Again he began to teach by the sea, and a very large crowd gathered around him. So he got into a boat on the sea and sat down, while the whole crowd was by the sea on the shore. He taught them many things in parables…
I often think that we deeply underestimate the power that stories can have on us, we forget that they can not only inform us, but form us as well.
When we hear a good story, we are not just listening to something that is a download of information, rather, we are entering a world, a new world, a space where new ideas are able to be engaged with, where we can put aside some of the prejudice, bias, or ways of seeing things that dominate our day to day lives, and dream a little. We are able to engage one of the most theological part of our brain – our imagination.
I think that we often forget how much of the teaching of Jesus was in story form, apart from the Sermon on the Mount, MOST of his teaching was in parables, which are a form of storytelling. Our modern age (thanks Enlightenment!) has reduced these wonderful stories, these imagination formers and shapers, to a set of abstract propsitions that we can mentally engage with and critique, and then move on without really engaging in them. It is a ‘safe’ way to read the bible, because we still have our guards up, we are still in control of ourselves, we don’t have to fully engage, we don’t have to enter in to the story, to participate, we can sit above it, and force a meaning out of it, we can ‘lord it over’ the text, instead of letting the text sit above us, as we listen and allow it to speak, shape, and form us.
This sort of reading requires a lot from us, it requires us to give up the control, it requires us to adopt a posture of submission to what the text it trying to say, and, most of all, it requires hard work for us to come to the text and try to understand what it would have been like to hear it in its original context and setting.
But, if we do this, if we open ourselves up to what the text might be saying, if we let our emotions, our imaginations, engage with the text, allow ourselves to enter in to the story, to fill in the gaps, to feel what the characters are feeling, then we will find ourselves opened up to a whole new way of engaging with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We will experience a dynamic change in the way that we relate to the Trinity, it will be far more personal and formational than we would have experienced before – our faith must be lived out in the world, not simply make sense in our heads, it must also touch our hearts.