Jesus used the things he saw in his everyday life to teach his followers about God and about living life in the way of God’s kingdom.
Jesus invited them to consider the lilies, soils and seeds, sheep, shepherds, water and fish…all things Jesus found along the way and all things his listeners would be familiar with and understand.
Sometimes we forget that Jesus and his followers were not just sitting in a room or in the synagogue. Instead, they were walking from town to town. They were beside the water, spending lots of time outside in nature letting creation declare God’s glory and tell more of God’s story.
Sometimes we need encouragement to get outside and let creation speak to us too!
One of our practices is taking Parable Walks. Allowing creation to declare the glory of God and letting things we notice and experience outside, teach us more about Jesus. You can do a parable walk on your own, with friends and family or with a small group or your entire community. You’d just need to allow for sharing within in multiple small groups if you are leading this with many people. We used to take our group to a local park on a Sunday morning and do a breakfast picnic with coffee and bagels from a local shop.. In a perfect world you’d be somewhere peaceful, with a vista or in a place of beauty, but you can just host a parable walk in your back yard or your neighborhood.
So invite some friends over and host a parable walk, or just get yourself outside this week and take a parable walk on your own!
Allow Jesus to speak to you through the song of a bird, the wind in the trees, even the sound of traffic or the laughter of children. Consider clouds, a leaf, the flowers or twigs along your path. Pay attention, breathe, take time to notice, take time to listen and be present. God can even speak to you through the trash along the path. Who has thrown trash on your path this week? or have you thrown trash on someone else’s path? Talk to God about this. One day God spoke to me though the construction happening around my neighborhood. Jesus reminded me that he was at work building new things in my life and that I needed to notice this and be ok with all the mess. On parable walk at a park, I found a tree near an old wire fence. The tree’s bark had actually grown over the barbed wire as the tree grew. God used this to remind me that I too can grow through pain and the hard stuff going on in my life at the time.
When we do parable walks in community with a group, we gather together and pray and opening prayer, and then listen to a psalm or gospel passage together and allow the Holy Spirit to highlight words, phrases and images that we can carry with us as we walk and spend time outside. Psalm 8 is in the lectionary for this week so I’ve used that as the example in this parable walk outline. We invite people to bring their journals if they want to and we have some art supplies that they can use too. We start out together and then separate for the parable walk and have 45 minutes to be with God in nature. You can always go longer if you want to or start with 30 minutes as you learn the process. Then get back together to process and share the experience and close with a song, silence or repeating the opening prayer.
Parable walks are a practice. So it takes a little practice. Don’t feel like it has to go perfectly the first time. But as you begin parable walking more regularly, you will start to notice how God is speaking through just about everything if we take the time to notice!
PARABLE WALK :
OPENING PRAYER (pray out loud together)
Lord, I know not what to ask of You.
You alone know what my true needs are.
You love me more than I myself know how to love.
Help me to see my real needs, which may be hidden from me.
I dare not ask for either a cross or a consolation.
I can only wait upon You; my heart is open to You.
Visit and help me in Your steadfast love.
Strike me and heal me; cast me down and raise me up.
I worship in silence Your holy will.
I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice.
I put all my trust in You.
I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will.
Teach me to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Amen. (A Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow)
LECTIO DIVINA (DIVINE LISTENING)
The passage will be read 3 times by three voices, listen and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you from the passage. What words or phrases pop out to you? What images or pictures stick out? How is the Holy Spirit asking you to respond to this word or phrase or to this entire passage?
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Holy Bible, New International Version®,
NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Silently walk in God’s Creation, or, you may prefer to sit somewhere where you have an expansive view of creation.
Keeping in mind God’s invitation to you in our scripture reading, invite the Holy
Spirit to speak to you through what you see, hear, smell, experience outside.
Watch for symbols or things in nature that remind you of God.
Look for something that symbolizes a characteristic of God that you have a
hunger to know and experience. For example, God’s faithfulness, protection, love, etc.
You might choose something that symbolizes a
characteristic of God which you have experienced today or in this season of
Watch for something that pops with meaning and metaphor.
It might be a bird, a tree, a stone, the clouds, the dirt.
The Holy Spirit can speak to you through anything.
Watch for symbols of what Jesus is doing in your life.
Or what He longs to do in your life.
Spend time reflecting on how God is speaking to you through the view, the passage, or symbol.
Consider writing in your journal about what God showed you. Describe how Jesus revealed Himself to you today through creation, through the passage, etc.
At the designated time please gather with the group back with the group.
When you gather back together, take a few minutes to process the experience. What did you see or hear? Any questions or problems? Was this experience hard to get into or was it refreshing? What did you experience? What and how did God speak to you?
Allow people to share only if they want to. Always give people permission not to share. If the group members don’t know each other well or if you have a larger group you might break down into pairs or threes for the sharing part.
You can end your time together in silence, or singing the doxology or praying the opening prayer again together. Invite everyone to try this practice again on their own and allow God to surprise them through the beauty of creation and the ordinary things along the way.