Monday, 4 August 2008

A parabolic afterword - know what it is you're rejecting

A decade before his death the German journalist and theologian Heinz Zahrnt wrote a book called Leben als ob es Gott gibt - Living as if God existed: in place of a catechism.
It's dedicated to his grandchildren and begins with a quote from Rabbi Levi Jizchak of Berditschew
"The great masters of the Torah, who you have argued with, have not been able to dish up to you at table God and his kingdom, and I cannot do that either. But just think, maybe it is true."
The book looks at four key texts - the creation story, the ten commandments, the Lord's prayer and the sermon on the mount and develops a catechism and theology of experience. It's second ending or "afterword" is perhaps a parable.

"A father had two sons. When they became adults he shared out the inheritance between them and set out - and it would seem that the sons were not unhappy to see the father leave.
Abandoned by their father the sons lived henceforth alone. They did so as best as their means allowed - and their means were considerable. Their country suffered wars, there were catastrophes, hunger, scarcity and suffering. But they bravely withstood everything together - in itself a miracle.
In the end they began to tear down the old buildings and to reorganise everything about their life. Everything would be different and better than in their father's time. At the outset the two sons used to speak alot about their father. Gradually though they'd got used to their father no longer being around. The story teller doesn't know whether they had completely forgotten their father or occasionally silently thought of him, nor whether the father one day came home. For you see the story is not yet finished.
I could think of the following ending:
One day the younger of the two sons sets off to look for their lost father. After a long journey he came to an inhospitable region and unexpectedly came across someone who had been left for dead on the wayside by robbers. He bent over to help him up. As he did he saw that it was his older brother who like him had left to find their missing father.
It was at the moment that the two brothers recognised one another, that their father's presence was once more with them."