Category Archives: Parables
I enjoy riding my bike a great deal and miss it while we are serving in Mission Year. Back in Washington, I rode my bike usually on Saturdays along a river that connected the Sammamish and Washington lakes. The ride traced entirely through a valley and so the river was gentle. (So gentle that my wife and I were able to paddle kayaks up and down it.) While I appreciated the ride, I didn’t like how flat it was. The only obstacle was wind. Back in California, I loved going up and down the foothills that were so close to where my parents lived.
In California, I would spend hours pedaling up hills. Sometimes there were beautiful sites along the way. Turning between two hills, I would get glimpses of the Bay Area and cutouts from the mountains. It wasn’t uncommon to fly down a hill in a fourth the time it took to go up.
Don’t try to guess what this means before you do it. Just go do it and reflect (it’s called experiential learning).
- Start with a large bowl and two cups.
- Fill the large bowl with water and put a cup on either side of it in front of you.
- Plunge your hand into the water and make a fist.
- Draw your hand out of the water, hold it over one of the cups and open your fist. Some water should fill the cup.
- Plunge your hand again into the water and make a cup with your hand.
- Draw your hand out of the water, hold it over the other cup and spread your fingers. Some water should fill the cup.
- Compare the amount of water in each cup.
I first heard this poem on a CD made by Los Altos United Methodist Church titled “Sing with the Angels”. John Dodson read a shortened version that has always stuck with me.
Before the cathedral in grandeur rose
At Ingelburg where the Danube goes;
Before its forest of silver spire
Went airily up to the clouds and fires;
Before the oak had ready a beam,
While yet the arch was stone and dream —
There where the altar was later laid,
Conrad the cobbler, plied his trade.
It happened one day at the year’s white end —
Two neighbors called in on their old-time friend;
And they found the shop, so meager and mean,
Made gay with a hundred boughs of green.
Conrad was stitching with face ashine,
But suddenly stopped as he twitched a twine:
“Old friends, good news! At dawn today,
As the cocks were scaring the night away,
The Lord appeared in a dream to me,
And said, `I am coming your Guest to be!’
So I’ve been busy with feet astir,
Strewing the floor with branches of fir.
The wall is washed and the shelf is shined,
And over the rafter the holly twined.
He comes today, and the table is spread
With milk and honey and wheaten bread.”
His friends went home; and his face grew still
As he watched for the shadow across the sill.
He lived all the moments o’er and o’er,
When the Lord should enter the lowly door —
The knock, the call, the latch pulled up,
The lighted face, the offered cup.
He would wash the feet where the spikes had been,
He would kiss the hands where the nails went in,
And then at the last would sit with Him
And break the bread as the day grew dim.
While the cobbler mused there passed his pane
A beggar drenched by the driving rain.
He called him in from the stony street
And gave him shoes for his bruised feet.
The beggar went and there came a crone,
Her face with wrinkles of sorrow sown.
A bundle of faggots bowed her back,
And she was spent with the wrench and rack.
He gave her his loaf and steadied her load
As she took her way on the weary road.
Then to his door came a little child,
Lost and afraid in the world so wild,
In the big, dark world. Catching it up,
He gave it the milk in the waiting cup,
And led it home to its mother’s arms,
Out of the reach of the world’s alarms.
The day went down in the crimson west
And with it the hope of the blessed Guest,
And Conrad sighed as the world turned gray:
“Why is it, Lord, that your feet delay?
Did you forget that this was the day?”
Then soft in the silence a Voice he heard:
“Lift up your heart, for I have kept my word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with the bruised feet;
I was the woman you gave to eat;
I was the child on the homeless street!”
For a while now, I’ve had something like a recurring dream that happens while I’m awake. Generally it occurs during a Spiritual Discipline. In my mind’s eye, it goes something like this:
Behold! a book, new and huge. Nothing is written in it when it opens before you. But looking closely, you see lines. Now a pen with an unseen hand is put to the page. It begins to list. Something is twisted about this book because it’s rapidly looking aged. After listing just the first thing, the spine breaks. By the tenth, the pages are becoming frayed and the binding is giving way. The book looks like death. I’m afraid it might crumble to dust as the pen starts writing faster and faster. I hurry to take a look at what it says before it’s gone. They’re ugly things.
From above, a drop of liquid hits the book. The ink smears and the page dyes red. I look up but I don’t see anything. Another drop and the dye is sinking through the pages. Another drop, the spine is restored. Another drop, the frayed edges are clean cut. The red dye isn’t dye at all. Another drop, it’s erasing the ink. Another drop, You can’t read what’s written any more. Another drop, the page is white again.
I think this is a modern-day parable:
Two soldiers go to war. One comes back and adjusts well, leaving it all behind. The other comes home with post-traumatic stress syndrome and cannot get the faces of the dead out of his mind. Which of them is crazy?
(Taken from p. 214 of “Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.)
Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 64 is one of my favorites.
When I have seen by time’s fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age,
When sometime lofty towers I see down razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage,
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store.
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay,
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
Whenever I go through hard times, I remind myself of this parable:
Have you ever seen a blacksmith refining gold? He throws what looks like junk into a big melting pot and turns up the heat. As soon as he sees his reflection in the pot, he shuts off the heat and pours it out. Out comes the finest gold.