A Figure of Speech
As you may recall from high school English, similes are figures of speech that use the words “like” or “as” to relate one thing to another. The purpose of a simile is to increase the reader’s or listener’s understanding of an unfamiliar feeling or object by comparing it to something that they already comprehend.
An example of a simile in advertising would be, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Another familiar one is for the candy bar Almond Joy: “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.”
John Hiatt, an award-winning writer, singer, and musician, is a master at entertaining his audience with the tales embedded in his songs. One of my favorites is Gone, released in 2000. He uses no less than 12 similes to describe his feelings about a romantic break-up. Here’s a sample from the first stanza:
Gone like my last paycheck…
Gone like the car I wrecked…
Gone like a fifth of gin…
Gone like the shape I’m in…
My baby’s gone away.
Similes are abundant in the Bible. For example, in Psalm 17:11-12, David writes:
My enemies are everywhere, eagerly hoping to smear me in the dirt.
They are like hungry lions hunting for food,
Or like young lions hiding in ambush.
Proverbs 25:11 says, “The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver.”
As in everything He did, Jesus set the standard for the use of similes with his parables. He made the Kingdom of Heaven real for His listeners by comparing it to what happens when a farmer plants a mustard seed, or when a baker uses leaven, or when a merchant finds a great pearl. (Matthew 13.) The books of Matthew and Luke contain over 20 parables each. Mark 4:33 says that Jesus used many other stories when He spoke to the people, and He taught them as much as they could understand.
We love parables in Children’s Worship and Wonder. On a few Sundays during the year, after we have taken our places and finished our singing, the storyteller goes to the special shelf and picks one of several gold boxes. She brings it to the group and says:
I wonder if this is a parable? Hmm. It might be. Parables are very precious. Like gold, and this box is gold. This looks like a present. Well, parables are like presents. They have already been given to us. We can’t buy them, or take them, or steal them. They are already ours. There’s another reason why this might be a parable. It has a lid. And sometimes parables seem to have lids on them. But when you lift the lid of a parable there is something very precious inside.
Then, slowly, piece by piece, out comes each component to illustrate the parable — the tiny seed that becomes the mustard tree, or the leaven that grows, or the merchant that finds the great pearl. The story always begins with the people asking Jesus, “What is the Kingdom of Heaven like?” In the same way as Jesus’ early followers, the children learn about an unfamiliar concept by comparison to something that makes sense to them.
By the time the children are ready to graduate from Worship and Wonder, they have a pretty good idea about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. They know parables are like presents, that they have already been given to us and that no one can take them from us. They have also learned that the message of the parable is something very precious.
Jesus, in His wisdom, used parables to explain the path to God’s mercy and love in ways a child could grasp, discuss, and share. The best part is that we don’t have to be children to understand.
We are grateful for the many ways that you teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven. During these times when we so often see hatred and violence, cruelty and unkindness, we pray you will give us the wisdom and courage to show others what your love is like, so that all might experience your unbounded mercy and goodness.
In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
Offered by Mary Thompson
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