritually unclean” (such as prostitutes and tax collectors). Their attitude was: God doesn’t like them and neither should we.

Jesus explained why he spent time with them by standing up, clearing his throat, and begins telling a story: the son abandons his father, squanders his money, and ends up on the skids, cleaning out pig pens (and remembers, pigs were themselves seen as unclean animals). The son eventually crawls back home when he’s broke and had nowhere else to go.

Does the father give him a good smack down and send him packing? No, he is ecstatic and throws a huge party for him. Meanwhile the older brother who has stuck by dad religiously all these years has a big sulk, because his black-sheep brother doesn’t deserve this special treatment. The story teller sits down.

Did everyone in his audience get the point? I doubt it. It’s a wonderful illustration of God’s  attitude  toward sinners, but it also  challenges listeners  to decide what their own attitude should be toward those still outside the faith.

Through the month of October, we will be in a series of sermons from Matthew 13. It is a chapter of Jesus parables, some of his best story telling. As Christians, it is good for us to walk through these old spiritual tales. They call our souls and thinking upward. They ask us to reexamine our lives. They demand a response. If you listen carefully, you can still hear the voice of the King. The master story teller is still teaching, still sharing, still reshaping his listeners. We are invited to sit at his feet and listen once again to the Story Teller.

[Ron Otto, Lincoln Christian Church]


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