A Word from Our Pastor 2009 August Parables of Jesus

Parables of Jesus

The sermons this past month have focused on several parables of Jesus. There were two very familiar parables, such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Less familiar to many of you was the story of the dinner guests who refuse to come to the banquet (Luke 14:15-23). Finally, I ended with a selection of very short parables, some of which were only one line long, such as, “How can the blind lead the blind, won’t they both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39).

The parables of Jesus are very important to understanding his teaching. One gospel tells us that Jesus always taught in parables — every time he spoke to a group, whether disciples or just a “crowd,” Jesus used parables to illustrate the point he wanted to make. This may be frustrating for some people, who want to just know “the rules,” written in black and white — which Jesus does state from time to time. But that is not the primary method that Jesus chose. He wanted his listeners — us — to struggle a bit with his teachings, not just to take them at face value; they have simple messages that are applicable to everyday life, but they also have deeper meanings. It is the deeper meanings that can have a profound influence on our faith and life.

For example, the Prodigal Son in its most obvious level, is a story about forgiveness: the forgiveness of the father for the wayward son, the forgiveness of the obedient son for his brother, and the joy of receiving forgiveness when you have done wrong. All of these are important lessons for our everyday lives, for we are all in need of giving and receiving forgiveness — on virtually a daily basis. But Jesus also intends this to be a story about the Kingdom of God — how God is like the father who joyfully welcomes us and forgives all of us, for we have all been wayward children. Everything Jesus teaches us is essentially about the Kingdom of God.

Most of us have the idea that the Kingdom of God is “heaven,” someplace wonderful that we go when we die. However, heaven is not the only — or perhaps even the primary — Kingdom of God. Jesus taught that the “Kingdom of God is within you.” That means that right here, right now, we can “live” (by faith) in the Kingdom of God. This seems difficult to believe when we are troubled by the nuisances of life — paying bills, disciplining children, aggressive drivers, etc. How can I live in the Kingdom of God when my family member is ailing, and needs so much help? It doesn’t’ seem like heaven surrounds us when we are weighed down with responsibilities and worries.

That’s where faith comes in. Jesus knew all too well that the world is a difficult place; many of the people who followed him were the poorest of the poor, the sick who desperately needed healing of body and soul; he was also confronted by the rich, comfortable and powerful who trusted to their status for security and turned away from the needy. It was these people, who felt they had much to lose, who plotted Jesus’ death. Even in the face of so much suffering and callousness, Jesus tells us that it is possible to be at peace, to experience the joy of the living in the Kingdom of God.

It isn’t easy: To live in the Kingdom everything we do and say must be in harmony with the values of the Kingdom of God. Even more than that, our thoughts and intentions must reflect the Kingdom. When we allow God to transform who we are so that we think and act out of the goodness of God, we will know that peace and joy that is the Kingdom: there is no room for envy, holding a grudge or selfishness.

We cannot do this by ourselves: we must allow God to transform us. We must be willing to give up our anger and frustration, our fear and impatience; we must even be willing to give up our certainty that we are “right.” When we are truly willing to give up these self-centered thoughts (anger, fear and impatience are all signs of our self-centeredness), God’s love will fill our hearts with mercy, compassion and kindness, and we will be at home in the Kingdom of God. “The good person out of the treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil, for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
–Rev. Naomi