A Modern Parable: The Way Life Is and the Three Little Churches by Rev. Chris Holmes
(I had the idea for creating this parable from a sermon illustration by Jackie Prim)
Once upon a time there were three little churches. One was built out of the doctrine of love, the second out of love for family, and the third out of…well…just love.
One day The Way Life Is was walking down a path that suddenly split into three different directions. He decided to follow the path on the left which led to the first little church. It was a pretty little building with a hand-painted sign out front which said, “Come experience God’s love: All are welcome!” So, he knocked on the door saying, “Little church, little church, let me come in.”
Well the people in the church took one good look at The Way Life Is and replied, “Not by the hair on our chinny, chin, chin; we will not let you in.”
After a few minutes they shoved a slip of paper under the door to him. It was a list of the 10 doctrinal positions on love to which he must first sign his agreement before they would let him come in, including that he would live and love just like them.
Just then a storm came up. It huffed and puffed and blew that little church over side-ways. The people tipped their little church back upright and, this time, buckled it down even tighter to the ground than before. They took their sign down and kept a watchful eye out for The Way Life Is and the storms that sometimes accompany it.
The Way Life Is went back and followed the path on the right which led to the second little church. It was a larger church that had a tall shiny metal fence around it. Through the gate he could see that it had tennis courts, picnic tables, a school, an indoor pool and lots of happy families with children everywhere. It too had a sign on the gate which read, “Come experience God’s love: All are welcome!” So, he knocked on the gate of the second little church saying, “Little church, little church, let me come in.”
The families all stopped what they were doing and gathered in a clump on the other side of the gate. Knowingly, they said to one another, “But he is different from us, and how do we know he won’t hurt our children?” They replied to him, “Not by the hair on our chinny, chin, chin; we will not let you in.”
Just then, a strong wind came out of nowhere and leveled all their buildings. Two months later the families bought an even larger plot of ground where they rebuilt their church far far away from everyone else. This time the metal wall around it was twice a tall as before, with signs that said, “KEEP OUT” and “NO TRESPASSING.” Guards were posted outside to protect them from The Way Life Is and the strong winds that sometimes blow through life.
Lastly, The Way Life Is followed the path straight ahead which led to the third little church. Let’s just say the small building looked well worn and sort of patched together. The crooked sign outside read, “Come experience God’s love: All are welcome!” So, he knocked on the door saying, “Little church, little church, let me come in.”
And the people of the third little church opened the door and welcomed The Way Life Is into their lives and their little church. It wasn’t always easy, but over the years as they prayed together, laughed together and raised their kids together, they realized that they were all very much alike.
Eventually, a strong storm came along, because…well, you know… that’s just the way life is sometimes. The high winds did damage to the little church, but soon the people came with boards and hammers and shingles and did their best to patch up their raggedy little church one more time.
To this very day, when you come to a three-way fork in your path, you can follow the path straight ahead and find that little church still standing. It is pretty patched up and tilts to the side quite a bit, but by God, it is still standing.
And out in front is a worn little sign which reads, “Come experience God’s love: All are welcome.” And, they mean it.