Two or Three (a parable)

A young and vocationally successful young man named Zete was relocated to a different state. As he worked to pick up, move, and settle in a new home, one of his first priorities was to find a "worshipful" church. He had grown up in church and had made the faith his own, and so he quickly began asking around for recommendations. He searched online and jotted down information about several churches, one in particular that he really wanted to visit. But several people he talked to told him he should seek the advice of a woman named Konia, thought by many to be the wisest and most faithful Christian they had met. So Zete sought her out.

Konia insisted that Zete come to her house. He arrived and knocked on her door. As soon as the door opened and Zete first saw Konia's warm smile and outstretched hand, he surprised himself by how he felt so immediately at home. Her welcome was not one of usual formalities and plastered smiles, but she instead had a demeanor such that Zete felt like he was walking into his own home. Konia offered him food and drink, sat down, and begin to ask him questions. Not the normal questions like "What do you do?" or "Where are you from?" but questions that invited Zete to reflect on his life, who he was, his hopes and his dreams. He couldn't remember the last conversation he had where the focus seemed to be totally on him, and he felt a strange combination of uneasiness and vulnerability along with peace and safety. After Konia asked Zete what his troubles are and how she can pray for him, the two even shared some time in prayer together and sang a few of Zete's favorite songs. As this time passed, Zete's eyes scanned her house from time to time, a house filled with pictures, memorabilia and many other trinkets that seemed like gifts. He found it odd that he couldn't find any picture that Konia herself was in. He also noticed that she hardly had anything else in the house - just the bare necessities, really.

As the conversation drew on, Zete told Konia of his desire to find a "worshipful" church here in his new home. With an enthusiastic smile, Konia put her cup down, leaned forward and said, "I would be delighted to take you around to see some of the most amazing places of worship I know."

"Wonderful!" Zete said excitedly. "By the way, I researched some churches, and there is one that I would really love to go to. It had an impressive website with many programs; it's the one on the far edge of town."

"Oh yes, I know the one," Konia said. "But I'm not sure it's what you're looking for. If you're sure you want to go there, we should probably go there last."

The next day, Zete and Konia drove up to a housing development on another side of town.

"I've participated in some amazing worship here," Konia said.

At first, Zete said, "Where is the church building?"

Konia looked as if she was expecting the question and asked, "Remember, Jesus said, 'Wherever two or three are gathered in my name..."

"'...there I am also.'" Zete, being a veteran church-goer and knowledgeable about the Bible, finished the verse for her and felt a little put to shame by not remembering it in the moment.

"Right!" Konia said. "So let's go and meet them."

Konia took Zete in to meet a very kind and enthusiastic Latino community. As they talked and as he saw the community worship together, Zete couldn't help but think of the passage about the early church from Acts 2:42-47. As a group they gathered for teaching, prayer, and the "breaking of bread." They were together with much in common, they met in their homes, and they shared with those in need. They seemed to know each other intimately. But joy quickly turned to tears when they spoke of their family. They spoke with longing about spouses, children, and cousins who had been separated from them, how they longed to see them again, and how they worried for their safety. As they all spent a few hours together, Zete felt very different from them but at the same time felt very at home.

As they left the community, Konia asked Zete, "What did you think?"

"Well," said Zete, "they are obviously very godly people, but it just doesn't seem quite right. It's not like the kind of 'church' I'm used to. I would still love to visit that one church in town."

"OK," said Konia, "but I'm not sure it's what you're looking for. Let me take you at least one other place first. We will have to go on Saturday."

So, on that Saturday, Konia took Zete to a building downtown that seemed fairly old and had no signage on the outside. Curious, Zete followed Konia inside to what he could only surmise was some kind of Christian gathering of troubled teens. Zete hadn't felt this uncomfortable in a while, but could also sense that his presence was welcome and even appreciated by some there. This group had it all: the alcohol-addicted boy who was still hungover for this meeting, the pregnant teenage girl whose mother still raged with anger, the abandoned twins living with a distant relative, and the boy who had been arrested several times for violent behavior. As they began to talk, share successes and failures, and encourage each other, it felt to Zete that the group was picking up where they left off in a conversation that had been going on a long time. They knew each other intimately. Their time together, led by a few volunteer adults, included intense moments of crying, praying, shouting, singing, and sometimes utter silence.

As they left, Konia asked Zete, "What did you think?"

"Well," said Zete, "as powerful as that experience was, it's not like the kind of 'church' I'm used to. I would still love to visit that one church in town."

Uncharacteristically, Konia's face fell somewhat as she said, "Yes. If you insist. There is a service this evening if you would like to go."

"Yes, please, " Zete said, "I'm very anxious to visit it based on what I've seen."

So that night, Konia took Zete to the church he had been wanting to visit. And what a place it was! Zete was not disappointed, and it was even better than he thought. This church truly brought him back to what he was used to growing up, and it felt so much more in his comfort zone. He was blown away by the music. Several groups performed as the people sat looking forward and listening, each one at top notch quality, and all were followed by applause. At other times, all the people raised their hands and voices in praise. The pastor was an incredibly dynamic speaker that captivated everyone's attention with his style, visuals, and illustrations. When the sermon was over, Zete found himself wishing he could listen to more. Zete and Konia joined the others as everyone walked back out to their cars.

"Wow," Zete said. "I'm so glad we visited this church! I had a great time! Too bad I didn't get to meet anyone..."

"Yes, that is too bad." Konia said.

Zete could tell that Konia did not seem to share his feelings about this church. "What's wrong?" he asked. "You know, I sought you out because I was told that you were the wisest and most faithful Christian around. You helped me remember what Jesus said about 2 or 3 gathering in His name. Here at this church, there seems to be plenty of people, and it was an amazing experience for everyone!"

Konia looked up at Zete. "Yes," she said. "But you see, that was not a gathering of two or three. It was a crowd of ones."

1 comment:

  1. Parables are indeed difficult, but this is very pointed. Good work.