For the next several Sundays we will hear parables in St. Matthews gospel. The parables, powerful stories with a single disconcerting and challenging point, were Jesuss favorite way of teach and, according to many scholars, reveal the religious experience of Jesus, his insight into the Father in heaven.
Parables demand thought and are often hard to understand. Both this Sunday and next Sunday, in the two parables of the sower (which may be different versions of the same parable) are part of a tradition of parables of reassurance, of encouragement, of confidence. They are paralleled by another tradition of parables of warning, of challenge, of urgency. The trouble with parables is that they are disturbing, baffling, puzzling. To try to explain a parable is to deprive it of its fire and fury, of its power and intensity.
Even the earliest Christians, however, tried to tame the parables of Jesus. Thus the allegorical (a meaning attached to each event instead of a single powerful and disturbing meaning) interpretation of the stories this week and next week is something that Jesus, good story teller that he was, would have never attempted. Rather in an early stage of the Christian tradition this explanation was added to Jesuss original story.
The allegory is not wrong but it does deprive the story today of its most powerful meaning: the word of God, Gods people, Gods church, Gods invitation to each of us can overcome any obstacle. That is, when one thinks about it, a very disturbing notion because it demands total faith in Gods word and Her eventual triumph.
Fr. Greeley's Last Book:
Once upon a time there were two commodity brokers. One of them dashed on to the floor of the exchange and cornered the other. Sell! he shouted. Sell. Why his partner asked him. Because Ive got this top secret weather report. Despite the poor beginning of the season with all the rain and the cold weather, this is going to be a bumper harvest, the biggest ever. Were going to have grain pouring out of our ears in this place. That was an odd thing to say because there never was any grain in the exchange, not these days. The second man glanced at the weather report it looked very official and noted that it did indeed predict a perfect summer for the crops.
If it was true those who were buying grain now, going long, would lose tons of money and the short sellers could make a fortune. Go short! Sell now! Its a sure thing. Where did you get this, his friend asked. Dont ask. I havent broken any laws, but this is a sure thing. You can make a fortune! The second man nodded. I see your point he said. Then sell! Now!
But the second man was unwilling to take a chance. He stopped buying grain. But he didnt sell either.
Then when the first crop reports came in, the bottom dropped out of the grain market. Our friend didnt lose much money but he didnt make much either. He consoled himself with the thought that one should never bet on a sure thing, even if it turns out to be sure.
8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger
and abounding in steadfast love.
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