How would the parables and events of Jesus' life be affected by our modern sensibilities and practices? PAUL CLARK's "modern parables"...
PICTURE: Flemming Hansen/www.istockphoto.com
13th December, 2012
Matthew 25: 1-13
Ten guys were waiting to be let into the national Nintendo 3DS™ competition. They were waiting outside the door, practising on their 3DSs.
Some of the guys had brought rechargeable or extra batteries, while the others had not. The competition doors were taking a lot longer to open than they had expected. The guys who didn’t have any spare batteries said to the others, “lend us your spare batteries as ours have gone flat". But the guys who were prepared said to them, “we can’t give you our spare batteries or we will have none left for the competition".
So the guys without batteries went off to buy some. They got to the shops and were distracted by all the bright lights and new stuff you could buy. They even queued up to have a go on the new Wii U. Meanwhile the doors were open into the national Nintendo competition; Nintendo heaven! Those with enough batteries entered with joy and excitement, and the competition began.
Once the others realised that the competition had began they came back and pounded on the door. “Let us in!”
But the organiser replied, “I’m sorry but you can’t come in. The competition has already started and it wouldn’t be fair for those who were here and ready and have already begun.”
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
PICTURE: branded horse/www.istockphoto.com
12th November, 2012
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But they will ensure great ratings on TV, when used as programme plots. And it is a sure-fire way to sell magazines, newspapers and write a best-selling book.
The fruit of the Spirit meanwhile are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law, except the law of never using these in a soap-opera, and only showing them as the soppy piece at the end of the daily news.
27th September, 2012
Matthew 13: 31-32 - The Parable of the Mustard Seed
The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.
But the man couldn't wait. He pulled out the bush when it was still young and installed a six-burner, rotisserie BBQ - where he used to roast many birds perched in skewers.
Inexplicably, as much as he searched, he could never find the mustard seasoning of his childhood, so he never enjoyed the BBQ as much as he anticipated; something was missing.
28th August, 2012
Matthew 13: 24-30 - The Parable of the Weeds
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, the weeds also appeared.
"The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
‘Yes indeed,’ said the owner, 'my enemy won’t get the better of me.'
"The workers went out and trudged through the paddock pulling out the weeds, as they worked they did much damage to the wheat, uprooting and bruising much of it.
"When the harvest came the yield was very poor, and strangely there was still many weeds that reduced the quality. The Owner couldn't pay his debts, and had to sack his servants and sell the farm. 'It seems my enemy has won after all.'"
PICTURE: Gojko Kukobat/www.sxc.hu
2nd August, 2012
Matthew 13: 3-9 - The Parable of the Sower.
A farmer went out to sow his seed.
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
Some seed fell on good soil, but before it could produced a crop - the creditors moved in. They analysed his farming techniques, critiquing his flagrant waste of seed; feeding the birds, failing to poison all the weeds or remove all unproductive rocky outcrops from his farm.
They foreclosed on the farmer, poisoned all the weeds, dug out all the rocky outcrops, and employing hi tech sowing techniques to ensure no birds were even feed again or seeds spread to places where it might be lost. Strangely the crops were never as big or healthy again.
Whoever has ears, let them hear.
PICTURE: Christa Richert/www.sxc.hu
22nd May, 2012
Luke 14: 7-11 - The Parable of the Wedding Feast (or, the Parable of the Pews)
Jesus entered worship. When he noticed how the regulars scrambled for the back pews, he told them this parable:
“When someone invites you church, do not fill up from the back, for a new person, more unfamiliar with worship may also come along. If so, they will have to sit up the front, and won’t know when to stand, and when to sit! Humiliated, they will never return to that place.
"But when the Host returns and you are sitting in heaven, he may say to you, ‘Friend, now it’s time to give this man your seat!’ Better to give up your seat now, than then. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
21st April, 2012
Luke 18:9-14 - The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray. The tax collector stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I know I'm a worthless sinner, and that I'm not like that self-righteous Pharisee. I don't fast twice a week or give a tenth of all I get. I don't wear religious paraphernalia or say long prayers for everyone to see. You'd never see me up the front showing off, I don't even attend worship very often. I'm broken and humble!'"
“But the Pharisee stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a Pharisee.'"
“I tell you that this man, rather than the first, went home justified before God. For you can be proud of your humility, and you irreligiousness. Some even rely on their brokenness or humility to earn their salvation, instead of the cross.”
25th March, 2012
PICTURE: © Peter Mazurek/www.sxc.hu
Matthew 20:1-16 - The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them onto his farm.
About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, "You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right."
So they went. He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, "Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?"
"Because no one has hired us," they answered.
He said to them, "You also go and work in my vineyard."
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, "Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first."
The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.
"These who were hired last worked only one hour," they said, "and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day."
But he answered them, "I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"
So the workers brought him before the Fair Work Tribunal, where he was fined for inconsistent employment practices, ordered to pay damages and court costs. The vineyard went into receivership, was sold of as a car park, and inexplicably the unemployment rate for the region increased.
22nd February, 2012
Luke 15:11-31 - The Parable of the Lost Son
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "Father, give me my share of the estate." So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant land and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
Then he came to his senses, "What am I doing in this dead end job? Why don't I enroll for unemployment benefits? Then I can eat and drink and take life easy on the beach! I'll never have to take responsibilities for the bad decisions I've made. My life will nearly be as good as one of my father’s hired servants."
His father died broken hearted waiting on the veranda of their homestead.
18th January, 2012
John 8:2-11 - The lady caught in adultery
At dawn Jesus appeared in the temple courts. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The people brought in a woman they had caught doing an unthinkable act. They slandered her and made her stand before the group. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught doing something unthinkable according to our ways. Common decency demands us to shame, condemn and ostracize such a women. Now what do you say?”
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and asked them, “Just what has this lady done?” The accusers answered, "she was teaching our children to treasure their purity. To wait until marriage to become sexually active, and to be faithful to their spouse. How judgmental and condemning, making the rest of us feel guilty."
Jesus stooped down in the dust and wept.