A Parable, within a parable, about the identity of God, and how some choose not to listen, only talk!
I often look forward to talking about my faith and my way of life. I rarely start the conversation mind you, as I feel the best way to have people listen to what you are saying, is because they choose to do so. This one of the reasons why I look forward to that knocks on the door when individuals bring their faith to me, in the hope that I will see the light.
I am not sure they always enjoy the fact that I am quite well acquainted with the aforementioned light, however. Nonetheless, it does give me a chance to have a good old debate, and for this, I am always grateful.
One day, one such rap at the door came, a few hours before I was due to leave for a service, and so was dressed and ready, having a nice cup of tea.
It was a windy day out, so I did not open the door fully and poked my head around the door.
Two well-dressed, warm faced women stood on the doorstep.
“We have come to tell you that God can save you from the sin in which you live.” The first one told me.
“Hello to you too!” I replied.
“Did you know that your life of sin will prevent you the glory of salvation, and eternal life?” She continued.
No hello, then I thought. Oh well, better be polite and let them in, it is a windy day, after all, I thought, having forgotten I was wearing my collar.
The look on their faces was, to say the least, a picture when the door fully swung open.
“Oh, are you a lay preacher, which denomination are you?” All formality this one.
“I am a fully ordained minister actually, Senior Ministry Leader of the New Spiritualists’ Society, Rev Nick, pleased to make your acquaintance.” I extended my hand. She ignored it.
“Of course, Spiritualism isn’t really a religion as such, is it? All of these people buying ordinations online with no training or true knowledge of the law.”
Nicely put I thought.
“Which law would that be my dear?” I asked politely holding back the urge to throw her out for her blatant rudeness. “The law of the land or the laws of God, because is it not written that that which God has given, let no man take away? And it is a legal right for religious orders to appoint their own teachers and ministers!”
“You Spiritualists’ only talk to demons masquerading as the dead, and as for the God you follow, well there is only one true God, and he is mine.” She was getting quite irritated with me, I could see, but the other woman remained silent, and although look uncomfortable, it seemed more embarrassment, than talking to this so-called devil worshipper. I think the first woman had forgotten that it was my door she had approached, not the other way round.
“I thought God loved everyone.” I pondered.
“Only if you admit you are wrong!” she snapped.
Okay, I thought, this does not ring true, as the vast majority of this kind of visitor is polite and not so right-wing!
“God is love, and all Gods are the same God, my dear, just interpreted differently by individuals, that is why there are so many religions, but trust me, they are all the same one it is just people’s way of looking at him.” I remained calm and polite.
“Rubbish!” she scolded. “It is forbidden to interpret the law of God; it is written so in the Bible!”
“But surely,” this was my favourite one, “in order to read, one must interpret; symbols and words mean different things to different people, this is why Christianity, though always based on the Bible has so much fragmentation.”
You must only read it as it was written, the way it was meant and the way WE do!”
“You mean the way YOU interpret the bible?
“I thought that was forbidden?”
“But our way is the right way!”
“Is that how you interpret it?”
I felt a little naughty at that point because the message wasn’t sinking in, and it never was going to either and this could have run on for hours, with no benefit to either of us. The good news was, however, the discomfort of the other woman had briefly been replaced by an understanding warm smile, and a mischievous glint in her eye as if you say, ‘well done’.
“Let me explain what I mean by all Gods are the same God.” I ended the previous line.
“Imagine for one moment, that God, is a tree.” I began one of my favourite parables.
“GOD IS NOT A TREE!” she yelled, “That is sacrilegious and blasphemy!”
“I didn’t say that my dear, I said ‘Imagine a moment that God is a tree’. It is a metaphor, a parable, I am sure you know what I mean now yes?” I continued quickly, so as not to be lynched or something. “Imagine God is a tree standing alone in the centre of a park. Now if you think about it, this is not that far a stretch. A tree gives shelter from the storm, as does God, a tree gives rest and shade to the weary, as does God. A tree bears fruits and sustenance, as does God, and a tree is part of the ecology of the world that gives us life,” I paused, “I think I make my point.”
“Now one day a group of travellers comes to the park, and sees the wonderful tree! They stand and stare at it and call out to it. The travellers, like in the old jokes, were from different countries, four of them in total. The Frenchman called out “Arbre!”, the German said “Baum!”, the Danish man spoke the word “Träd!”, and the one from England, simply said “Tree”. You see the names are different, but it is still the same thing, but depending upon where you are from, you may call it something else, but it is still the same. The meaning is the same, but the words are just different.”
“No it isn’t, it is called a tree, and that’s that!”
I felt quite downhearted at that reply, but the thoughtful look on the face of the quite woman gave me my wind back, I had made sense to her.
“Not if you are from France.” I said, “The meaning is the same, but the words are different.”
“Don’t talk rubbish, you aren’t making any sense! A tree is a tree and God is God, and they are two different things!” She slammed.
At this point, I knew I was going round in circles again if I wasn’t careful, and my ability to remain calm and polite tank was flashing the refill light.
I ended the conversation and wished them well in their task, and they began to continue their journey to the next door. The quiet woman did not leave straight away though, as the other one got to the bottom of the drive, blushed cheeks and shaking her head at my ignorance, the quiet woman looked me square in the face, took up my hand to shake it, and with a smile she spoke.
“Thank you for that.” She glanced behind her, “I guess some trees have roots that are so deep they will never budge, but I have always preferred the strength and flexibility of the Willow myself.”
She turned to walk away, but in my realisation that she had not just understood my words, but built upon them, I spoke what I was thinking, without thought or fear.
“It is true what is in the bible then?”
“Sorry?” she turned to me again.
“That the meek shall inherit the Earth!”
She gave a little and slightly embarrassed smile, taking the compliment for what it was, and with a wink of an eye, she crossed her fingers. I never knew if she heard my final comment, as I am not so sure it was said loud enough.
“I know so.”