refiner’s fire and falling sparrows

All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
(Matthew 13:34-35)

I will turn my ear to a proverb.
I will utter my riddle on the harp….
(Psalm 49:4)

Everyone loves stories.

Our heavenly Father has put illustrations–parables, really–throughout all creation to demonstrate eternal realities. These are not examples put here “just for fun” so that the Christian can engage in a clever intellectual exercise, a way to enjoy “spiritual symbolism” that doesn’t connect with any real-world application; intriguing, but essentially useless for true change or growth. He has placed parables within the fabric of physical existence that teach us truths about divine realities that sustain us in the “nitty-gritty” and mundane aspects of life.

So, we find that a sparrow does not fall to the ground without the notice of our tender Father (Matthew 10:29-31). And does He not much more care for us? The crushing pressures and needs of life, that seem so threatening, are simply opportunities for Jesus to prove His faithfulness to us again and again. We can trust Him completely. Birds do it.

We learn that our God is a “refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2-3). This is encouraging (and maybe a little scary), because we realize that precious stones become ever more priceless as impurities are removed through fire. A shimmering glaze on pottery becomes hard and permanent, unable to be removed, after it goes through the burning heat of an oven. So our fiery trials in life build in us character and beauty and enable us to  give pure offerings of worship to our King.

Jesus continually taught in parables to explain (and sometimes conceal) deep spiritual truths. Just as the parables carry an inherent power to transfix our attention, leading us into reflection, and hopefully a new mindset, guiding us into transformation; so do the “parables” inherent in physical creation guide us to sudden epiphanies of comprehension, inviting us–compelling us–to awe and worship, which leads to transformation and genuine love-response to the One who first loved us. This is obedience to the first and greatest commandment:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5.

So, we find lessons from the glazing of pottery, or the carefree soaring of birds, or the joy of food well-prepared, or the mysterious intensity of a quasar, or the soothing warmth of the afternoon sunshine, or the gentle touch of a loved one, or the innocent happy gurgling of an infant. These are organic expressions of our material world, which were created and pronounced “good” by our good Creator; but he is more than simply a Being greater than the cosmos who set everything spinning into existence. The stories woven into creation point to deeper realities rooted in the  character and nature of our loving Father. He enjoys our enjoyment of discovery. He knows it is fun for us, and when we search out and uncover these truths for ourselves it “locks” them into our understanding as a mere bullet-point outline never could.

We are excited by stories; we relate and respond to stories; we are changed by stories. Our Lord made life a story, so we could relish living it and contributing to the mystery. We are explorers in an adventure movie; we are pilgrims in a fairy tale; we are cherished and pursued for divine romance. And all this is far grander and more wonderful than anything Hollywood could ever dream up.

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