When the World is Falling Apart... A Parable for Today

I've told the story many times, but I was in seminary when 9/11 happened. Classes continued that day, amid the shock and hurt; convocation had been scheduled for September 12 and went on as planned, though not as usual. Some in the community criticized the administration for not cancelling regular activities. Walter Brueggemann wrote in response, "When the world is falling apart, plant a tree. We were planting trees."

A member of the church recently sent this story to me. It seems fitting for today:

There was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good things, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the newspapers and get depressed.

One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she'd seen on holy cards and devotional pictures.

She looked again and again at him, and finally she got up enough nerve and asked, 'Excuse me, are you Jesus?'

'I am.'

'Do you work here?'

'No,' Jesus said, 'I own the store.'

'Oh, what do you sell in here?'

'Oh, just about anything!'


'Yeah, anything you want. What do you want?'

She said, 'I don't know.' Well,' Jesus said, 'feel free, walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is that you want, and then come back and we'll see what we can do for you.'

She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously.

By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up and smiled, 'No problem.' And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up, and laid out the packets.

She asked, 'What are these?' Jesus replied, 'Seed packets. This is a catalog store.'

She said, 'You mean I don't get the finished product?'

'No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.'

'Oh,' she said.

And she left the store without buying anything.

from Parables: The Arrows of God by Megan McKenna