By Justin Rossow
The power of parable comes from the way it combines two fundamental dynamics of human thought, according to Mark Turner’s book about the way we think. For Turner, parable combines story and projection.
You can see both story and projection in something like, “The early bird gets the worm.” To understand that proverb, you have to be able to combine characters, like some bird, other birds, and worms, with a storied setting, like competition for food.
But the proverb isn’t really about birds, is it? So you have to take the relationships, expectations, conclusions, and inferences from the basic “story” of birds in competition over worms, and project that story onto… well, onto any number of storied situations where you are in competition with other people, trying to get something before they do.
This proverb won’t fit every situation in your life; at the same time, there is no limited number of different situations it could apply to, and no limit on the number of different people or things that could play the role of the early bird, the other birds, or the worm.
Parables work in much the same way.
In Luke 14, Jesus tells a parable about a feast. This banquet setting assumes a kind of storied situation, with specific roles, expectations, and conclusions. Our job is not to find the magic decoder ring that sets the single interpretation of the parable for all time; rather, we are invited to take the parable and use it to look at ourselves and our situation, to ask things like: which roles do I play in the story at different times, what can I expect from Jesus in light of this parable, what assumptions or conclusions about myself should I draw? Am I the early bird, or the other birds, or the worm?
What makes all of these swirling questions even more engaging is the setting in which the parable is being told: Jesus is Himself the guest at a banquet. A host is there, in real life; an invitation has been extended and accepted; other guests of similar social status have arrived.
Jesus is teaching teachers and turning their world upside down. Who is the real host here? Who are the guests? Who is “worthy” or “fit” for the banquet? Who actually gets to join the feast? How does the invitation of Jesus shape our expectations of God, of other people, of our own rescue and participation in the Kingdom Work Jesus gives to us?
For the first three Sundays in August, St. Luke will be sitting with Luke 14, the basic story of invitation, and the way that story gets projected onto our lives and our future. Perhaps you will want to read through Luke 14 a couple of times before we begin. As you do, ask yourself, where do I see Jesus in this story? Where do I see myself? How is Jesus shaping the way I relate to Him, or to other people?
Jesus is even now inviting us to enter into a deeper, more vibrant relationship with Him. What does it look like to accept that invitation? And what difference do the dynamics of the Kingdom make in our life? Perhaps the Invitation of Jesus series this August is a place we can begin to explore those questions together.
Watch the sermon series on Youtube