Season of Creation 1;Thanksgiving; World Wide Communion Sunday
Text: Matthew 13: 10, 13-17
Jesus was a gifted storyteller. A great deal of his teaching about the Kingdom of God --that way of being in the world as God so desires --was communicated through stories. Stories in which he picks up on familiar everyday-life situations:
a father had 2 sons …
a sower went out to sow …
a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers …
the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard …
Beginning with scenes from everyday-life, Jesus’ audience is immediately drawn in …we’re with him; we know where he’s going. Except that something happens, usually just at the last, that suddenly takes us unawares. There’s this twist or surprise that’s not what we expected at all. This is the magic of the parable … that particular literary genre that, well, as someone once described, it’s like a verbal hand grenade tossed into our midst, blowing wide open our conventional, presumed, predictable worlds. Suddenly we’re given to see possibilities we never imagined.
It is the way of parables to cause us to wonder, awaken our curiosity, to shake us up, to make space for fresh insight … to transport us, even if for a moment, into a strange new world.
“Why do you speak in parables, Jesus?” the disciples wondered.
As it was then, so it is now … people are listening but not hearing, looking but not seeing, feeling but failing to be so moved. Parables have this way of jolting us that we might be surprised, even disturbed into seeing --to see with new eyes, and hear with new ears to be moved in new directions.
It’s some years ago now that Bev and I were in Washington DC to meet with people from the Church of the Saviour there … a community I first encountered through reading about them in my early 20’s. We found our way to their main office only to discover we had arrived just in time to participate in their “Come and See” weekend. From the office we were directed to their School of Christian Living, where the event would begin in a couple of hours. How would we find the place? We were given the street address, on Columbia Rd, but more helpful to spotting it would be the statue of Jesus outside the building, we were told.
So off we set … and we’re now driving along Columbia Rd. looking for a statue of Jesus, in our minds a crucifix on the wall … but there was no statue of Jesus. Finally we shifted to attending to the numbers on the buildings … and there, at number1640, was the school. We got ourselves parked, and walked in to register … and in the course of conversation, we mentioned we were told to look for a statue of Jesus but there didn’t seem to be one. “He’s there,” she said, “just outside the front door.” We stepped out, and there was this life-sized bronze statue of a man, sitting on a stump or rock, his hands as though in motion, his mouth open, eyes lit up … a storyteller … looking just like any one of the black men sitting on the sidewalk in this poor part of town. It was Jesus the storyteller. It was Jesus, one of us … one like us … one with us.
How many times have I heard myself speak and preach about that? And yet we missed him, didn’t see him. Countless times we drove right by him; we walked right by him into the building, and we didn’t see him!
Jesus himself is a parable! …his words, his way, his being … shattering our view of reality … and opening us up to our own blindness when all along we think we are seeing.
There is such power, isn’t there, in our presumptions, that can so easily blind us.
There are many reasons for how it is that we can look and not see, listen and not hear.
And yet for all the ache and disruption that comes with truly seeing, truly hearing, there is so much to be gained by not living in denial, by not living an illusion.
There is healing to be gained.
There is a whole new way of being with ourselves, with each other, with this wondrous world to be gained.
There is the discovery of a Great Mercy to be found … a wisdom and a way forward into abundant life!
What if in the space of this Season of Creation we take as our starting point that we aren’t really seeing; we aren’t really hearing. And that we set our intention and hold as our desire the desire to truly see and to truly hear? What of the world -- its trouble and its beauty-- might open up to us? What more life might be in store for us?
The practice that is being offered to us this week is to help us cultivate our capacity to look and really see; to listen and really hear. I commend it to you.
But that’s for our attention in the week ahead.
Right now I invite you to listen to this story … that is something of a parable.
[Gathering Sparks, by Howard Schwartz]