Once there was a man named Philippe. He was a spiritual guide in an emerging community. One day he decided to go on a journey. So, he did. As he was walking along the road, focusing on the journey and not the destination, he found himself alongside the chariot of an African official. The man in the chariot was reading from a parchment scroll. He was reading aloud, so Philippe was able to overhear what the man read:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
Philippe caught up to the chariot and said, “You read that text beautifully. It made me feel significant and connected to ancient traditions to hear you read it.”
“I just wish I could understand it,” the man replied.
“Understand it? You don’t need to understand it. Just experience it. Read it again, more slowly this time. I want to hear the poetic forms and imagine myself in the context of the ancient tradition,” said Philippe.
“Who is he talking about?” the man persisted. “Is the prophet writing about himself or about someone else?”
“I think he is writing about all of us,” said Philippe. “I think we are all a part of the larger story.”
“But what story?” asked the official. “It seems to me that the writer is talking about something in particular, and I sense that it is important. I just wish I knew what it was. What exactly does this mean?”
“What do YOU think it means?” asked Philippe.
“I don’t know. That is why I am asking YOU.”
“Well, it is true that I am a Christ-follower, and my tradition does impose certain meanings on this text. But I would not want to force my truth claims on you. Your truth claims would be equally valid. As you see, we are both on a journey; and we both find ourselves on the same road. So, it follows that our destination is also the same. So, let’s just enjoy this time of community and not divide ourselves by discussing meanings and dogma,” said Philippe.
After awhile, they came to a pool of water by the side of the road. There was also a fork in the road at this point, and the official chose the road to the right. Philippe planned to take the road to the left, but first he sat down by the edge of the pool to journal his experiences of the day. He was delighted that he had had an unique opportunity to engage in a dialogue with a person of a culture so diverse from his own.
Meanwhile, the African official went on his way, still searching for the meaning of the text that could have brought him eternal life.
— Written by Krista Graham, and first published here in 2010.