And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen!”
This Sunday, we begin a three-week series with Jesus as a storyteller. Jesus teaches with stories called “parables of the kingdom,” stories meant to offer fresh insight into what the kingdom of God is like, and in turn, how the hearer may be renewed in the good news of God as revealed in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Oh sure, we think these stories are going to be so easy to figure out. After all, parables begin with such ordinary people and images—farmers, bakers, merchants, farming fields, wheat, grain, bread, pearls, soil, and so forth. Then because the stories begin with such great familiarity, most of us immediately begin to locate ourselves in the story, identifying with a particular person or circumstance similar to our present way of thinking, believing we already know the outcome, thinking we already know where this is headed.
But then parables do a funny thing. They take us in directions we would not or could not imagine; they lead us into unexpected and surprising outcomes. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, are our minds already made up about what the kingdom of God is like, or do we have ears to listen?
For the next three weeks, we will hear Jesus teach in parables to present a very different vision and reality of the world than what most of us would normally expect. Parable story telling was not new in his day, but the way Jesus uses these stories to communicate is new and unsettling. Then and now, these stories challenge our everyday expectations, disturbing the secure world most of us create for ourselves.
Some of us might be having an unusually busy summer—here, there, and everywhere. Others of us might need to be awakened from our summer slumber. In any case, let’s come this Sunday ready to participate anew in these stories of the kingdom. Our hope is that they will prompt a positive and receptive response that leads into life-giving outcomes.
Grace and peace,