God is like...
Over the last few weeks, one of the main topics we've discussed in our New Testament/Christology course has been the importance of parables. Coming from the Greek word meaning "comparison," we often experience the parables as powerful teachings shared with his listeners by Jesus to show what the Kingdom of God is like. I taught the students that the parable are "atomic bomb" stories - they should shatter our pre-conceived notions of God and their radiation should penetrate into the very core of our being. Too often, however, we banalize the parables and make them quaint little tales rather than experiencing them as the irruptive and challenging teaching moments Jesus intended them to be.
So this week, instead of a weekly sermon, I invited the students to write their own parables or short-sayings about God and the Kingdom. Some of them were mediocre: not a few typed in "God is like..." into Google, scrolled, down a few, and cut-and-paste the answers into their document (they will, of course, be re-doing the assignment over the weekend). Others, however, were profoundly creative and, I'd like to share a few of the better/funnier parables and short-sayings below:
- One student wrote a highly amusing Parable of the Yam. The gist of this tale is a rich, but stingy, farmer who loves growing yams above all other vegetables. Eventually, his yam crop begins to fail, causing great distress in the farmer. His prayer leads him to a great insight: his great passion for growing yams is nothing when there are people starving outside his farm's fence. So the farmer throws an enormous feast for the poor and hungry and, lo and behold, he realizes a bumper crop of yams. Moral: I cannot flourish if my sisters and brothers do not have enough to eat.
- God is like community college, no matter what struggles you may have they will always try to get you back on the right track.
- God is like football pads, he protects you from the blows dealt to you by others.
- God is like the kitchen: whenever I want to eat something, there is always something there for me.
- God is like the weather: something that shows itself in many ways and is always present, even if we don't acknowledge it.
- God is a carpenter who knows what we want but gives us what we need: where we want fences, God builds walkways.
I think each of these is great and their accompanying stories are really well done. There were others, too, that did a great job - but, given their highly personal nature, I won't post them.
And yet, there has to be a favorite. One student stands, to my mind, in the line of the great spiritual fathers and mothers of the Church. I have one student who ought to go off to a little cave where spiritual seekers might come to him and cry out, "Abba, give me a word of salvation!" I have one student whose insight into the nature of God is so profound, so earth shattering, and so dead-on that I'm still chuckling over it.
Faith in God is like deodorant: if everyone had it,
the world would be a much better place
In its simplicity, its elegance, and its factualness this is dead-on. Since I am forever exhorting my students to frequent and liberal application of deodorant, this one struck a chord with me and my own experience.
Truth be told, this is one of the better assignments I've given my students. It gave them a chance to apply their creativity to their faiths in order to craft an intimate picture of who God is for them, a relationship that they could then express to others.