Thoughts on handling the parables

When I wrote the foreword for the little book below, I stated that parables are:

‘the preacher’s bar of soap.  Either we tread on them carelessly and send ourselves and the sermon spinning off in ungainly fashion; or we try too hard to grab hold of them and elicit their meaning.  The result of the latter is that they slip out of our grasp and end up further away from the truth than they were when we first started.’

The first thing to remember about the parables is their twin heritage.

In Jewish thought, parables were used as a means to describe the almost indescribable – namely the nature of heaven.

In Greek thought a parable was a parallel, setting two truths or views alongside each other, with the hope that some new understanding would arise from the comparison.

When Jesus started using them to address his ‘mixed’ First Century audience, his approach combines the two.

Interpreting them today, whether in a Big Read group or elsewhere, here are four pointers ,

They are single point stories – each one intended to make one single teaching point. To drill down too far into the details is to miss this.

They describe the essence of the kingdom of God, rather than its appearance.

They both hide and reveal the truth – revealing more of it to those who have taken a step of faith and obscuring it from those who choose not to do so.

They act as a spiritual thermometer, showing how far those who listen have slipped from their spiritual heritage.

Of course, if we are to talk about the parables as a bar of soap, you’ll have to decide for yourself as to whether it might be:

…with its Holy Spirit associations.

… with its echoes of rescue…

..or maybe, just: