Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Parables, Figs and Manure

This below  is such a helpful sermon for several reasons.  First, it's honest (It's by The Sarcastic Lutheran herself).
I need to try that more often.
But we need reminders that parables are, among other things:

-"a loud fart in the salon of spirituality" -Eugene Peterson

-not allegories

-"sizzle in the mind...telling you 'Your attitude is the opposite of God's" (Kraybill, Upside Down Kingdom)
- To conceal teachings from those on the outsideTo reveal/ illustrate teachings – both inside” and “outside” (Mark 12:12);To disarm listeners. Thus, a “backdoor” teaching device; the zinger element of effective parables; a sudden shift in identity or plot-change which turns the story on its ear.  -Klein, Link, this helpful article 
          -sometimes characterized by surprising, subversive...even shifting God-characters /Jesus-figures

Sermon: One More Year for Figs and Manure  by Nadia Bolz-Weber, the Sarcastic Lutheran
Audio of this complete sermon

Well, it’s parable day again boys and girls. And boy do we have a weird one. Today we hear the parable of the Fig tree. In this parable the Vineyard owner is frustrated that in 3 years his fig tree has not produced any fruit.  So the vineyard owner is ready to just chop it down.  To hell with it.  It’s a waste of good soil. The tree had it’s chance and will never be anything but useless so the guy might as well cut his losses.  But then the gardener steps in and pleads to give the tree one more year – a year when he can upturn the soil add some literal crap to it and see what happens.

Parables like this one are like Jesus’ subversive little stories of an alternate universe. But the alternate universe of Jesus’ parables is comprised not of alternate things but of ordinary things: coins and trees and wheat and sons and Fathers and widows. Yet it is in these ordinary things that parables allow us to see how the nature of God is revealed in surprising, even shocking or scandalous ways within the very ordinary.

Jesus’ parables tend to be deeply engaging and really frustrating at the same time: you can meditate on them, struggle with them, enter into them, speak of them but you just can not solve them. The best way to suck the life out of a parable is by attempting to figure out the so-called moral of the story.  Parables aren’t about morals they are about truth – hidden, unyielding, disruptive truth. The kind of truth that simply can’t be contained.

Ok, that stuff about parables is all well and good, but I have a confession to make:
Every once in awhile, on Tuesday mornings when I read the Gospel text assigned for the upcoming Sunday – the passage sounds so totally unfamiliar to me that I think Oh my Gosh…is that like, a new, recently added part of the Bible?  It’s like there are new parts that people just sneak in occasionally when we’re not looking just to mess with the preachers.

I honestly have zero familiarity with the parable we just heard – which is weird since you’d think that I’d totally remember a parable where poop is mentioned...

...I think the reason I couldn’t find anything to say about this parable is because I assumed in this parable, that God is the vineyard owner. Capricious and impatient and angry and ready to judge our pathetic fruitlessness and destroy us for our shortcomings.
There are not really assigned parts in parables, which is why we can always close one eye, tilt our heads and look a them other ways, so isn’t it weird how we tend to assume that in Jesus parables God is always the wealthy one?  The king, the land owner, the vineyard owner.  It’s not like that’s wrong it’s just not the whole truth of who God is.  And this week it seemed to me that the vineyard owner doesn’t sound like the God I know, the God revealed in Jesus Christ.  The God who came to dwell with us full of grace and truth, the God who doles out forgiveness like candy and eats with sinners and invites all to God’s table.  No, the vineyard owner who was angry and impatient and wanting results doesn’t sound like God.  The vineyard owner just sounds like me.   I’m the one who judges myself and others wondering why I can never seem to pull off the things I say I want


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