What is real?

Stew The Rabbit and I are off to take a school assembly soon. I hope he is ready for this. I have told him what it is I want him to say and do, but he has a mind of his own and sometimes ad libs in ways I am not expecting.

There have been several occasions when I have been asked if he’s a real rabbit, or told that he’s not real. These comments usually come from children (but not exclusively – you know who you are!) and I have developed a response that usually either satisfies or silences them, depending on the intent behind their question / comment.

“He’s a real puppet,” is how I respond. It’s a sentence that is truthful, yet without meaning. What does it really mean that Stew is a real puppet? Yes it’s obvious that he’s a puppet, and no he’s not actually alive, but I hope that through my puppetry and conversation with him he has personality and ‘life’. I guess in that sense he’s real.

The phrase was meant to obscure and confuse, but it also seems to disarm and delight. Some people want him to be real and I don’t want to disillusion them.

I think Jesus has a way of doing the same sort of thing with his parables. They were not true stories in the sense that they were not news reports or recounting of actual events. But they were true because they contained truth about life, about God, about who Jesus is and about how faith. I wonder if a wide-eyed child ever asked him, “Mister, is that a true story?”

And would he have replied, “It’s a true parable”?

I like to think so.

So, what’s your favourite parable Jesus told? And what’s the truth within?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

The prodigal son in the key of F (I first saw a version of this in ‘Frogs in Cream’, you can find it in lots of places on tinternet)

Feeling footloose and fancy-free a featherbrained fellow forced his father to fork over his farthings. Fast he flew to foreign fields and frittered his family’s fortune, feasting fabulously with floozies and faithless friends. Flooded with flattery he financed a full-fledged fling of “funny foam” and fast food.

Fleeced by his fellows in folly, facing famine, and feeling faintly fuzzy, he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy foreign farmyard. Feeling frail and fairly famished, he fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from the fodder fragments.

“Fooey,” he figured, “my father’s flunkies fare far fancier,” the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, facing the facts. Finally, frustrated from failure and filled with foreboding (but following his feelings) he fled from the filthy foreign farmyard.

Faraway, the father focused on the fretful familiar form in the field and flew to him and fondly flung his forearms around the fatigued fugitive. Falling at his father’s feet, the fugitive floundered forlornly, “Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor.”

Finally, the faithful Father, forbidding and forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged the flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast.

Faithfully, the father’s first-born was in a fertile field fixing fences while father and fugitive were feeling festive. The foreman felt fantastic as he flashed the fortunate news of a familiar family face that had forsaken fatal foolishness. Forty-four feet from the farmhouse the first-born found a farmhand fixing a fatling.

Frowning and finding fault, he found father and fumed, “Floozies and foam from frittered family funds and you fix a feast following the fugitive’s folderol?” The first-born’s fury flashed, but fussing was futile. The frugal first-born felt it was fitting to feel “favoured” for his faithfulness and fidelity to family, father, and farm. In foolhardy fashion, he faulted the father for failing to furnish a fatling and feast for his friends. His folly was not in feeling fit for feast and fatling for friends; rather his flaw was in his feeling about the fairness of the festival for the found fugitive.

His fundamental fallacy was a fixation on favoritism, not forgiveness. Any focus on feeling “favoured” will fester and friction will force the faded facade to fall. Frankly, the father felt the frigid first-born’s frugality of forgiveness was formidable and frightful. But the father’s former faithful fortitude and fearless forbearance to forgive both fugitive and first-born flourishes.

The farsighted father figured, “Such fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivity for the fugitive that is found? Unfurl the flags and finery, let fun and frolic freely flow. Former failure is forgotten, folly is forsaken. Forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortune.”

Stew the Rabbit

I have just come from telling a story to the toddlers and parents of our Bright Sparks group. I say that I told the story, actually it was a story that was told with the help of my assistant – Stew the Rabbit (see photo). He tries to be helpful (and usually fails) but is loved by most people who meet him and keeps the attention of children and adults alike.

Stew has been a regular companion of mine for many years (he ages better than me) – going into schools, taking assemblies and helping me in all age services at church. From the reaction he gets I am fairly confident that he is more popular than me. I don’t mind being upstaged by a bunny so long as the message gets across. Occasionally a child says, “He’s just a puppet!”

My response always flummoxes them, “Yes, but he’s a real puppet!”

Today he showed us a car that he loved but had lost. It was found by someone else and put into a charity shop where Stew saw it but had to buy it back. He gladly did so because he loved his car so much. This was intended to be a modern parable. I am not sure how well it worked. Only time will tell!

Parables are on my mind at the moment as Lynsey and I are planning to explore some of Jesus’ parables at our church holiday soon. Today we will attempt to decide which ones we will explore. While there are the famous ones like the Good Samaritan and the Lost (Prodigal) Son I am tempted to go for some of the less well-known ones…

At this stage I do not know whether Stew will be coming to help me. He’s keen, but then so are Afor Ape and Christopher Peter Duck (Chris P Duck for short).

A ventriloquist was doing his act at a comedy club and was making fun of one particular member of the audience who was wearing a baseball cap. The ventriloquist kept making comments suggesting that the baseball cap-wearing member of the audience was below standard intelligence because…

he was wearing a hat inside to keep the sun out of his eyes

he was in the wrong place if he wanted to play baseball

he was only wearing the hat to make everyone think he wasn’t bald

he had misunderstood when his girlfriend asked for a cappucino and was wearing a cap and chinos

As you will have noticed the jokes were not good and all they succeeded in doing was wind up the cap-wearer.

Finally the cap-wearer had enough. He stood up and shouted: “I’ve had enough!” (see, I told you he’d had enough). “I am fed up with you making comments about how stupid you think I am just because I am wearing a cap inside.”

The ventriloquist started to apologise when the cap-wearer interrupted him.

“Shut up, mate! I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the little fella on your knee.”