Pentecost 7 A: On the Question of Evil

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Dear Partner in Preaching, Years ago, a friend of mine, speaking about his golf game, said the key to success was to care enough about the game not to care. I think there’s something true about that with parables as well; that is, the best way to preach parables is to be serious enough about them to not take them too seriously. And, in particular, to be cautious about interpreting them too strictly or literally. Parables, according to C. H. Dodd, one of the great NT scholars of the last century, are “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and...

Pentecost 6 A: Enough!

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Dear Partner in Preaching, Whether we know it or not, most of us have been deeply shaped by Joachim Jeremias when it comes to reading this parable. You remember Jeremias, the German New Testament scholar who was so gifted at isolating the different literary forms and genres employed by the Evangelists to help guide our interpretations of their work? Well, whether you remember him or not, you’ve probably been influenced by him and, particularly, by his seminal work, The Parables of Jesus. 🙂 When it comes to this parable, Jeremias points out the distinct difference in tone and content between the parable “proper”...

Pentecost 19 C: Eternal Life Now

Luke 16:19-31 Dear Partner in Preaching, Do you ever wonder if Luke had ever heard about justification by grace? I mean, tradition tells us that he was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul’s but, if so, it’s hard to know just how much of Paul’s theology rubbed off. On the one hand, you have the incredibly grace-filled parables of being lost and found in chapter 15, but then you get these far more difficult, even threatening parables about money and the consequences of misusing it the 16th chapter. But if last week’s parable was difficult because it was rather confusing, this week’s parable is difficult because it seems...

Pentecost 3 B: Preach The Truth Slant

Dear Partner in Preaching, What’s the difference between a fable and a parable? I think answering this question is crucial if we are to preach this passage. You see, a fable is primarily didactic, a clever story meant to offer some insight into and instruction about life – think Aesop’s Fables for a moment. A parable, on the other hand, is intended to be disruptive, to interrupt what you thought you knew and not just teach you something but actually to confront you with a surprising and often unwanted truth. Fables are handy when you want to give kids some good advice or teach them some moral or practical lesson. Who doesn’t remember...

Matthew 13:51-53

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” When Jesus had finished these parables,...