Hank and Stewart can look at the same tree and see it in two different ways. Stewart will see a tree. You can climb it. You can sit under its shade when there are leaves. Hank will visualize what that tree can become – what can be built with it.
Our theme this month is on “becoming more Christ like”. My first lesson was on parables, why Jesus taught in parables, and perhaps the class could share some of their favorites and why.
Hank let out a sigh. “I HATE parables!” he said. “I just don’t understand them.”
Stewart said he likes them. Not only are they entertaining, but you can also learn something.
Why did Jesus teach in parables? The Pharisees had condemned him from teaching. Threatening him with prisonment, I believe.
But this is the answer he gave to his disciples: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven . . .” – Matt 13:11
Those that were in tune to the Spirit found a message in these stories – while those that were hard-hearted (such as the Pharisees) saw him as nothing more than a story teller. At least he wasn’t trying to profess religion, right.
It wasn’t until I was giving this lesson that it occurred to me that those being taught received the message that they needed to hear – and it may not have been the same message as others may have heard. They took home the message that was needed in their lives at that given time.
Take “The Prodigal Son” for instance. There may be one in the audience who finds the story as one of repentance and may see the father in the story as Our Father in Heaven who will always be excited to see us – no matter what mistakes we have made.
Another may see this as a story of forgiveness – that we love our children unconditionally and accept their willingness to return to us.
I had always looked at this story from his brother’s point of view: “Are you kidding me? I have worked my fingers to the bone while my brother is out splurging his inheritance and now you are ready to give him a fancy feast as though he has done nothing wrong? When was the last time you honored me at a party?”
For me, this has been a story about pride. I need to change my heart and be as overjoyed as the Father that my brother or my sister is returning. I should think of others and not dwell on how I was treated unfairly. Some people compare this scripture to the parable of the lost talent or the parable of the lost sheep. I compare it to the parable of the laborers in the vineyard who have sweat and labored all day only to have the last shift waltz in at the last hour to get the same exact wages as I do. It wasn’t until I had this lesson that I looked at the parable in a new light.
Hank made many great comments as he participated in class. One of them was that he believes that sometimes we tarry, sometimes we labor – which we do. He also said that one of his most favorite things about church was/is the diversity. He didn’t actually use the word diversity, but he said he enjoyed listening to others make comments and realize that there are different ways of looking at the same tree.
Of course the tree is just a metaphor. I didn’t actually use the word “tree” anywhere in my lesson. I focused on parables from Matthew 25 and the parable of “the Good Samaritan.” I also pointed out that those who are in tune may find messages in other works of literature such as Les Miserable in which M. Russell Ballard uses the account of Jean Vel Jean found in this post or Dieter F. Uchtdorfs mention of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch found in this post or my own mention of comparing the sneetches to the parable of the sheep and the goats or this post comparing Brave's "will-o-the-wisp" to Liahona.
Actually there is a lot we can find in what we watch. Allow me to use “Tinkerbell” as an example. It doesn’t seem to matter which version – overall she seems to have a good heart, but ends up allowing pride to overshadow obedience to command. In the story of "Peter Pan" Tinkerbell jumps to conclusions and stops listening to what Pan or even Wendy is trying to tell her.
In the movie "Tinkerbell" she isn't happy with her assigned role as a tinker and (despite the advise or command of the head fairy) uses her free agency to explore the roles of each of the other fairies hoping to find a more exciting job than tinker. She ends up making things worse not only for herself but for all the fairies and all those that depend on the talents of the fairies.
And the most recent (at least that I know of) is abc's "Once Upon a Time" in which she meets Regina - the wicked and miserable queen. Tinkerbell believes that she can repair damage that was done and help Regina regain hope and lose the anger. The Blue Fairy tells Tinkerbell that Regina is too far gone and cannot be saved, but Tinkerbell insists she can. She disobeys the Blue Fairy and puts her own self at risk - which results in hardening her heart and entering the same darkness as Regina.
But Tinkerbell is always given the opportunity to repent. She may make the same mistakes again and again but eventually she is forgiven. Our Father's love will always forgive. We do make mistakes. We need to in order to grow. It's part of the plan. It's what makes us stronger - if we have the desire to change.
My next lesson will be from this talk. If we humble ourselves to be teachable, we will understand the message we need to understand at the time we need to understand it. The parable we think we know so well will all the sudden have new meaning. God does speak to us through scriptures, but He also works through other parts of the media if we will allow ourselves to be humble so that we may see.