The parables Jesus told were often surprising and humorous, taking the listener in unexpected directions, challenging their preconceptions about life and God. With that in mind, here’s a story which mean seem at first familiar…
Narrator: Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a grumpy old Pharisee, and the other was a grumpy old Tax Collector. The grumpy old Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer:
Phar: I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.
Narrator: But the grumpy old tax collector stood at a distance beat on his chest in sorrow and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed:
TC: Oh Lord, thank you that we’re not like the younger generation. We’re not greedy or dishonest, we keep our rooms tidy, we don’t play loud music, or wear outrageous clothes in church. (Looks down at his own bright clothes)
Phar: Yes Lord, it’s all changed hasn’t it. I remember when you could buy a new suit, 3 pairs of shoes and a bag of chips and still have change out of sixpence.
TC: Aye, chips, bangers and mash, steak and kidney pie and tripe for thruppence…
Phar: Aye – not pizzas and pastas, all swimming in tomato sauce – we had proper food.
TC: Yes Lord, it’s all gone so wrong, hasn’t it. Belly button rings, tattoos, bleached hair…
Both: T’aint natural!
TC: And them mobile phones.
Phar: Mobile phones! Don’t get me started on those. Those annoying little One Direction ring tones, and people on trains always talking loudly. ‘Hello dear I’ll be three hours… Hello dear I’ll be two hours… Hello dear I’ll be one hour… Hello dear, I can see you out there on the station platform…’ BE QUIET! We’ll be having them in church soon. ‘Hello dear we’re just singing the first song now… hello dear I’m just falling asleep in the sermon…’
TC: Church! Don’t get me started on church. We used to have choir robes and lovely 12th Century hymns. Do you remember that one that went…
Both: Jesus loves me, this I know, Cos… ahem… (Correction) For the Bible tells me so…
(They both pause, think, then can’t remember the rest of the words so they hum the rest)
TC: They don’t write words like that no more. And we had none of this bongo drums and flag waving, hand-clapping and jigging from side to side like Pans People and them worship leaders in crop tops and skinny jeans.
Phar: Jeans? Don’t get me started on jeans, in my day if you came to church in jeans you’d be burnt at the stake for being a witch. Moses didn’t wear jeans did he? Aye and you wouldn’t wear jeans, would ya, Levi?
TC: No! And Jesus didn’t play a guitar neither. Or use Powerpoint!
Phar: Powerpoint! Don’t get me started on Powerpoint? Letters swirling around making you feel sea sick, pictures of your holiday snaps behind the hymns and choruses…
TC: Choruses! Don’t get me started on choruses. “I really really really just really really really just really really really want to praise…” sung 27 times.
Phar: It can’t be right. If God had wanted things to change – he’d have given us imaginations!
TC: Aye. Come on let’s go and watch Songs of Praise.
Phar: Songs of Praise, don’t get me started on Songs of Praise… I remember when it was in black and white…
(They exit grumpily)
Narrator: I tell you the truth, both grumpy old sinners went home, unaware that they’d been forgiven. And what that really meant for the way they viewed the world.