I already mentioned I'm doing a short series based around some of the parables of Jesus. I love revisiting these tales and trying to read them differently from the last time and the time before that - even if as I read them the same images pop into my head as did, erm, around forty years ago. And this is part of the challenge, I think, to find new insights and ideas without destroying the fragile and beautiful vestiges of youth.
This week I have been re-reading parts of Stephen Wright's Tales Jesus Told and enjoying the fresh approach he takes to reading some of the narrative parables. Suffice to say that this week's service will draw on some of what he explores.
I have also been reminded of a short series I did a couple of years back, not long before I left Dibley for Glasgow, also on some of the parables, in which I asked people to imagine themselves into the story and to hear it from the perspective of various characters... for example, from the viewpoint of the priest or the thieves in the Good Samaritan story (I never quite went as far as the viewpoint of the donkey or, as one set of Bible notes I once had did, the road!).
This Sunday we are using Luke's banquet parable which most commentators seem to see as a different story from Matthew's. Again, a couple of years back at a ministers' conference we were invited to work in small groups to enter a Bible story as the characters within it. The group I was part of landed the Matthew banquet story and I became the person who was ejected for not wearing the wedding clothes ... it was a powerful way of experiencing the tale and I recall my character saying 'if I could have a second chance I'd wear the clothes...' It made me think a lot about inclusion, exclusion, grace, forgiveness, second chances and culture, none of which is the usual explanation of the story but each of which is valuable.
And that's the point, isn't it? The parables aren't neat Victorian style moral tales with one obvious meaning, nor are they folk tales with a happy ever after outcome, they are puzzling and mysterious tales designed to make the hearer/reader think. I hope we are able to do a little bit of that this summer, starting this week as we hear stories Jesus told about parties.