If folks a thousand years from now preach sermons on your life, what would they walk away with…
Those are the opening lyrics to a song I wrote several years ago. My reading yesterday in IMAGE journal reminded me of it by way of an interview with Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Columbia. Brueggemann’s work came to my attention through a couple of books on “The Prophetic Imagination”, and his early comments in the interview I was reading dealt with imagination as it relates to biblical faith. He cites the work of Paul Ricoeur as being “seminal” in his thinking, especially as it related to Ricoeur’s comments on the parables of Christ. In looking up Ricoeur’s work, I came across a great little (I say little, it’s pretty long and dense) work by a woman named Sallie McFague, an “American Feminist Christian Theologian”, according to Wikipedia. Apparently McFague is all about metaphor–”theology is mostly fiction”–which, needless to say, appeals to me.
In the article I was perusing, written in 1975, she quotes Ricoeur as arguing that the forms of the “discourse” of Jesus is just as important as the content, and that the intentional use of parable is to be taken seriously, that Jesus was up to something not only because of what he thought, but because of who he was. Then she asserts an arresting idea: Jesus didn’t just speak in parables–Jesus was a parable.
The parables Jesus told, according to McFague, were not ideas to be pondered, but events demanding response. She suggests that Jesus life did not announce the kingdom of God–it was the Kingdom of God.
Immediately, I thought of our lives as parables, which brings me back to the lyric at the top of this post. What parable are you living out? In what way does our life in the everyday living call forth a response from those who encounter our story? And by encounter I don’t mean encounter the “telling of the story”, but the “living of the story.” The “living word” is a call to a theatre of action and metaphor and presence, and now I’m back in the realm where I belong.
Metaphor, action, theatre, parable, Christ, art, and imagination.
Pay attention to the parable you’re living….