as a storyteller i am a metaphor junkie. i love to see complicated truth honored in the telling of a good story. this past spring at our old church my husband was allowed to preach and did such an extraordinary job that it really raised the bar for the master pastor. he was always very threatened by others outshining him.
to that end he decided that extensive object lessons and props were what was needed to raise his preaching to the next level. he had runners dressed in all sorts of comical ways to illustrate the things that keep us from 'running a good race', complete with hurdles and a finish line. as they all acted out their parts we were all told in this remedial way that we're not to run with cell phones, shopping bags and high heels, or at least that was the message i got...
he then goes on to preach and i notice off to the side there is still another prop unused thus far and i begin to wonder what lies on the table covered up by the cloth. i can hear where this sermon is going and start to guess at what is under the cloth. it's not long before my curiosity is satiated as he dramatically yanks off the cover to reveal it's contents. i groan inwardly. i can see where this is going. my fingers start to grip the arm rest.... he keeps talking. my nails are digging into the fabric covers. i begin to pray silently... please don't go here...
what was worrying me was the objects he had chosen for his illustration. a bowl of broccoli and one dozen crispy creme donuts. he's talking about the christian life - and how we need to buckle down and do the things that we might not want to do so that we can be successful in our 'walk with the lord'. i'm praying 'please eat the broccoli, please eat the broccoli...' he then compares the things that tempt us to the donuts, and the spiritual disciplines of reading our bible, praying and going to church (didn't you know there are only 3 spiritual disciplines... well, four, sorry, tithing to the church is one too...) to the bowl of broccoli... he then says that we all have to make a choice each day, and proceeds to take a huge bite out of the crispy creme.
i am saddened. distressed. forlorn even. we hadn't started the process of leaving yet, so i was still committed to the idea that this was our community. this was the place where my children were receiving a lot of their spiritual learning. so i began to speak to the leadership. first of all they couldn't hardly remember the sermon, but they did remember him taking a bite of the donut. i tried to help them understand that the spiritual leader of our community thought that the christian life is like a bowl of broccoli that nobody really wants to eat. they thought i was reading too much into it. i tried to remind them that all they could remember was that he took a bite of the donut - not the broccoli. they still didn't get it.
he could have used anything. a bowl of cheetos and a nice steak dinner. corn flakes and granola - things of no substance compared to things that have substance - no brainer, right? wrong. if you're reading this and have an audience - please, please, please know that the stories you choose stay with your audience far longer than the 3 points of the sermon you are preaching. choose well - understand the deep truth you are conveying in the story - it's really the most important thing. it's why jesus taught this way.
story stays with the hearer. even if they can't mine the truth out at the moment they will remember the story and it's richness and beauty far longer than any bright doctrine or theology you are trying to pour into their heads. story is the way to their souls. it's living and active and can bring truth to life like no other kind of telling can. please take the time to understand what you're really saying underneath it all. it is a window into your soul.
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