I heard a story in church last Sunday that I wanted to share (as I remember it). I'm not sure if it's accreddited to any writer, but it's more than an anecdote.
A older man was walking down a dusty road in a small town. He was a preacher. Along from the other direction came a young boy of maybe 7 or 8. He boy was carrying something. As the boy came closer, the precher could tell it was an old rusty birdcage, and soon he could even see a few brown unhappy-loooking birds inside.
"What ya got there?" said the man.
"I just caught me some birds out in the feilds here." the boy said proudly. "I trapped 'em. Set bait and all. They wasn't too smart."
"What you catching birds for?"
"Oh, I'm gonna take 'em home and have a real good time. I'm gonna pull out their feathers, and dunk 'em in water to see if they swim, and poke them with my pocket-knife." He brandished his sharp toy in the sun.
"What are you gonna do with them after that?"
"Oh, kill 'em. I got cats around the house that will have some fun, too."
The preacher looked thoughtful. He said, "Well, son, I hate to spoil your fun, but I was wondering if I could buy those birds from you. The whole cage, actually."
The little boy stood wide eyed. "You'd buy these mangy birds? They ain't even pretty. Just feild birds. Good for nothin'. Why'd anybody spend good money on birds like this?"
"Well, I do. How much would you want"
The boy looked rather confused. Scrunched up his nose. Then, he got a crafty look in his eye.
"Twenty bucks, mister" It was pretty clear the boy had picked out a sum he thought was astronomical.
"Okay," said the preacher, and pulled out his wallet. Handing the money to the youngster, he smiled at the boy. The boy set down the cage a bit roughly and hurried off without another word. Maybe he wanted to get home with his bounty before anything happened.
The preacher picked up the cage of frightened and disoriented birds huddled in the bottom. He walked around, and found an alley with a pleasant sunny grassy spot at the end. There was a meduim-sized tree there. The man set the cage down, opened it, and backed away a bit. He had thought about tapping the cage to encourage the birds to leave, and although he decided that wouldn't be wrong, it was still unnecessary to further excite the creatures. The birds were shy at first, but soon one of them tested the open door, perched at the edge, half-in and half-out. After a moment of hesitation, it darted up into the branches. This seemed to give confidence to the other birds, who soon followed.
The preacher smiled quietly, and walked back over to pick up the cage. While he had waited for the birds to realize they were free, he had thought about what to do with it. He had at first thought it was merely junk to be thrown away, but on further reflection decided it might be useful after all. Next Sunday, he'd bring it with him to the pulpit. It'd make a pretty good conversation starter, he thought. And that's the way he thought about his sermons: as conversations. True, the sermons by nature were pretty one-way, but instead of a lecture he tried to make it feel like it was one friend telling a story to another. The best story ever told, he thought to himself.
We can imagine a conversation between God and Satan much like that between the preacher and the boy. There was a trap, and those who were trapped, and also a price.
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