By John Thomas Tuft

Once upon a time there was a rich and prosperous land, filled with good and well-intentioned people who loved their land and their place in it. The rich got richer, the poor groaned about being left behind, the powerful sought ways to increase their power, and the powerless watched and told themselves, “if only…” One day, a stranger arrived and summoned all believers to a large downtown church. When they had assembled together, he stood up or sat down, depending on your exegetical bent, and addressed them each by name. And, after introducing himself as the StoryGuide, (It’s a Greekrewmaic word) began to teach them.  

“Why do humans always assume that finding ways to make life longer and easier for themselves is the highest good in all the world?” asked the StoryGuide. “Or, that those with some disability, disease or disorder are either a special tragedy or, a particular blessing, sent from some divine arbiter of winners and losers? Or who told them that death is some sort of evil force stalking the land, rounding up unwilling or unsuspecting victims?”   And they knew not how to answer him. So, he took them out of the large worship hall in the city and into the land of suburbia and sat them down around the tables and accoutrements of a McDonald’s eating establishment.

And after they disputed among themselves asking, do you eat the fries first while they are piping hot, or wait to savor them after devouring the Big Mac, dipped one by one in catsup, he told them a story. There once was a man who lived right up the hill here on Pittsburgh Street, with his family who considered the kingdom of God to be like a junk drawer. It is filled with old batteries, string, broken pens, expired coupons, half-burned candles, long lost letters, loose stamps, cords for devices long gone, twisty ties, flashlights covered in grime, 3in1 Oil, baby pacifier, rubber bands, buttons. And old certificates adorned with gold stars from long ago achievements.”

“What do all these have in common?” he asked. And they, being from all denominations, looked at him with lack of understanding as they sipped their milkshakes and soft drinks.  “They are ready for what used to be. They are temporary fixes, only good for old problems.” The followers were distraught and more than a little miffed. “But we do a lot of good things with our junk drawers. We preach hope and joy and…and….LOVE! Yes, we tell people about love from above.” And the StoryGuide sucked hard at the last of the milkshake in his cup, making that unmistakable slurping sound, then finished with a loud, satisfying belch.

“When the Master of that house returns, what good will a junk drawer be? If what you offer is a drawer filled with junk, the Master will empty that drawer and scatter it about. He will demolish that kitchen and destroy that house. Yes, you offer your buildings to those who have traded their consciences for medication, but offering them old fixes does not fix your heart’s desire. Filling your building with day care does not fill your own need for care. Having an educated professional theologian preach to you has never answered one lost child’s heartfelt prayer.” He stood up and asked, “Does anyone want one of those tasty hot cherry pies while we’re here?”

And the people were stirred to anger. “How dare you question our calling! This is not the second coming, that much is for sure.” The StoryGuide collected their trash and deposited it in the receptacles. “Who said it was? What is this calling you speak of? You have imagined yourselves to be some sort of chosen few. Got it into your minds that you are especially anointed, chosen and ordained–to do what? Monitor and preserve junk drawers?”  He purchased a cherry pie and took a bite. It was way too hot, of course. He screamed at the pain of the roof of his mouth burning. “I just came to tell you stories,” he managed to get out. “Then why did you bring us here?” they asked. He shrugged, “I was hungry, and I didn’t want to eat alone. Who does?”

After he called for an Uber to come take him away, they clamored after him, beseeching, “At least teach us how to pray.” They were startled when he laughed, loudly, even though his mouth still hurt. “Kangaroo,” he said. “Pray like kangaroos?” asked the elders and deacons and clergy and custodians, etc. He shook his head. “No. Prayer is a kangaroo word. Its synonym is there in the middle. Pouched like a baby kangaroo.” As he climbed into the back seat of his ride, he said, “If you have not already said yes, don’t even bother telling the divine what needs to happen.” And he was gone, as surely as he had come.

Words are magic and writers are wizards.