Monday, December 24, 2007

Parable of the Cave

This story is a joint creation with my friend YoungMin Park. We designed this story specifically for our Christmas worship service, to reshape the idea of what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World. YoungMin designed all of the pictures, and our friend Elisa Sutherland read the story during the worship service.

Once upon a time there was a people who lived in a very dark place. In fact, they lived in a cave. But they did not know it was a cave, for they knew only their darkness.

They lived in darkness. They ate in darkness. They slept in darkness. They woke in darkness. All of their lives were spent in darkness, and they knew nothing else.

Life in darkness is difficult. Life in darkness causes problems.

If they stood to walk, they were likely to fall down and hurt themselves. So everyone crawled. Everywhere. All the time.

Because they could not see, they did not know when they were dirty and when they were not. Their skin and clothes were usually dirty and damp from life in a dark cave.

The water and food supply were also not so good. The water was dirty and full of unhealthy minerals from the earth. Their food was simply the bugs and small creatures that live underground.

They lived with a variety of diseases from the darkness: skin rashes, vitamin deficiencies, back problems, parasites, and infections.

Because of the darkness, they lived with a constant sense of instability. They were overly protective of their belongings and territory. When they bumped into each other, they became hostile, always fearing that someone was coming to take what little they had.

As if all of this was not enough, there was a dragon who lived at one end of the very large cave. He was the king of the cave. He had to be appeased at all times. He was given sacrifices of food, belongings, and even children. Usually the sacrifices kept him at bay, but sometimes – with or without cause – the dragon would breathe fire into the cave or sweep his massive tail through the darkness and kill many people. Life in the darkness was mostly beyond their control, but when the dragon struck, they felt completely helpless.

However, they were not completely hopeless. They had the prophecy. Somehow down through the generations, a prophecy had been preserved. Fathers told it to their children when they were hunting for bugs. Mothers explained the prophecy at bed time. The prophecy was very important to them. It gave them hope.

This was the prophecy: “A star will come. A star will bring healing. A star will bring freedom. A star will bring new life.”

Now they saw the star. For many years, for many decades, they had seen the star. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy. They began to worship this great star, the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams. The star had come! They sang songs to the star. They prayed prayers to the star. They gave gifts to the star. The star had come! The star will bring healing! The star will bring freedom! The star will bring new life!

They dreamed of how the star would help them. They dreamed of having better food in their cave. They dreamed of having clean water in their cave. They dreamed of having a more loving, caring community in their cave. They dreamed of being free from the dragon, maybe even killing the dragon, in their cave. The star would make life better in their cave.

But it didn’t. Life was just the same in the cave. The darkness was the same. The food was the same. The pain was the same. The dragon was the same. The fear was the same. The star had come, but life was still the same. The people did not understand, but they continued to worship the star. This was their only hope.

One day a new person appeared in their community. He was just like them, but he was different. He was not full of fear and mistrust. He did not have the diseases they had. He was not afraid of the dragon. But most of all, he said he was not from the cave.

They did not understand. “What do you mean? You’re not from ‘our cave’? What is a ‘cave’? What do you mean you’re not from ‘the darkness’? What is ‘darkness’? What do you mean you are from ‘the world above’? What is ‘above’? What do you mean you are from ‘the light’? What is ‘light’?” They did not understand this stranger.

This stranger spoke strange things to them. He said things that were against everything they had ever known. It almost sounded as if he was speaking against the prophecy. Some people thought he was crazy. Some people thought he was evil. Some people said they should just ignore him. Some people said they should kill him.

One day the people gathered to listen to him one last time. This is what he said, “I am glad you have seen the star. The star is your source of hope. The star will bring you healing. The star will bring you freedom. The star will bring you new life. But the star is not a star. The star is actually a hole. I have created this hole. I dug this hole with my own hands. I am from the world above, where we live in a completely different way, a much better way. The star that you see is actually light from the world above shining into your world.

“I am glad that you have seen this star. The star will give you healing and freedom and peace and new life. But it will not give you any of this here in your cave. The star is a light shining to show you the way out of your cave, the way out of your darkness, into a new world, a world filled with light, a world full of peace and love and healing. My friends, it is time to stop worshiping the star.”

At this the crowd erupted in anger: “Blasphemy! Heretic! Evil one! We should kill him now. He is speaking against the star!”

But somehow he was able to quiet them down again, and he continued: “My friends, I say that it is time to stop worshiping the star only because it is time to start following the star. The star is the path to freedom. The star is the path to real life. I believe in the star! I have followed its path. If you believe in the star, it is not enough to sing about the star and to pray to the star here in your cave. If you really believe in the star, you will follow the star out of your darkness into the light.”

When the stranger finished his speech, he began walking toward the star. Some people who believed began walking with him. Arm in arm, they followed the star. It was not always easy. The way was difficult and rocky. They were not used to walking like this. They were not used to life outside their darkness. But they supported each other. They helped each other. They picked each other up when they fell.

And as they followed the star, the star grew brighter and larger. They began to understand a little bit of this “whole new world” that the star revealed. And seeing a little of this new world gave them strength to keep walking.

Eventually, they reached the star, and they discovered that the stranger was right. The prophecy was true. The star did come. The star did bring them healing. The star did bring them freedom. The star did bring a whole new life. The prophecy was true. The prophecy had been fulfilled!

But it was completely different from what they expected. The star was not a star. The star was a pathway to a whole new world, a world they didn’t know even existed. The star was a pathway to a whole new life, a life they hadn’t even dreamed was even possible.

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