by Elizabeth Hunter—
I used to write my favorite funny or encouraging quotes on sticky notes. I’d clip cartoons and inspiring
images from newspapers and magazines. Magnets, tape and pins were corralled in a drawer so that I could daily see—and share—food for thought on a refrigerator, wall or bulletin board.
Now, a decade or so later, I post, pin and share memes via text messages to friends or social media feeds to, well, anyone. And they return the favor. Memes—like their elder, sticky note cousins—can be relevant, comforting or challenging in the moment. But maybe this is just me—if I’m not looking at a meme, I tend not to remember it.
Stories are different. Stories, good stories, are sticky. They don’t let go of us, and we tend to not let go of them. We carry them with us. Especially the stories Jesus tells—hauntingly perfect, mind-bending parables that feel like home and invite us to participate in the kingdom of God, where each one is understood, accepted, loved, healed and found. I think Jesus tells stories so we won’t forget about God’s reign, even when we’re making our way through a wilderness. Jesus tells us stories because God’s reign is that important.
For that reason, we’re sticking with “The kingdom of God” as our Bible study theme for the next four months. Led by scholar Mark Allan Powell, author of the world’s best-selling New Testament textbook, we’ll see how the kingdom of God helps us to make sense of numerous parables and popular Bible passages (including the Lord’s Prayer). There may be some surprises ahead. Did you know that this phrase refers more to an activity, than a location? Also, new research reveals much more than we previously knew about the guests at Jesus’ banquet—people living at the margins of society, including men who were sent to collect taxes and women and girls who were prostituted.
Jesus talks more about the reign of God than about anything else, Powell shares. In this issue, you’ll find plenty to learn, to discuss and to enliven your study of Scripture. We will also consider questions like: What would it really mean for God to be in charge of our lives? Why would that be good news? I wonder which parables and contemporary stories from this issue of Gather will stick for you. Will it be the sower? The seed? The treasure? The yeast? The banquet? The net? The pearl? The wind telephone (p. 5)?
How do these stories call you to pay attention, to seek God’s reign and put your faith into action? Does one of these stories mirror your own? Whether it’s via email, mail, drawing, photo, or yes, even a simple sticky note, our staff would love to hear your story.
Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather. A lifelong Lutheran, she enjoys sharing stories, walking and kayaking with