(A Parable for Today)
As told by the Rev. Terry Elsberry on Sunday, March 14, 2021.
I’m going to do something different today. Instead of preaching a sermon, I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story that just came to me, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s a simple little story, as if written for children. It really did just come to me. I wrote as fast as I could, hardly thinking as a wrote. It was almost like some kind of automatic writing.
When I’d finished, I prayed. I said, “Lord, why did I get this story?”
Immediately a single word flashed through my mind. The word parable.
The parable form of storytelling was one Jesus used often when He was on earth. A parable is a story that leaves the listener wondering Why? Why did He tell this story? What am I supposed to get from it, learn from this simple little story?
Because when Jesus told His parables, he almost never told the people what He wanted them to learn. He purposely left it open-ended. He left it up to them to figure out how the story applied to their understanding of reality. He made them do the mind-expanding work of finding the spiritual meaning in the stories He told. I’m asking you to do the same today with this story the Lord has given me. What can you find here that might apply to your life?
You know about angels. You know, the big, tall, beings dressed in white robes. They look like people except they have wings and wear halos on their heads. Some people say they don’t believe in angels. They say angels aren’t real. But angels are real. Trust me I know. I am one. My name’s Rigel and I’m an angel.
Angels glow in the dark. Actually, we glow all the time, but you humans can almost never see us, so you don’t see us glowing. We live in heaven with God. But lots of times we come down to earth to help you humans out of jams. But we almost always come invisible. We CAN materialize—which means we can let you see us. But we almost never do.
As I said, I’m an angel. But for a very long time, I wasn’t like the other angels. I didn’t really want to be an angel. What I really wanted to be was a kid—a boy like human boys.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I never found being an angel all that interesting. So I slacked off. I never got to angel meetings on time. Other angels kept their halos polished so they were always bright and shiny. I never shined my halo, and it was always on crooked.
Most angels are very serious. They have serious work to do—God’s work. But no one ever gave me many jobs—just things like running messages back and forth to more important angels than I was.
And that was fine with me. I didn’t want to be serious. What I really wanted to do was play baseball. It was a game I’d discovered on my trips to earth. I tried to find other angels to play with me in heaven. Nobody would. I made my own bat out of a big tree limb. I dug up a piece of gold from one of the streets. (You know in heaven the streets are all paved with gold. Not fake gold. Real gold. You ought to see those streets shine!) I dug up a piece of gold curbing, melted it down, and made a baseball out of it.
When it was ready, I took off my halo and put it in my pocket. I grabbed my bat and ball and flew down to heaven to play ball with some boys. I let myself materialize. So they could see me. I said, “Hey, guys, wanna’ play ball?” It was no good. The boys took one look at me and wanted nothing to do with me. “Hey, check it out, this dude thinks it’s Halloween. He’s wearing wings! And what’s with the white bathrobe? Freak. Weirdo.”
Sad, dejected, I flew back home.
But that’s when it happened. That’s when I got the call. A call from one of the most famous angels of all. His name is Gabriel. He carries messages from God, from God Himself, to the other angels and sometimes even to people on earth.
Gabriel is something to look at. For one thing, he’s taller than the average angel. I’d say about twice as tall as I am. And you can’t believe how HIS halo shines. And He has the deepest voice of any angel I ever heard. When he calls you, you stop in your tracks.
The day Gabriel called me my whole life changed. He said God had chosen me to do one of the most important angel jobs there is. What was it? God was about to send His Son down from heaven to become a human and teach the people about God. That was amazing, I thought. Who could imagine such a thing as that? But the next thing Gabriel told me was even more out of sight.
He told me God had decided I would go with His Son—His Son’s name’s Jesus—and be assigned to Jesus the whole time He was on earth. It wouldn’t be long. In heaven time, it would feel really short. But Gabriel said I had the most important job of all. I was going to be Jesus’ own angel on earth.
My whole life changed after that. I spent most days with Jesus. Though He was the only one who could see me. His earthly father was a carpenter. I went with Jesus when He had His carpentry lessons. I learned a lot about carpentry.
What do carpenters do? One, they build things. Two, they fix things.
When Jesus grew up, He went around from town to town. I went with Him. We moved around the countryside. We hooked up with people, all kinds of people. Jesus especially liked being with the people no one else paid any attention to. People who were very poor or very sick or very sad, who didn’t have enough to eat. Some didn’t even have a house to sleep in. They had to sleep outdoors every night. No matter how cold it got. Or they didn’t have any friends. Or they were sick or blind or handicapped in some way.
But Jesus had a special love for all those people. I began to see He was doing with people what His earthly father had taught Him to do with wood: build things and repair things. Only now Jesus was doing His building and His repairing with people.
A table or chair can get broken and need repairing. But what does it mean when a person gets broken? It means they’re very sad for some reason.
So Jesus spent almost all his time repairing people! It was the most amazing thing. It was beautiful. And I was proud of my friend, my friend, God’s Son Jesus. He’s the most wonderful person who ever lived. He came to earth to show the world what God is really like. I was so proud to be His friend and His own personal angel. It’s the greatest honor an angel can have.
All my life before, I’d never suspected God had anything important for me to do. And look what He did for me—what He did WITH me! For the first time I was proud to be an angel. From then on, I shined my halo every day.
So what message does this little story, this parable, have for you?