A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR J.C. AUSTIN: A New Way to Look at the Parables

Two thousand years later, Jesus’ ministry of teaching continues to hold great power. Even people who are not Christian find great wisdom and constructive challenge in his teachings. And at the heart of Jesus’ teachings are his parables: stories designed to upend our expectations, disrupt our assumptions, and startle us with new insight. The parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are some of the most well-known stories in the history of the world. And in church life, the Parables of the Sower, of the Lost Sheep, of the Mustard Seed, and so on have been treasured favorites for preaching, devotions, and Bible study since the church began.

Which is precisely the problem. I wonder sometimes where the threshold of indifference is when you spend too much time with the marvels of art in this world. When does the janitor of the Sistine Chapel stop gasping in awe when he walks in to start work? When did Monet’s friends drop by his studio and say, “More water lilies, I see. So, want to grab something to eat?” When did Jimi Hendrix’s neighbors come knock on his door and say, “I know you need to practice, but can you just turn down the volume some?” Overfamiliarity with anything, even works of profound genius, can rob us of our sense of their true power and insight.

If you’ve spent time in Christian churches, you have heard many of Jesus’ parables so often that they begin to be overly familiar, and you begin to lose sight and sense of what’s really being said in them. We remember that they are supposed to be powerful rather than experiencing that power directly anymore.

Which is why I am so pleased that Jim and Janet Stahl are going to be offering a very creative and engaging three-part series on the stories of the parables, starting next Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Parlor. Jim and Janet have an extraordinary ministry in which they literally travel the world helping people to engage the Scriptures in their own cultures and contexts through Biblical storytelling.

We are blessed that they have a window in-between travels right now and are going to help us to engage the parables with new eyes. This will be a very creative and active experience, but more importantly, it will be one in which I think you will discover new power and depth to some of Jesus’ most familiar teachings.

One of our Core Values as a congregation is that we value an “Inquiring Faith,” in which we strive to always ask better questions and seek more faithful answers to the great questions of faith and life. This is a wonderful opportunity to do just that, and I hope you will be part of it!

Grace and Peace,