Have you ever sat in church listening to that traditional Opening Illustration and wondered how the pastor ever found a story to support an obscure theological point? I think there must be a website somewhere in which Shepherds of the Flock can enter “Sports metaphor that illustrates transubstantiation” and poof! Up come fifteen stories about synchronized swimming to entertain the congregation during those five all-important connect-with-the-parishioners minutes at the beginning of a sermon.
Well—I’m doing things a little differently today. I’m giving you the illustration and hoping you’ll match it with a meaningful parallel to our Journey through Life. You’ll get a chance to contribute it below!
The year was 1993. Or maybe it was 1994. I was a young “teacher.” I use the quotes because, though I stood in front of multiple classrooms every day and tried to impart some semblance of knowledge to the teenagers in my care, I had neither the credentials nor the training the role required. But I was full of newbie enthusiasm and creative ideas, most of which might have made the principle wince had he gotten wind of what was going on in Miss Phiphi’s classroom.
Looking back, I’m not sure if it was an English class or a Drama class that prompted me to assign a timed and videoed speech in which the students would use props to instruct their classmates. Eager for the young orators to give free reign to their imaginations, I had left topics and content entirely up to them.
Enter Elizabeth. Or maybe Mary. She thought it might be interesting to demonstrate her pie-making expertise during the 10 minute segment allotted to her presentation. I’ve made a lot of pies in my life. I can assure you they take more than 10 minutes to make! But Elizabeth or Mary (Elizamary?) was so excited about her little speech that I didn’t have the heart to suggest another topic.
I stood behind the old-school VHS video camera toward the back of the class as Elizamary began her demonstration. The students were gathered around the desk on which apples, sugar, cinnamon and a Saran-wrapped lump of pastry made the day before were displayed in order of assembly. Elizamary stood behind the desk like a runner in starting blocks, waiting for my signal to begin.
I hadn’t fully thought through the dangers of demonstrating pie-making at warp-speed. Clearly, Elizamary hadn’t either. It may have been the time constraint that made the experiment go terribly awry. Personally, I blame the boys standing so close to her that she could see them salivating for the pie she was concocting. Whatever it was, it doomed Elizamary’s presentation to a grisly conclusion.
She rolled out the pastry with no problem, talking steadily as she did so. She lifted it into the pie plate waiting nearby, then picked up an apple and a sharp paring knife. It’s the latter of those items that wreaked havoc with her well-prepared speech.
“So,” she said into the camera, a budding Martha Stewart, “you cut the apple in quarters, then you pick up one quarter—like so—and start cutting it into slic…” The first slice gouged into her finger. She cringed a little, and the eyes of the front-row guys got bigger. A pearl of blood oozed from the pad of her index. Then another one. She looked up at the camera, where I was preparing to push “pause” and call the school nurse. One quick shake of her head told me that it wasn’t bad enough to abort what might have been her life’s only foray into the Seventh Art.
“Are you sure?” I whispered from the back of the class. Quick, decisive nod. She kept right on talking and slicing, each piece of apple she dropped into the bowl sporting a substantial spot of crimson. Her prop was beginning to look like a crime scene.
One of the students handed Elizamary a Kleenex to wrap around her bleeding digit, but it proved too bulky for her culinary endeavors. She pulled it off after dumping the mixture of bloody apples, sugar and cinnamon into the prepared pie crust.
I reached to turn off the camera and declare the blood-bath done, but another quick head shake from the front of the class and a pointedly spoken “And now for the top crust!” let me know that this experiment in the grotesque was not yet over. Elizamary picked up the second circle of pastry she had previously rolled out and gingerly set it on top of the pie, leaving a bright red mark where her finger had touched it. “Now, this is how you crimp the edges.” And she set about pinching the crust all the way around the pie, leaving wet red prints every inch or so of the circumference.
“Are you sure you don’t want to…”
“It’s fine, Miss Phoenix.” The glare told me to keep filming until the demonstration had reached its gory conclusion.
You’d think the story would end there, right? She’d say a final word, receive the applause of her classmates, and toss the pie into the nearest trash can.
Not so, I’m afraid.
You see, those guys sitting near the front of the class weren’t there because of an avid interest in baking. They were that close because of an avid interest in the fruit of Elizamary’s demonstration. And they weren’t about to let that sanguinary pie go to waste. They took it upon themselves to make a ceremonial trek down one floor to the staff kitchen with their hemoglobin tart. They stuck it in the oven and waited all of lunch break for it to be finished baking. And I spent all of lunch break trying to talk them out of eating it.
Not for the first time in my life, I lost.
When the pie came out of the oven, its crust golden brown and its edges adorned in that regular pattern of now browned blood, not one of those boys hesitated. They carved out giant chunks of steaming apple pie with a side of plasma and dove into it without a second thought.
The girls were horrified. They squealed and fanned their faces in a way they thought would make the guys consider them cute. I think one of them gagged just a little. But the guys were unconcerned. They devoured it—right down to the last flake of polka-dot crust.
So… Got a psychological, spiritual, emotional or moral parallel to share? What sermon or inspirational talk would you preface with Elizamary’s story? Do tell! You can either post it in the comment box below or directly under the link to this post on Facebook. I’ll transfer those comments here for all to see…