A friend of mine once told me that as a child, and before he was able to read, he would look forward every night to one of his parents telling him a bed time story. However, if he had been naughty that day, the punishment would be no bed time story that night. When that happened, he would go to bed very sad because he always looked forward to listening to a story. He looked forward to hearing… Once upon a time… then going to bed feeling good upon hearing… and they lived happily ever after. It is not only children who have a fascination for stories but adults too. According to a survey, approximately 8.5million fiction books were sold worldwide in the year 2009.
In my years as a priest, I have found that telling a story at the beginning of a sermon or a talk is a good way of capturing the attention of the audience. It would seem that the fascination for stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, cuts across all age and cultural barriers. What makes a good story? It is one that touches people in some way. That is why people flock to the cinemas for a good story, often to take away the stresses of daily life.
People tell stories in many different ways… poetry, narrative, gestures, song, art, etc. Why do people tell stories? Anthony de Mello said that ‘You have to understand that the shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story’. It is probably one of the better ways of communicating because of the human fascination and also it is easy for most people to associate with a story.
Jesus was a great “storyteller” and he often used parables to teach. His parables captured, challenged, probed, and fascinated his audience. I am sure the disciples recalled many of the parables of Jesus after he was no longer with them and used them effectively in preaching the gospel. It was a way of resonating with human experiences and explores cultural values in a concrete and profound way.
The parables of Jesus may sometimes sound “strange” in our culture…. seed, wheat, sheep… The examples that he used are often not part of our daily-lived experiences. However, that is the beauty of the parables of Jesus. The context may be outdated but the moral value is very much relevant to us and never goes outdated. The messenger may not be with us but the message remains. I guess every author hopes to write a bestseller but there can be none better that the parables of Jesus. It may lack an interesting plot, but they are life changing if we allow them to grow onto us.