Think on These Things: Good storytelling

In the short stories we call parables, Jesus used common events to bring home heavenly truths

A good storyteller can communicate great truths and fine tales which sooth the soul and entertain the spirit. Several years ago, back in my corrections chaplain days, we had a member of the Kwakiutl first nation join us in a workshop. Wedlidi Speck was brought in to help us understand some of the problems facing Coastal B.C.’s first nations. His workshop was interesting, but what really stood out to me were Mr. Speck’s stories. He got to telling the stories at our request after the day’s session had ended.

One of those stories involved all the mice of the forest escaping into the cones of Douglas fir trees. I have forgotten just what was supposed to have scared the mice or caused them to shrink, but look at a cone and you will see what appear to be little tails sticking out between each scale.

I’ve tried to develop a good storytelling ability, but I have never quite gotten the knack of it. Preachers who can communicate well are often gifted storytellers with a talent for making the difficult simple and understandable.

Jesus was a storyteller. In the short stories we call parables, he used common events to bring home heavenly truths.

One of the best known of the parables speaks of a son leaving home rather sloppily after requesting his inheritance before dad died. Sonny wanted to have a fling. Dad accommodated, and the son squandered the money. The sloppy leaving turned into a nightmare, with the son eating hog slop in pigpens. That’s not something a good Jewish boy would wish to do.

The son went home and the father took him back. In fact, he welcomed him to the chagrin of his stay-at-home brother. This story of the prodigal son is found in the Bible (Luke 15). Jesus’ point was: “God will welcome us home no matter how bad we have been.”

Preachers have often preached a too complicated message. May you know the simple story of Jesus.

– Lloyd Strickland