Reflections on the Parables by Pastor Duncan:
This Sunday we begin a summer long series of sermons based on the Parables of Jesus. Many of these are familiar to us as a good part of Jesus’ teaching was in parables. So what are parables – they are stories which lead the listener to a new place or a new way of thinking. Jesus’ parables would have been at times shocking and offensive. The characters behave in ways that are socially unacceptable for 1st century Judeans. Take for example the Parable of the Good Samaritan – the idea of a Samaritan offering assistance to a Judean would have been terribly offensive; or the Prodigal Son – the reaction of the father who runs out to greet his wayward son would have been scandalous. Sometimes the characters in the parables behave in ways that go against common sense: the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep and going in search of 1 lost one (risking his entire flock and livlihood in the process) or even today’s parable – paying those who worked one hour the same as those who worked the whole day…. Well, what business man would do something silly like that?
So what is Jesus up to? Well all of the parables are stories of the Kingdom of God, which is now present on earth through Jesus. Each one of these parables give us a glimpse of the Kingdom and each of these parables demonstrate that we can experience God’s Kingdom now in our lives. So what are some of the lessons? Well, the Kingdom is radically inclusive and there are no divisions between Judeans and Samaritans and not only that, but the purity laws (that prevented the Priest and Levite from helping) are not as important as human kindness and grace; the Kingdom is a place of forgiveness and acceptance – the wayward son is received back with open arms by the father, but can we get beyond our prejudices in order to accept it, or will be sulk and refuse to accept God’s abundant love and grace, like the older brother? The kingdom takes risks on behalf of grace (the searching for the lost sheep) and for today human definitions of fairness don’t count, God showers abundantly his gifts of love and grace on all of God’s creation.
The parables are a gift to us. If we are open to hearing what they have to teach us they can lead us into ways of being in the world that are unique and filled with God’s love and grace. The problem is that too often we are like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. We offer this sermon series as an opportunity to learn and grow in our life of faith.