Our back-to-school worship series at church is entitled Story Teller. During August and September worship, we have been exploring eight parables told by Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke.
Parable comes from the Greek word parabole which means to cast alongside or to place beside. Parables are stories that include comparisons, contrasts, exaggerations, illustrations, analogies, similes, and metaphors.
During seminary, our professors taught us: A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Which says everything—and nothing! Most of the stories are based on ordinary life but reveal extraordinary truths. Jesus’ parables give human insight into God’s kingdom.
Some parables are quite short, told in the turn of a phrase or a few sentences. Others are rather long, containing plot, characters, descriptions, conflict, and resolution.
Parables typically make one point—except when they don’t. The details are usually secondary—except when they’re not.
The Gospel parables are also insidious. They seem simple enough. After listening to Jesus’ words, the listener concludes: “Oh, well, the moral of the story is .”
However, it’s not that simple. Parables are multilayered and multidimensional. There are always new depths to plumb. They cast fishhooks into our minds, tugging at our thoughts and catching our imaginations. We wake up in the middle of the night, exclaiming: “OH, THAT’S what Jesus meant!”
Yet there is a richness to Christ’s parables that can never be exhausted. We read the same story years later and discover new and unexpected truths.
The parables—like all stories—are also eminently memorable. They define the difference between the declarative and the narrative—between statements and stories.
It’s one thing to say: God loves you. It’s another to say: There once was a man who had two sons . . . .
It’s one thing to say: Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s another to say: One day a man was going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by a band of thieves . . . .
Parables are also dangerous. They slip past our defenses and through the backdoor of our minds, inviting us to change and challenging us to act.
So we’re invited to sit at the feet of the Master Storyteller and ask: Jesus, will you tell us a story?