Parables: Re-Imagine

My granddaughter Isabella has a special ability; she can play and talk with her dolls and toys for endless amounts of time. She has a room in my house where she goes to play. Like Lucy in CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she finds an entrance to her Narnia; I can hear her telling stories to her dolls and toys about Daddy and Mommy, about Wela, and sometimes about Welo (that is me). Eventually she comes out and faces reality. But that imaginary world provides her with great comfort, creativity, and a way to lose steam when circumstances demand it. (It is a shame that social inhibitions instilled in us make us forget the way to the wardrobe).

Nonetheless, I believe that once in a while we too think of a world that is different from the everyday world we know. A world without wars and violence, without fears, without suffering, or death… Have you ever re-imagined the world? What does that world look like? I have good news for you, you are not being childish and you are not losing your mind; you’re not the only adult who has imagined a world that is new and different. That’s exactly what Jesus did through his parables; he re-imagined a new world which he called the kingdom of God (BB Scott).

We can take a peek into that imaginary world through his parables. His parables (short stories about life, God, and human responsibilities) provide a new life context for his followers, a new vision of God’s plan, and consequently a challenge and a call to change and action. Through his parables Jesus is placing a giant mirror in front of his audience so they can see themselves as they truly are; something that could be both very frightening but liberating; challenging and transforming.

I invite you to join us this summer and explore together the re-imagined world of Jesus through His parables and allow him to challenge us as he discloses before us the compelling vision of the kingdom of God. Let us re-imagine!
 


Parables: Things to keep in mind

Things to keep in mind as we go through our sermons series on the parables:

  • Parables are little stories used to teach one lesson. You should keep that in mind- a parable doesn’t address many questions, only one; it doesn’t address many issues, just one; it doesn’t cover many points, but one. This means that if we try to find a meaning to every part, every person, or every object mentioned, we will end up distorting the parable and missing the point.
  • During Jesus’ time in Palestine not many people could read, so knowledge was transferred through oral tradition.   We are a literary culture and when we hear something that reminds us of the past, we go back and read about it, or we “google it.”   Oral tradition cultures didn’t have that luxury. Instead, knowledge was passed on through tales and stories that were memorized and so instilled in the collective memory, that the simple mention of little phrases, of certain objects, or incidents would immediately bring back images from the collective memory. Whenever Jesus told a parable or used certain words, the audience’s memory would be awakened making a connection with a Biblical passage, a national historic event, or symbol.
  • A good example is found in John 8:55-59. Jesus is speaking about Abraham as one that wanted to see his coming, so someone from the crowd shouted at him: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

Why did they try to kill him? His use of the phrase “I am” immediately drew on their collective memory the moment when Jehovah appeared to Moses and commissioned him. Moses asked God for his name and God answered, “I am” is my name.   Jesus’ audience made the connection and understood that Jesus deliberately used the phrase to establish his claim to divinity, something they considered a blasphemy.

  • Another point to remember is that Jesus draws ideas, situations, and characters from the actual settings of life for his parables. That is why it is important to examine the background, cultural knowledge, practices and ethos of the first century listeners of Jesus’ parables.