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Parables and Kingdom life

Hat tip to Mir for this AP piece about a pastor's unique challenge to his congregation after preaching on the Parable of the Talents. What'd he do? He gave each of them $50 and challenged them to find a way to double it in seven weeks with all the money going to several charity causes.

I loved a lot of things about this story, especially the multiple layers of revelation among those who participated, how people's gifts flourished, how putting into practice a simple discipline yeilded a harvest of Kingdom life, and how folks not only transformed individually but their community transformed, too. And I particularly loved the pastor's wise response to this question:
Throckmorton is asked all the time if the talent challenge will become an annual event, but he is doubtful. It was a special time and a special idea, he says, and he is not sure it could be re-created or relived.
I really resonate with this. One thing I'm discovering these days is how the Kingdom expresses itself through we people of God--how its eternal Life and Love puts on and then bursts skins, how its Right-ness and Grace and Glory is always moving and changing its expression to each time and place. One of the weaknesses of current church culture is our tendency to take an expression of the Kingdom like this and try to contain and recreate it. Sometimes it works (for awhile) but often the explosion of Kingdom life can't be recreated or contained--it's meant for place and time.

Anyway, I thought a wonderful piece--I hope you enjoy it.

(Image: Woodcut from Historiae celebriores Veteris Testamenti Iconibus representatae. 1712 via Wikipedia)


FWIW, the Parable of the Talents may be one of the most misunderstood parables there is. There is a lot more that could be said about this, but for now, allow me to quote what I wrote here, in a comment at my church's blog when someone raised the subject of usury:


No answers to the immediate questions here, but I figured I might as well complicate matters further.

You know the Parable of the Talents from Matthew's gospel? The one that ends with the servant describing his master's alleged wickedness and the master replying that the servant should at least have put his money in the bank so that it would collect interest? How do you think that would have sounded to an audience that was familiar with the Jewish scriptures' prohibition against the collecting of interest? If our understanding of, say, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is enhanced by our knowledge of the Jewish laws that declared pigs to be "unclean", then should not our understanding of the Parable of the Talents be enhanced by these other laws, too?

Add to this the fact that the Parable of the Minas from Luke's gospel is very similar to the Parable of the Talents, and the master in that version of the story seems even more deserving of the servant's criticisms. (Something to consider: In that day and age, why would someone go to another country in order to be made king in his own country? Historians have seen this, rightly I think, as a not-so-subtle reference to the Herods, the corrupt Edomite family who ruled Judea, Galilee, and so on at the discretion of Rome. And Jesus was no friend of the Herods.)

I do not mean to say, incidentally, that the master in these parables is somehow not a stand-in for God, on some level. Jesus often seems to draw analogies between God and questionable figures -- an unjust judge, a shepherd who abandons most of his sheep in order to save just one, a landowner who is somewhat insulting to the day labourers he hires and then doesn't pay them "fairly" -- but I think he does this not to say that God is questionable himself, but rather to say that even in our dealings with questionable people we are still dealing, in some sense, with God and what he is doing in our lives.
Carmen Andres said…
heh, that'll teach me to post with out researching (basic journalism 101). seriously, thanks for taking the time to comment in the midst of Christmas. and i appreciate your comments. and i'd like to know more of about parable's meaning - so please share if you have the time!

as for me, i've come to think that jesus wasn't so much talking about money, but with being faithful and living in breath-taking risk with whatever God brings our way. the parable also always had an urgency for me (being as it is in the midst of the other parables he's sharing), something we comfortable Westerners are a little too unaware of. i don't have time to look into this more right now (house to be cleaned, dinners to be planned, children to play with, heh), but it's on my list for later. thanks again, and merry christmas.

what struck me about this story, however, had less to do with the parable than the experience of the people and community. interestingly, even if the parable was misrepresented or misinterpreted, it seems like they tapped into something that resulted in Kingdom living. and, it's messy, but God works in that mess in ways we don't expect. i love how Eugene Peterson puts Romans 8:4 in the Message - In Jesus, God "entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all". (which is why i like your latter comments about the parable - it's nessier than we think which matches reality.)

by the way, folks, if your reading this and love movies and haven't visited chattaway's blog before, take a gander. i don't think the man sleeps. and i wish had the mental file drawers to hold the amount of facts and film history he has in his.
Tap said…
One of the comments I heard about this parable focused on the line "I will judge you by your own words," and said the servant was making an excuse, knowing that his master was not really like that at all.