Tylenol, Ice Cream, and the Parables of Jesus

No one in my house has codeine, so I am doing my best with my split tooth until tomorrow with Tylenol and Advil. I also bought some ice cream, which I thought would help soften the blow, but as it turns out, not so much. I am having to drink my calories through Carnation Instant Breakfast because the OTC pain meds are taking the edge off, but I still cry when I eat. It’s just unavoidable, and I am not usually a cryer. I used to be. I really used to be. But at the same time, I developed a layer of clinical separation from my emotions so that I can think about things behind it without necessarily flooding out. Sometimes it’s a gift. Sometimes it’s a disaster. But there you go. This whole tooth thing is my undoing, because I cannot hide that much pain.

It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t on codeine today, because I had to be sharp for church. When we did the reception of new members, he told us to introduce ourselves and tell the congregation a little bit about us. Since I’d written nearly everything I wanted to say in the bulletin, I told the story of reading Matt for ages without knowing what he looked like or where he preached on the ground. He wasn’t at CCC when I started reading him, probably in 2008 or 2009, so it was a surprise and a half to walk into a church where I knew someone in the cloud and THERE HE WAS. In the flesh. I ended up telling that story without (thankfully) saying the words “drooling fangirl,” but I got my point across. As I said in my Facebook post about it, it made Matt blush and the congregation clap. #missionaccomplished

We also did a special anthem for the offertory where there was a soprano solo, and Karen, the one who sang it, is one of those voices that brings tears to your eyes because it is so pure and clean… the kind where when you listen to her, you have to will yourself to come in on time. It was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. I cannot get that tone because my voice is a lot heavier (and LOUDER) than hers, so if I ever sing a solo in church, I hope she is as proud of me as I am of her. We are so different, and therefore we enjoy sitting next to each other. She brings out the best in me, and I hope she feels the same way in return, that I bring out the best in her as well.

And as an aside, the last hymn was cwm rhondda, and I sang the hell out of it. Just enjoyed myself and mad I wasn’t standing next to a bass. And of course I took the highest note possible at the end because I’m a whore like that. Wendy knows. Wendy was the first person to call me a “descant whore,” and Dana thought it was so funny she called me that pretty much the entire time we were married. 🙂

After church, I went down for coffee hour and several people came up to me wanting to know about St. James, and we ended up having a fascinating conversation on how to build a church and a book called Amen that they’re reading in the Contemporary Theology Sunday School class. I bought it for my Kindle as soon as I got home, because I want to go to the class next week. Apparently, this woman is teaching theology in such a way that her parishioners are having trouble following her. I said, that’s probably because she doesn’t teach in parables. I’m reading a book by William Barclay that talks about how Jesus taught in parables so that regular people could understand what he was saying. Here’s my favorite theological joke in the entire world:

Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christomonism.”

Not prepared for Barth’s brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

Finally James Cone gets up, and raises his voice: “You are my Oppressed One, my soul’s shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

And Jesus says, “what?”

Parables are found in the Old Testament as well, but I don’t think many people know them as such. For instance, let’s talk about Nathan:

Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

David had everything; Uriah had nothing. And yet David sent Uriah to the front lines of war just so he could take his wife. In that parable, David realizes what a delta bravo he was to Uriah… Nathan didn’t say that David was a douchebag to his face. He just pointed him in the right direction.

It’s the same with the parables of Jesus. Metaphors about the ways we act are the foundation of the understanding of theology for the lay person, who isn’t the one that signed up to learn words like “Christomonism” and “Eschatology.” That’s for me. Parables are for you. It’s not my idea. It’s William Barclay’s, but it’s one that I wholeheartedly embrace. I have a whole parable spelled out in my own abuse called “The Wheat and the Weeds.” I realized that no abuser/enabler relationship is without its good moments, and that’s why enablers stay. Especially since Diane was with me in my heart and mind all the time, and I was young enough for her to model speech and enculturation, we have a lot of the same facial expressions, speech patterns, you name it. I realized that trying to get rid of her completely within me was burning down a whole field, because I could not separate the wheat from the weeds without destroying who I am in the process.

When I learned that parable, it beget action. So parables are for everyone, even people who sign up to read Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr, and Cone.

Amen.

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