‘I’m embarrassed…’

One recent morning at the gym I go to, the group present for class included a guy whom I hadn’t met yet. I’m still fairly new to this gym, so I didn’t really think anything of it. There are any number of members there I have yet to meet. After the class, as we were cooling down and getting ready to leave, the new-to-me guy said to our coach, “I’m sorry I was a no-show the other day. Again. I almost didn’t come today because I’m embarrassed about that.”

Our coach, being the good guy that he is, responded, “Don’t be embarrassed! I’m just glad you’re here today! Good job getting through that tough workout.” Coach’s sincerity was evident.

I couldn’t help but think, “Wow! That same scenario happens at WUMC!” In the 20 years I’ve been a pastor, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a variation of that conversation: the sheepish look, the expression of guilt or shame for having been away, the presentation of reasons for the absence, the admitted hesitation to return.

Which, believe me, I get. Whenever I skipped a class in college, for whatever reason, it was easier to skip again. It was always harder to go back. We often become our own harshest critic. Same for those few times a year I’m not in worship on Sunday. It’s harder to go back after being gone.

But I promise you this: when I say, “I’m glad you’re here! We’ve missed you.”, I genuinely mean that. I’m not trying to guilt or shame you. That’s not the way of Jesus.

So, I’ll listen to your litany of reasons for being away, if you really want to name them. But, that’s really not what I’m after. I’m not your professor or your parent. Those excuses aren’t required for your re-entry into the building. Or, more importantly, the community.

Here’s what I say to our congregation: Your presence matters because we are better together. Each one of us has gifts to bring and share — gifts that further God’s work in the world through Jesus (aka, the Kingdom of God, the Kin-dom of God, bringing God’s dream for the world to life, God’s love revolution, etc.). Life can be really tough, so let’s walk through it together.

There’s a story in Luke chapter 5 that we read for our weekly bible study wherein Jesus tells some professional fishermen where to cast their nets in order to obtain a huge catch. After which, the one named Simon knelt in front of Jesus and declared himself unworthy of being near Jesus. But Jesus responds, “Don’t be afraid.”

So many people seem to expect the church — and thus, by extension, Jesus — to say to them, “you aren’t worthy!” While I understand that feeling — honestly, far too many people who self-identify as Christian are far too ready to tell whole groups of people they are unworthy (women, LGBT, Muslims, etc.) — notice that Jesus did the opposite of that. Jesus never tells anyone they are unworthy of him. Just the opposite–Jesus consistently sought out the marginalized, the outcast, the “sinner” in order to talk with them or share a meal with them.

Whether you’ve been a faithful attendee for all 53 years of WUMC’s existence or you’ve never been here, or anything in between, don’t be afraid to enter those doors. Whomever you are, wherever you’ve been, whomever you love… You’re welcome here. We’re glad you’re here today. You matter here. You are a beloved child of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it works

Here’s a little something that got sucked into my black hole of non-blogging during the last [gulp] half of 2015:

OL 2015 collection

That is a picture of the results of the Offering of Letters we collected in October. Apparently, it wasn’t as memorable as I would have liked. When I asked our church’s Administrative Council what the subject of the letters was, no one had an answer.

Here’s a look:

I urge you to make sure children at risk of hunger receive the healthy meals they need to thrive. One in five children in our nation live at risk of hunger. For every six low-income children who receive a school lunch, only about half also get a school breakfast, and only one also gets a meal during the summer months. In other words, many children are probably missing some meals daily.

Specifically, I urge you to pass a child nutrition bill that protects child nutrition programs and connects more children with healthy meals while not cutting other safety-net programs.

When we write such letters, it is easy to wonder about their efficacy. Do our 80-some letters do any good? Well, when combined with the 220,000 other letters written around the country as part of Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”.

Late January came good news about a child nutrition bill: The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016. This bill would reauthorize expired child nutrition programs. Additionally, the bill would “streamline summer and after-school meal programs to make it easier to serve meals to kids year-round. The bill allows some states to provide summer EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards to families in hard-to-reach areas to purchase groceries. It also allows some states to use alternative methods of reaching kids when they are unable to make it to meal sites.”

See that last request in our letters: “while not cutting other safety-net programs.”? Well, the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act does not make cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) or other anti-poverty programs to pay for these changes! Our law-makers listened to us! Hallelujah!

While this Act has yet to pass the full Senate and is not yet law, the bipartisan cooperation is a very good sign. Neither Illinois Senator is on the Agriculture Committee, but when the bill goes before the full Senate, Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin will need to hear from us again.

Stay tuned…and stay alert to the continual movement of God’s Holy Spirit among us — especially in surprising places like the U.S. Senate!

Happy New Year

[Note: I originally wrote this as my year-end letter to my congregation. But I thought it might be worth sharing a little wider.]

I intended to help us ring in the new year with a couple suggestions of ways we can challenge ourselves to learn and grow in our faith — which is to say, in our lives.

But then I ran into two quotes via social media that stopped me short, made me think, and are way more inspirational that what I had in mind. So let’s start there…

In the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of advice about making resolutions: “Only try to change one thing.” “Don’t repeat a previous resolution that you didn’t meet; it’s too easy to tell yourself it’s ok not make it again.” “Progress and perfection are not synonyms. You’ll improve if you consistently do things better — even if only slightly better.”

Those all strike me as good and valuable advice, especially regarding New Year’s resolutions. However, only if done in this context:

There is no resolution that, if kept, will make me more worthy to be loved. — Nadia Bolz-Weber.

Remember friends, God loves you exactly as you are.

The second, from my friend, Hugh Hollowell, reflecting on just what it is that they provide at Love Wins Ministries:

We can’t “do anything” for you. We can provide a warm place to be, a place to stay dry in the storm, a place to get a cup of coffee and a smile. We provide a place to belong, a place to invest in, a place to contribute and to find meaning and purpose….

We have community. We have a no judgement zone. We have safe space and hot coffee and fresh fruit and hugs if you want them. If you come here, we won’t be able to pay your rent or keep your lights on, but you will have a place to come after they kick you out, and a place to sit that isn’t dark.

This is a place you can still exercise choice and agency, a place where no one will laugh at you because you have dreams or can’t quiet the voices in your head. It’s a place where we will listen to your stories, and you can hear ours, and maybe, if we listen to each other, the world will be a little less scary for both of us.

Yes, we can tell you where the various programs are and how they work – Not because we want to fix you, but because we believe that all of us deserve to have as many options as possible, so we can make informed decisions about what is best for us.

Yes, we have warm clothes – Not because we want to pat ourselves on the back about our good deeds, but because we get offered things like that, and if you have something people you know need, it’s sinful to not offer to share it with them.

Yes, we provide food- Not because we have a “feeding program”, but because we believe that eating together is sacramental, that it creates a place we can each come and recognize the sacredness of each other.

But no, we can’t do anything “for” you. But if you give us a chance, we really look forward to doing all of that with you.

Isn’t that beautiful? If we were to write a similar statement about Woodridge United Methodist Church, how would it read? Or, for other contexts, how would you describe what it is you do, who it is you are or strive to be?

Maybe my original idea can help us write such a statement — or, even better, “write” such a statement with our lives.

Reflecting this past Sunday on the gospel story of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus in the Temple for three days (Luke 2:41-52), I suggested that this story is at once the most earthy and relatable gospel tale — most every child care provider as, at least once, felt the panic and terror of discovering their charge is no where to be found —  while simultaneously reminding us Jesus remains undomesticated, wild, beyond our full grasp.

Thus, it seems to me that a good way to attempt to live this gospel story is by challenging ourselves to find, see, hear Jesus in a new way in 2016.

Our congregation is blessed to include a fair amount of racial, age, and cultural diversity. Perhaps one challenge is to seek out someone in the congregation who is different from you in one of those ways and ask them if they will share some of their faith story with you. How might we be changed if younger and older, Black and White (or Filipino and White or Hispanic and Black, etc.), or long-time member and new-attendee intentionally sought out one another in order to listen to and learn from one another?

Perhaps another challenge is too seek out those of another religion in order to listen to and learn about their faith from them. Nearly every Thursday night, the Irshad Learning Group meets in the Fellowship Hall. That’s a great opportunity to both provide a welcoming presence and be a student.

Or, as I said Sunday, challenge yourself to hear Jesus in a new way in the cries of justice at the heart of the #BlackLivesMatter movement or other current cultural expressions addressing injustice in the U.S.

Those are just a few ideas I have. What else comes to mind? How will you challenge yourself and your faith in 2016?

Happy New Year!

 

Live-blogging #SleepOutSaturday

7:58pm

Yeah, I know SOS is long-since done, but it occurred to me that I completely failed to say something extremely important:

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to our wonderful adult volunteers, Troy, Karen, Larry, Nikole, Christine, Deonne, and Kathy! This event is only possible because of you. 

6:39

Wakey, wakey!

   
   

5:58

Our first two young people are up. “Anyone else awake?”

“Nope, you’re the first.”

“Well, I can’t go back to sleep. Can I sit by the fire with you?”

Of course!
5:15

I’m very pleasantly surprised that all the youth have stayed out all night. Not even the usual steady stream of bathroom breaks. Been a quiet couple hours. 
1:05

Our faithful leaders, keeping the fire burning and watching over the flock. 

  

12:32

Larry is officially our safety officer. He will also not be cold. 

  

12:08am, Sunday

After one last empathy-building activity wherein we read stories from families helped by Bridge along with facts about poverty and homelessness in DuPage, it’s time to enter our shelters and try to sleep. 

   
    
    
 Also, it is now officially Cassie’s birthday!

10:28

Box shelter creation time!

   
    
    
 

10:00

We watched a video from the Rally as well as a Naperville TV 17 video report on SOS. I’ll try to add those in later. 
9:30

The cookies were shared by all! Well, ok, so the cookie winners allotted each person one cookie. 

9:20

No surprise, the group with the most resources won the competition. No groups shared materials, but no groups asked for help either. The winners’ prize?

  
A huge plate of homemade cookies. To which a member of one of the other groups replied, “That’s bogus!”
9:00

Next activity: build a structure with materials provided. Prize for the one that is tallest, most structurally sound, and colorful. 

What the group discovered is that not all groups are resourced equally. 

Will any group share? Will any group ask for help?

Constructing:

   
   

Final products:

   
   

8:30

Back at church — thanks, Bus Driver Cheryl! We’re in small groups sharing what from the Rally surprised and inspired us. 

   
 
7:45

School of Rock sends us out with a little “Cherry Bomb.”

Would have liked a little more content from the Rally. For instance more about services Bridge provides. 
7:40

This may qualify me for “get off my lawn” status, but I truly don’t understand all the people here at the Rally paying absolutely zero attention to the speakers. Sure, the mic is a little hard to hear, but come on!
7:38

The other family from the video now on stage. Mom and 5 yo son became homeless when she left her abusive husband. 
7:33

We get to meet in person one of the families from the video. Mom, 7yo daughter and daughter who is a freshman in college. A reality made possible by Bridge’s work.  

7:28

Video  sharing the stories of some of the families helped by Bridge. They house 100 families every year. 

7:2o

The obligatory — though certainly crowd-pleasing — shout out to all the communities represented here tonight. Hsu’s daughter very cutely pronounced ours Woodwidge. 

7:15

Tonight’s MC, Judy Hsu from local ABC Channel 7 begins the heart of the Rally…by telling us the weather forecast for the morning. Ugh. To paraphrase everyone’s favorite scoundrel, “never tell me the temperature.”

Hsu skipped the local Emmys to be at the Rally. That’s pretty cool. Remember, every $35 donation to Bridge Communities provides a night of shelter for a family. 

6:35pm

Gracious, holy, and loving God, give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts open to the movement of your Spirit through all we encounter tonight, amen. 

We enter the Rally to School of Rock Glen Ellyn absolutely (ahem) killing it with a Rage Against the Machine cover. They followed that with another terrific ’90’s tune, No Doubt’s “Just a Girl.”

And, of course, we got our tshirts. Everybody loves free tshirts. 

  

Finally something to say

The worst part about naming my blog “All That I Can’t Leave Behind” is that when I don’t post for a while (or, you know, 6. Freakin’. Months!), it seems as if I have nothing to say. Which isn’t exactly true. I’ve done some blogging over on my church site. But it is undeniable that life intervened in such ways that I haven’t been in this space in quite some time. That ends now.

I’ve refreshed the look. (Would love to know what you think of it.)

I’m going to at least attempt to live-blog my church’s participation in Sleep Out Saturday (SOS).

But first a video to introduce the idea.

This is the day…to end homelessness in DuPage County.

Also, Erin Chan Ding wrote a terrific piece about SOS for West Suburban Living Magazine. I’m quoted in it…and I think I actually don’t sound like an idiot. Thanks, Erin! Here’s a taste:

The hope, adds Buerstetta, is that “five years from now or 15 years from now, when these kids are the police officers or teachers dealing with a homeless family and clients, and they’re writing local ordinances, they keep these experiences in mind. 

 “There’s the longer term goal that, ‘This isn’t just a cool experience to do with my friends,’” concludes Buerstetta, “but that years from now, it affects who they become and how they live in a world that needs compassion.”   

Read the rest here.

Prayers for Earth

9550 year old spruce, Old Tjikko, in Sweden
9550 year old spruce, Old Tjikko, in Sweden

“Jesus shows us how to live with the Creator, with creation, and with creatures.”

That’s a line from my sermon this past Sunday, in which I compared the kind of Lord Jesus is to the kind of Lord we’ve too often made him into. I contend that – based on his birth, life, death and resurrection – Jesus as Lord is the giver of life. One implication of Jesus as giver of life is that all the world is good, important, sacred. All life matters to the Lord because the Lord is the giver of life. All life must also matter to we who strive to follow that Lord.

Too often that has not been the case. Too often we’ve taken the beautiful poetry of Genesis and tried to make a modern science textbook out of it. That has led us to claim crazy ideas such as the universe is only about 6000 years old. Sunday I offered Old Tjikko (seen above) as a contrary thesis, if you will. Searching around, I discovered there are even more amazing, ancient, living organisms than I even imagined! I don’t know about you, but I discovered that the more I read on that page, the more my reading morphed into praying. What a surprising, incredible world we get to inhabit! What wonders surround us!

Here are a few others’ thoughts on the intersection of faith and ecology:

New paradigms for saving earth by Philip Clayton

Why Christians are so bad on the environment by Tim Suttle

Discipleship, Worship, and Earth Day by Adam Hamilton

Sunday’s communion prayer included a significant amount of cosmology. (e.g. “You are the longing within the atoms for communion, the urge within each molecule for self-expression, the knowing within each cell of its dignity.”) That was, of course, on purpose. Sunday’s prayers were adapted from one of my favorite resources, If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics by Bruce Sanguin. Here’s another prayer from that book that I offer for this Earth Day week:

Living Earth’s Wisdom

We tune our ears to the wisdom of Earth. It is deep prayer, this listening to her cries, as Spirit’s sighs, too deep for words.

Unborn generations call to us from the future: what did you do when the planet could no longer bear your foolishness and began to break?

The growl of the grizzly – caught in the crosshairs of trophy hunters and policy makers, who seem to prize extinction – is a plea for the rights of all the disappearing ones.

Hear the bawl of the caribou asking us for room enough to roam and arsenic-free water to drink.

The cardinal’s whistle, once joy’s message, is now a haunting lament for the dwindling chorus of songbirds.

The topsoil – living organism and not lowly dirt – clears its thinning, chemical-burned voice, and speaks out for the biotic kingdom teeming within this dark body.

Mother Ocean beckons us to return to Her womb, that we might be born anew and know our salty tears to be Her own.

The willow drops her loving arms around our shoulders and brushes us with grace, whispering that it’s not too late. It falls to us, Wisdom’s pupils, to turn this dirge into a dance of the cosmos.

Let those with ears to hear, rise up.

Amen.

What’s in a name?

What is distinctive about the United Methodist Church? What is United Methodist identity?

In other words, what makes United Methodists United Methodists?

WUMC building
A look at our building

This is the question our Confirmation class pondered the last couple weeks. How would you respond?

(Or, for my non-UMC readers, how would you answer the question for your denomination or religion or organization with which you are affiliated?)

The first time we asked the Confirmands this, their answers ranged, it seems to me, from surprising to impressive to, frankly, a little scary. They wrote:

  • Anti-gambling.
  • Broke off from the Anglican church.
  • Anyone can take communion.
  • Only grape juice used for communion, no wine.
  • Started by John & Charles Wesley at Oxford in England.
  • The Wesley Quadrilateral of how to think about faith: through scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.

As you can see, they mentioned some history, some worship practices, some social commentary, and some theology (which I’d also argue is in large part anthropology, but that’s probably a post for another day). Each item elicited more conversation.

Talking about gambling means talking about how state-run lottos prey on the poor as well as being good stewards of our money.

Talking about open communion means admitting none of us fully understands the sacrament but are all in need of God’s amazing grace.

Talking about using grape juice means talking about Methodist’s history of supporting Alcoholics Anonymous and – going back to open communion – wanting all present to be able to partake.

Talking about the Wesley brothers and how the Methodist movement got started means talking about reappropriating a slur into a badge of honor. It also means tracing our faith heritage back through the ages: UMC => Methodist Church & Evangelical United Brethren => Church of England => Roman Catholic Church => early followers of the Way => Jesus => Hebrews. Can you accurately place each of those pieces of church history on a timeline? Our Confirmands can.

Talking about how we come to believe what it is that we believe – using the Quadrilateral – means admitting to the human condition. We all read and think through those lenses, but the UMC is nearly unique in naming that reality.

As you might have surmised by now, it was a robust, wide-ranging conversation. But there was one other item a youth put on the board; one other way that they see United Methodist Church’s identity. Can you guess what it was?

  • Against gay rights.

It’s like having a mirror held up to your face and being forced to see what others see, regardless of how you view yourself. Like I said, a little scary. And certainly uncomfortable. Think about it: this is what our 7th and 8th graders think it means to be United Methodist. Is this what we want 7th and 8th graders to think? Is this the legacy we want to leave them?

Of course we talked about the complex nature of the United Methodist Church and gay rights. Doing so requires talking about the confusingly bifurcated Social Principles statements on human sexuality. It means talking about General Conference and how there is a decades-old movement to change the language to be fully welcoming and affirming of our gay sisters and brothers. It means talking about the most recent General Conference in 2012 when a proposal to just change the language to (paraphrasing here) “We United Methodists disagree about human sexuality and about how the church should and should not respond to LGBT sisters and brothers.” While that is so clearly the actual truth of our current reality, even that simple, honest change couldn’t pass.

All of that led to a terrific chat about ways to respond to this situation:

  1. Get fed up with super slow progress on accepting the LGBT community and leave to another church that is welcoming and affirming. Or leave church altogether.
  2. Stay in the UMC and ignore the issue, hoping it will go away or get resolved without me.
  3. Stay in the UMC and work for change.

We said all three of those responses are happening right now. The last of which leads to others staying in the church working to keep the language the same. For which of those four response will Woodridge UMC be known?

While it is quite disconcerting to look into the mirror that is our youth’s perceptions of our denomination, it is also a gift. It is an opportunity, an invitation even, for self-reflection. What is the state of the church we are handing over to the next generation? Are we living God’s call on our lives – as individuals, as families, and as a denomination – to transform the world with the Holy Spirit? If not, how will we improve it?

I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

Dancing fools

If you’ve been around Woodridge United Methodist Church (the church I serve as Koinonia Pastor) at all during the last couple of Advent seasons, you likely know that I’m a big fan of the song, “The King of Glory Comes.” I liked it well enough on it’s own, but after I found this video, well, it was cemented as my favorite Advent song.

We’ve danced to the video in worship ever since.

There’s even video evidence of my hilariously pathetic dancing skills attempting to replicate the Colbert classic. Might be best to think of it as an homage. Actually, it’s probably best to just avert your eyes. But if you’re a glutton for punishment, here you go. Thankfully, it’s only 17 seconds worth.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter when we Christians remember the final few days of Jesus’ life, retracing the story from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday), so what am I doing bringing up Advent?

Because this piece of video awesomeness surfaced recently. Anything with Colbert is worth watching, of course. But, at the risk of sounding like I’m auditioning to write for Upworthy, at the 5:11 mark the possibility of something spectacular is introduced. Finally, at 5:52, my hopes were fulfilled and my giddiness went totally berserk! Hope you like this as much as I did.

Hypocrisy on purpose?

I had an epiphany in our Lenten Study.

[Are epiphanies allowed during Lent? Even after 19+ years working at Woodridge United Methodist Church, I still get confused about ecclesial particularities like the seasons of the church year. Which seems silly. I’ve now been working and worshiping in the UMC longer than I attended the American Baptist Church of my youth. Why does my profoundly non-liturgical upbringing still hold such sway? (Well, non-officially-liturgical. I know every body has a liturgy. Some, like my home church, aren’t overt about it. It’s more subconscious.) I suppose the overly strong influence of (church) families of origin upon worship preferences is a post for another day.]

The way this year’s study works is that each week we read the assigned chapter in Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking, which always begins by directing us to that section of scripture to which the chapter is responding. This third week of the study directed us to the gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verses 1-18.

As you may remember, the lectionary calls us to read much of those same verses every year on Ash Wednesday. In particular, the part wherein Jesus commands us to pray in secret, give in secret, and fast in secret. We read that on Ash Wednesday. You know, the day on which we put a big ol’ mark on our foreheads? Totally conspicuous, obvious, and the farthest-thing-from-secret? That day?

I’ve often wondered about that odd confluence. I’d say it strikes me as, well, hypocritical. Comically so, in fact.

But in the process of reading those verses a few times, reading the McLaren chapter, and talking about all of it with the considerate folks in our study group, a new thought struck me: what if that dissonance is on purpose?!?

What if the off-putting juxtaposition of that text and that public action is purposefully there to force us to face our own hypocrisy?? We read about praying, giving, fasting in secret then put that big mark on our forehead to show that we’ve prayed and then, quite often, talk about what we’re giving up for Lent. In other words, we often talk with each other about from what we intend to fast.

I mean, really. If that’s not comedy, what is? Perhaps I’ve been too busy taking myself too seriously on that perhaps too-somber day to be able to laugh at myself. It seems so obvious now. It’s so over-the-top ridiculous, I have no idea how I never saw it before. We who claim to follow Jesus are so often also the same ones quite ready to call out the hypocrisy in others…maybe Ash Wednesday is supposed to help us laugh at our own hypocrisy instead. A physical embodiment of humility.

After all, that’s exactly what comedy (at it’s best) is for: bringing down the haughty and lifiting up the lowly.

What do you think? Could Ash Wednesday be the best kind of joke – one in which we literally wear our own hypocrisy on our foreheads, on purpose!? If so, why have I not noticed before now?

Welcome to Parable Club

This Sunday, March 1, through Easter at Woodridge UMC, Pastor Danita and I are preaching a sermon series, The Parables of Lent (aka #ParablesofLent when you tweet, post, & pic about it each week ;-) ). We decided we needed a group effort of some kind in order to help us navigate these tricky stories Jesus loved to tell. But we thought Parable Support Group was a little too depressing. So instead…Welcome to Parable Club!

Before we get this series started, there are a few rules that must be followed here at Parable Club.

The first rule of Parable Club is, You do not talk about parables as if they are Aesop fables. “Fables are short stories which illustrate a particular moral and teach a lesson to children.”

The second rule of Parable Club is, You. Do. Not. Talk. About. Parables. As. If. They. Are. Aesop Fables.

The third rule of Parable Club is, Be ready to laugh. There is almost certainly a joke in there somewhere.

The fourth rule of Parable Club is, to paraphrase Fred Clark, The story is the point. “The meaning of the parable isn’t some lesser, shorter thing to be distilled; the meaning was greater, vaster, too unruly and immense to be contained otherwise.” [read more]

The fifth rule of Parable Club is, Be ready to laugh at yourself. The joke is almost certainly on you (and me).

The sixth rule Parable Club is, to paraphrase Amy-Jill Levine, Let your eyes be opened. “Parables tease us into recognizing what we’ve already always known, and they do so by reframing our vision. The point is less that they reveal something new than that they tap into our memories, our values, and our deepest longings, and so they resurrect what is very old, and very wise, and very precious. And often, very unsettling.” [read more]

The seventh rule of Parable Club is, The story is not an allegory. It’s entirely possible not even one of the parable’s characters is a stand-in for God.

The eighth rule of Parable Club is, The story almost certainly has to do with the kin-dom of God on earth. If I tell you the parable is about your disembodied soul escaping this plane of existence in order to reside in some ethereal, Other, non-place, I’m almost certainly doing it wrong. I should probably sound more like this guy:

fight club quote

The ninth (What? You didn’t think this was a completely direct parallel, did you?) rule of Parable Club is, We almost certainly won’t hear the same thing. And not only is that ok, it is as it should be. Parables are notoriously sneaky, slippery, confounding, challenging, funny, transformative, and irreducible. To think that multiple human beings will react to them in the exact same way is either sure folly or extremely arrogant. Or both. We will do our best to be neither of those.

The tenth and final rule of Parable Club is, Whether this is your first time at Parable Club or your 490th, you must ask questions. Parables invite us into in interactive relationship with the storyteller. Parables want us – need us – to be engaged. So think, wonder, listen, dream, imagine, and ask away.