My thoughts on parables

As I looked to the summer lectionary scripture texts, I thought, “There are a lot of parable stories… and that’s a good thing!” Permit me to explain.

Some people prefer rules or lists for teaching opportunities. I confess that I would much rather hear a story than a hard and fast list. Stories give me the chance to play one of the characters.

Take the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example. There have been times when I’ve played the role of the prodigal, having wasted my blessings. There have been moments where I was the father figure welcoming back the one who has been lost. Sometimes, I’m the mom in the story, having no say in what is happening in my life. The older resentful sibling is a role with which I am familiar – why is God forgiving that person?!?! I’ve even played the role of the fatted calf who is slaughtered so that others can party.

My thoughts on parables are that parables aren’t necessarily factually true—they’re eternally true. Factually = no; Eternally = yes. There is a profound difference between those two. Don’t look at them as history, but as truths. Was Jesus talking about a specific instance when a man got mugged and left by the road half dead and people passed by but a good person, a Samaritan, stopped to help? Was that a particular instance? Or was he just telling a story to relay true feelings about prejudice, how we judge folks, and who deserves compassion? I think the latter.

Enjoy the parables this summer; put yourself in them. What they can teach us is profound.

Shalom, Paul