IF WE THINK THE purpose of Jesus' stories is essentially to make a point as extractable as the moral at the end of a fable, then the inevitable conclusion is that once you get the point, you can throw the story itself away like the rind of an orange when you have squeezed out the juice. Is that true? How about other people's stories? What is the point of A Midsummer Night's Dream or The Iliad or For Whom the Bell Tolls? Can we extract the point in each case and frame it on the living room wall for our perpetual edification?
Or is the story itself the point and truth of the story? Is the point of Jesus' stories that they point to the truth about you and me and our stories? We are the ones who have been mugged, and we are also the ones who pass by pretending we don't notice. Hard as it is to believe, maybe every once in a while we are even the ones who pay an arm and a leg to help. The truth of the story is not a motto suitable for framing. It is a truth that one way or another, God help us, we live out every day of our lives. It is a truth as complicated and sad as you and I ourselves are complicated and sad, and as joyous and as simple as we are too. The stories that Jesus tells are about us. Once upon a time is our time, in other words.
- Originally published in The Clown in the Belfry