The Parable of the New Blade

What is the kingdom of God like, and to what can we compare it?

The kingdom of God is like two woodworkers who both had table saws. They learned how to use the table saw accurately, kept them aligned, and always wore their PPE (personal protective equipment).

One day, one of the woodworkers noticed more tear out in the wood, and she needed to do a lot more sanding to smooth it. Before the end of the day, the table saw was taking chunks out of the wood with every cut.

A replacement blade was not easy to find, and needed to be special ordered. So to meet deadlines, she kept using the old blade anyway, and wasted many pieces of wood.

The second woodworker had already ordered a back-up blade in advance. As soon as her wood started tearing more than normal, she was ready with a new blade.

How is this like the kingdom of God?

What is the new blade for you?

As a catechist and parent, sometimes I find that suddenly, something feels wrong. I often see increased “tear out” as more tears, fighting, outbursts, and careless injuries among kids (or me).

Sometimes, using the same methods in the same space you have loved God & your neighbor all along, it just stops working.

  • Perhaps the child is making a developmental leap (or maybe it’s you!).
  • Sometimes generations of children start behaving differently than previous years.
  • Maybe the world is experiencing a pandemic, and you can’t leave your house.

As catechists sharing our love for God and neighbor, as parents who are the first catechists for our children, we need to have a new blade ready in the wings for when that shift comes.

The world is always changing, and the old blade inevitably wears down and ends up doing more harm than good.

Where can you find a new blade?

Of course, it’s never the easy thing you can grab off the shelves. It is always special order!

I found some inspiration re-reading the Vatican II document “Declaration on Christian Education: Gravissimum educationis”:

“this sacred synod exhorts the faithful to assist to their utmost in finding suitable methods of education and programs of study and in forming teachers who can give youth a true education. (6)”

While not naming specific methods, the Synod does go on to praise those whose vocation it is to serve parents and the children in their care:

“Beautiful indeed and of great importance is the vocation of all those who aid parents in fulfilling their duties and who, as representatives of the human community, undertake the task of education in schools. This vocation demands special qualities of mind and heart, very careful preparation, and continuing readiness to renew and to adapt. (5)”

and furthermore!

“The Church esteems highly and seeks to penetrate and ennoble with her own spirit also other aids which belong to the general heritage of humanity and which are of great influence in forming souls and molding people, such as the media of communication (4).”

For me today, my new blade was a renewal of my attitude.

Teachers, catechists, parents… we need an attitude of “readiness to renew and to adapt.”

It gives me confidence to have the Synod’s encouragement to use the “aids which belong to the general heritage of humanity” including “media of communication.”

During this pandemic, having a new blade in backup, for me, means being continually in touch with new tools and methods in education.

I am not always jumping on the next big thing, but it is helpful to know what is out there. My new blade today is a willingness to change methods when the current course will clearly no longer serve.

This parable was inspired by my experience in January of having to replace multiple blades and filters in my shop all at once. The time requirement to make the switch over and over again made life in the workshop much more challenging.

Then suddenly, in March, the entire world was turned on its head!

But it felt familiar: it was the experience of being surprised by something inevitable.

It reminds me of Jesus describing the Messianic age like the bridegroom who arrives in the middle of the night. Though they were told to stay ready, some of the bridesmaids have no oil in their lamps so they miss the party.

Surprised by the inevitable: challenged to serve the isolated.

Just like the table saw blade that will inevitably need replaced, experts knew a global pandemic would happen again some day.

In fact, every day we have families who can’t send their immuno-compromised children to school, or must be diligent after an organ transplant, or live in shelters and prisons that become overrun with infectious diseases.

We are now ALL experiencing what many people in health crisis endure every day.

Perhaps these new digital methods of communication will open our hearts and teach us how to best serve those permanently isolated from face-to-face gatherings.

But woe to us who must experience that isolation firsthand!

I think it is certainly okay to be surprised sometimes, whether it’s by a crisis that impacts an individual, a group, or the entire world.

But when we are surprised by the inevitable dangers of having frail human bodies, we who have the vocation as teachers need to have something in our reserves… if not experience with new methods of teaching and communicating, than at least the willingness to try. Otherwise, we fail in our duties to serve ALL our neighbors, especially those too vulnerable to gather in groups.

On the other hand, I have been so inspired by the many many people who have been maintaining community while staying safe at home! From Zoom Bible studies to Facebook live worship to meetings on Google Hangouts to virtual house parties…

Even when we are physically apart, I thank God daily for the new and creative ways we can continue to love our neighbors.

Let us pray:

God, if today we hear Your voice, harden not our hearts.

Let us always be ready to change our blade.

Let us be willing to pour the new wine of your Holy Spirit into new wineskins.

Renew our hearts and spirits with a commitment to serve all Your children, especially those most medically vulnerable.

Amen and Amen

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