There was a young anthropologist named Connie who worked among the aboriginal people in Australia. The community where she lived had a rich tradition of storytelling. Everyone gathered at night, and told a story, and then another, and another. Connie felt extraordinarily privileged when she was asked to join in this activity.
The first story told that evening was about the animal ancestor of this community and its adventures at the beginning of time. The story overflowed with detail, action and imagery.
At the end of the story, Connie was delighted. “May I ask a question?” she said. “What does it mean?”
All eyes were then focused on her. The elder looked at her gravely and said, “That is the one question you cannot ask.” A long time passed before she was invited again. She had asked the wrong question.
“What does it mean?” was the wrong question for Connie to ask about the aboriginal myth. It may also be the wrong question for us to ask about any of the stories told by Jesus. “What does it mean?” is the wrong question if we think that by having an answer, we can somehow get a handle on this story, domesticate it, or make it safe. That is usually what we do with the stories of Jesus – we make them safe.
The stories Jesus tells are not subject to our control. He tells these stories so that we can be transformed. He tells these stories, not so that we can ask questions about them, but so that the stories can ask questions of us.
The Prodigal Son story, the Good Samaritan story, the Pearl of Great Price story – What questions do these stories, these parables of Jesus ask of you?