A Pointed Prophet's Pithy Parables
Back in June, we reviewed the parable of the Mustard Seed. In Jesus' culture, the mustard seed is rejected because the plant that grows from the seed is an invasive species which takes over any field in which it roots, it chokes out the pure wheat that has been sown, and the metaphor is that the presence of the plant opens the Kingdom of God to the undesirable, unclean, impure - the sinners, us. That was a very fast nutshell of the implications of the parable, but understanding that illustration helps interpret one of Sunday's stories: the story of the leaven.
On Sunday we will read three parables from Matthew, two of which are found just in Matthew and the gospel of Thomas, but the parable of the Leaven is found in Matthew, Luke, and Thomas. If you would like to read ahead, Matthew 13: 31-53 will have you reading Sunday's three parables: The Leaven, The Treasure, and the Pearl, plus review of Mustard Seed, and the bonus of the parable of the Net. As you are reading, keep in mind how Jesus tersely reverses normal social understandings. For example, the rejected mustard seed is lifted up as having value. In the parables for Sunday see if you can identify the reversal; the hint is it has something to do with whatever is the object of the phrase: the kingdom of heaven is like...
What is the point of reviewing and relearning all these parables? We have only delved into about a third of the illustrations commonly recognized as parables; there are many more out there we have not touched upon. Understanding how Jesus found his illustrations for the parables, and how he used those examples trains us to create new parables in this style. Can you write your own parable for the Kingdom of heaven? What common object, normally despised or seen as unclean, gross, or contaminating would you use? What other social or cultural reversals might you use?
~Rev. Andrea Joy Holroyd