Dave Brisbin | 2.10.19
When I was in pastoral training, a pastor told me that no one should preach the parables until they’ve been in ministry for 30 years. Now I violated that right away, but approaching 20 years in ministry, I do see what he was driving at. There is a perspective that comes just from sheer years of having seen the panorama, the parade of years go by that creates a different way of looking at life—and parables need to be looked at the way we look at life–not text. For two thousand years, scholars and clergy have debated the meaning of Jesus’ parables, breaking them down into the smallest bits, trying to crack the code. But some parables absolutely resist such fine grained interpretation. As in the difficult parables of the unjust steward and judge, Jesus seems to be violating everything we know of our morality and ethics as well as his own. But parables aren’t meant to be understood through the lens of what we already think we know, they are meant to explode what we already think we know. 

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They are meant to slap us in the face and wake us up or at least confuse us enough to stop trying to force familiar lines of thinking into radical new concepts. If we let go of trying to resolve each word and detail to make the parable fit our understanding, if we step back as from the vantage of 30 years’ experience and see the overall contours of the story, where it’s pointing, how it makes us feel–with just enough Aramaic context, we can begin to see where Jesus is pointing us. And if we’re willing to follow that new direction both mentally and relationally, we’ll find new ways of seeing and hearing that may begin with a parable, but will extend to every detail of our lives.

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