Once upon a time, a King was building a city. He set builders to make a beautiful city, set on a hill, with its light shining out as a beacon into dark places, a witness that there is a place where the love of the King is law, reigning and ruling over every bit of life.
He sent out messengers to go out into dark places and find broken people who are overlooked and cast out, and show them the love of the King. They went far and near, with a knack for finding the darkest and most broken places and people and caring about them when no one else would.
The messengers would send people back to the city, and soon those people would become builders and messengers too, and the city would send out even more people into the broken and dark places.
Sometimes a builder would put down his tools for a few minutes when a stranger wandered up the hill and want to know what this giant city was for. Now and then, a messenger would help haul some stones, and all the work went on fabulously.
Until people started to get cranky.
“Why do you people spend so much time building this dumb city?” the messengers wanted to know. “It’s no good all the way up here where people have to climb to get to it. No one wants to come here anyway. You should all be down here, with me, helping people. Instead you just shout about how clean and beautiful your city is compared to the rest of this dirty world.”
The builders growled back, “We’re working hard up here to build this city. We’re making it a safe, beautiful, shiny place for all those people down there to come. And now you’re complaining because we tell them it’s a safe, beautiful place? What do you want us to do, lie to them?”
“You don’t care anything about where these people are right now! This city is so strange and different it scares them, and the more you shout, the more scared they are. My job would be so much easier without you messing things up,” the messengers shouted.
“Fine,” the builders shouted back, “you can go back to your precious darkness and stay down there. You’re starting to smell like you belong down there anyway!”
And so it went.
The messengers stopped sending people to the city. They told people about the King, and his light, and congratulated themselves on keeping the people away from that confusing city that would have obscured the King’s light.
The builders just kept to themselves, arguing over the finer points of the blueprints, and congratulating themselves on their fine warning system so they would know if any unexpected guests showed up, and then wondered why they never did.
One day the King sent an emissary to see how work on the city was progressing. The emissary came first to the city on the hill. He admired the fine carvings on pillars, and careful use of different colors of stones in the edging. However, as he neared the gate, he was puzzled. There was no hustle and bustle of people, no coming and going.
The emissary was greeted enthusiastically by the builders. He admired their work as he toured through the city. “This is excellent progress,” he said, “but there’s something I don’t understand. Where are all the people?”
“People?” The builders blinked at him and looked around vaguely. “Well, there’s us.”
“But what about the messengers? Aren’t they going out to the people as they were told to?” the emissary persisted.
“Oh. The messengers. Yes, they’re down there somewhere, I think.” The builders waved vaguely down the hill.
The emissary found the messengers, looking very tired while bandaging wounds of a large group of people. The messengers were thrilled to see the emissary, and introduced him to all the people they were helping and telling about the King. The emissary congratulated them on their fine, untiring work to reach the people around them. “But, I’m confused about something,” he told them, “why are you wearing yourselves out trying to take care of all these people all by yourselves instead of sending them up to the city?”
“The city doesn’t want them. Or us,” the messengers told him. “We’re all better off down here. Would you like a cookie? We have chocolate chip.”
The emissary groaned and pulled his hair. He glumly munched on cookies on his way back to the King. How was he ever going to explain the situation? This was not at all how things were supposed to be.
To be continued….