Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
In recent episodes, we looked at twenty stories Jesus told. Today, let’s think about what we’ve learned from them.
I once asked a missionary, “Has your theology changed in forty years since you graduated?”
He rightly understood it as a trick question. If I believed theology was fixed and should never change, his answer might make him look like a heretic. But if he hadn’t changed in 40 years, it might look like he wasn’t thinking and growing?
He replied wisely and honestly: that his main discovery since graduation was that scripture gives us not a system of theology, but mostly stories to believe.
He was right. The central article of our faith is the story of Jesus. Our English word “gospel” comes from Old English “gōd spel”, which means “good story”.
In C. S. Lewis’ story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the children discovered that the back of their wardrobe sometimes became an entrance to the world of Narnia. In the wardrobe of my life, Jesus’ stories serve that function. My closet is full of worn out clothes and dubious ideas. But when I enter life through the stories of Jesus, they invite me into a new world with different characters and different plot. Jesus broadens my perspective to the possibility of new adventures in a new country.
That’s how Jesus’ stories work for me. They aren’t just entertainment in the crowded wardrobe of my life. Instead, they tell me who I am, they paint a picture of the person I could be, they tell me where I could go if I step out of my wardrobe into the country of grace.
As I listen to Jesus’ stories, I am the woman making bread from 60 pounds of flour, using a bit of yeast to make the whole batch rise. In the back of my flour-dusted, doughy, yeasty wardrobe, Jesus promises, “If you let just a little of my kingdom into your life, and soon I will change all of it.”
I am the prodigal who prefers parties and entertainment to life on the father’s farm. I fill my days with video games and Facebook and YouTube and messaging. But in the back of my cluttered, computer-driven social media wardrobe is a land where the father waits with open arms of welcome and forgiveness. Shall I run into his arms today?
I am the prodigal’s older brother, regular at church, faithful in service, careful about my duties, insistent that all prodigals deserve law and order, not mercy. I stand with feet firmly apart and pistol ready to protect the family farm and the local religion from wayward and irresponsible and violent prodigals. But in the back of my righteous and well-ordered wardrobe, the father invites me to a new land where forgiveness reigns, where severity and self-protection give way to partying with prodigals.
In Jesus’ story, I also become the father. If I look out the back of my wardrobe, I see a neighbourhood of people who need relationships and faith and life. Maybe it’s my turn to play the father, to come out of my closet, and kill the fatted calf, and light the barbeque, and throw a party for the whole neighbourhood.
O Jesus, your stories invite us not to refine our theology, but to live our best lives, to move out of the narrow confines we live in, to explore the expanse of your country. O Jesus, touch our hearts with your stories, help us imagine the bigger and better life you offer. Help us find our way through the back of our wardrobe into the country where you are king.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.