“Why do You speak to them in parables?”
Parable of The Physician – Luke 4:23
People believed Jesus was born a sinner like them, but he in fact lived a sinless life.
Josh was standing near a multi-pane window that hadn’t been cleaned in some time. The thin layer of dirt provided a soft diffused light that was perfect for his performance. He was reading from a leather-bound Bible. The book of Matthew. Chapter thirteen. His casual dress, T-shirt and shorts, gave the recital a comfortable tone. He was reading from the heart; deeply moved by every word. “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand: for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.”
Emily was politely listening just a few feet away standing near a large banquet style folding table. Behind her, the room was floor to ceiling wooden storage shelves filled with all manner of packaged food; cereal, pasta, canned goods, rice, beans, all being sorted through by a rugged looking woman in her late forties. Susan Archer was in charge of the local food bank and she wasn’t about to slow down to listen to Josh’s verse of the day.
Emily didn’t like seeing Susan working all by herself and tried to redirect Josh toward the task at hand. “Didn’t we come here to work?” She asked Josh.
“I’m reading from the Bible.” Josh replied, expecting the required reference for the text.
“Sorry. Continue.” Emily said, thinking this can’t go on much longer.
Without a note of hesitation, Josh continued reading from the book of Matthew, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
With that, Josh flipped his Bible closed and slipped it into a backpack resting on a nearby chair. Emily was slightly confused by Josh’s desire to start the day with a Bible reading, since only a few days previous he was talking about moving away from Bible study. “I thought you wanted to stop studying the Bible and put God’s instruction to work,” she said.
Josh was already beginning to help pack food boxes as he responded to Emily. “Just a little Biblical perspective before we get busy. And for the record, I discovered I can’t stop studying the Bible, it’s in my blood. I’m still committed to serving God more than I study about him though.”
Carrying a box filled with several bags of pasta, Susan approached the table where Josh and Emily were working. Placing the box on the table for Josh and Emily to divvy up, she paused just long enough to make eye contact with Josh. “We have plenty for you to do here, Josh,”
Josh admired the work Susan was doing and glowed with pride to be helping. He felt he was doing God’s work serving at the food pantry. But it wasn’t enough. He wanted to do more. “I wonder if it would be possible to spend a whole day doing only what God wants rather than what I want?” Josh queried out loud.
“You can’t be perfect,” Emily said. “Jesus was the only perfect human. Perfect in every way. Because he was a manifestation of God himself.”
After placing a large box of various breakfast cereals on the table for Josh and Emily, Susan stopped long enough to connect with Josh again. “You’re doing what God wants at this moment,” she offered. “You’re perfect in this moment. That’s probably the best we can hope for. Bright moments of perfect service to God.”
The Christian College Josh and Emily attended was fairly modern in its design, with beautifully landscaped walkways, plenty of open space, and an appropriate measure of academic presence. It was a bright, sunny day. Josh was sharing a bench with Emily watching the student bodies move about on their way to class, on their way to study in the library, on their way home. Most were committed Christians, but a good deal were only half-hearted Christians. Some were only attending a Christian college because their parents gave them no other choice.
Emily had her eyes closed and head tilted back to soak up some sun. She was decompressing before deep diving back into her next class. Her thoughts had drifted down to the beach where she could hear the seagulls calling her name. Then the voice of Josh brought her back to the moment.
“Did you take statistics yet?” Josh asked as he reached for a book in his backpack.
Emily opened one eye and looked over at Josh, “I took it last semester.”
“Then you’ve got to start helping me out because it’s melting my brain,” Josh said.
Emily opened both eyes and joined Josh, ready to help, “It’s not that bad.”
“It’s that bad. Nobody likes statistics,” Josh said.
Emily gave Josh a perplexed look. She honestly didn’t understand why anyone would protest studying statistics. Emily loved analyzing data. Why wouldn’t you, she thought.
Josh appealed to the small group of students hanging out nearby. With a loud voice he called out, “Does anybody like statistics?”
Emily was surprised when the entire group responded in unison with a resounding NO!
Josh gave Emily a look that spoke volumes. He was telling her that she’s different. Not different in a bad way. Different in a good way. Josh let the weight of the moment pass before continuing, then switched gears. “Nevertheless…” he said. “I was wondering if we could use statistics to figure out how much time we spend each day serving God.”
Emily smiled. She loved it when Josh had a problem he wanted her to help solve. “You’re serving God when you help others. So how much time do you spend helping others?”
“Not that much, because I’m busy going to school, studying, eating, and sleeping.”
“I think God wants you to sleep and eat,” Emily said. Then it occurred to her there might be an exception. “As long as you’re not eating junk food,” she added.
“So if I eat broccoli I’m serving God, but I’m serving myself when I eat pie?”
“Right,” Emily responded, not fully committed to her answer. “And if you’re going to school and studying with the intention of helping others rather than make a lot of money for yourself, you’re probably serving God as well.”
“Do you have statistical data to back that up?” Josh asked.
“No,” Emily said as she closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and returned to her vision of the beach and the wistful calls of the seagulls.
Later that day, Josh and Emily made their weekly pilgrimage to the local senior citizen assisted living facility. Along with a small group of students, they would fan out in the recreation room and join the seniors in various activities. It was a nicely decorated room with small tables that were perfect for any number of various activities. Some of the students were playing dominoes with seniors, some were putting together puzzles with seniors, and others were just sitting on the couch talking.
Beverly watched Emily enter the room from her wheelchair and smiled as they made eye contact. Beverly was closing in on ninety years old but carried the spirit of a woman much younger. She was sitting with her good friend David, also in his late eighties, wearing a plaid, short sleeve shirt and a smile that would make anyone feel welcome. Josh followed Emily as she approached the table. “Are we playing cards again today, Beverly?” Emily asked as she sat down.
“I thought we’d play a round of Go Fish. I know it’s your favorite.” Beverly replied.
“It’s really the only card game I’m good at.” Emily admitted.
Josh slid into his seat at the table as Beverly removed a deck of cards from the box and passed them in his direction. “Deal,” she said.
The group quickly settled into what was a familiar routine. They each scooped up their cards as they flew across the table. Josh decided to get some advice from his older and wiser friends and talked as he was dealing the cards. “Do you guys think God wants us to eat pie?”
David took his eyes off of his cards and looked at Josh with a confused expression. Beverly looked over at Emily for some help.
“I told Josh earlier that you might not be serving God when you’re eating junk food,” Emily explained.
Josh finished his card dealing and then addressed his two elderly friends with tongue-in-cheek sincerity. “Didn’t Jesus eat pie? If Jesus ate pie that means we can eat pie.”
David picked up his cards and began to sort through them while contemplating Josh’s question. The others were preparing their cards as well when David offered his opinion. “I’m afraid the Bible is silent on pie, Josh. Got any fours?”