I come from a large family…on my dad’s side. He is one of SIXTEEN siblings. Same mom and dad. All biological. My grandma was a CHAMP. However, that family lived on the East Coast and I rarely saw them. In comparison, my mom’s side of the family is almost the complete opposite; very small and five minutes down the road. Like me, my mom is an only child, and so, growing up, it was me, my parents, and my maternal grandparents.
I was very close to my mom’s dad. Opa, I called him. He was a towering figure in my life. He spent most of his time in bed, Grandpa Joe-style (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Also, like Grandpa Joe, he would rise from bed here and there to take me on adventures or pick me up from school and spoil me with junk food. Never to a chocolate factory, though. Hmmm, come to think of it, he never even let me go wild in an official candy STORE. But, you know, whatever, I’m over it. Not a big deal.
He was the best. He’s been gone for about 25 years and I still think of him often; most days, in fact.
One of the things that I remember the most was his abnormally long stories. We ALL KNOW, grandparents can be long-winded. Verbose. Chatterboxes. Now, having kids of my own, I see what captive audience members grandparents have in their grandchildren, after being ignored for decades by their own children. Also, I understood that I entered into a social contract with Opa, whereby he plied me with sweets and I listened to his stories of Depression-Era struggles, or World War II. None of this interested me. None of it. But I loved spending time with him and hearing his voice. So, I sat, both willingly and helplessly, to listen to yet another tale.
Another thing we know about these recollections is that they’re trying to teach us something through them. There’s always a method, always a moral, always a lesson. And instead of telling us that AT THE START, they tell us a rambling, lengthy anecdote that seems completely disconnected from the question we initially asked. But…wouldn’t you know, it always comes back around. Eventually. They land the plane. Finally. And…it was worth it. Sitting and listening to all that wisdom and experience makes us better. The story helps. Somehow, it relates. It all ties together. Incidentally now, at almost 40 years of age, sitting at the foot of his bed, listening to him speak, are some of my most treasured memories, not just of him but of all time.
It should come as no surprise that no one did this better than Jesus. (To be clear, I wouldn’t ever refer to Jesus as rambling or disconnected. The comparison isn't PERFECT, but it works. Listen, I'm doing my best here. Cut me some slack.) In His telling of a parable, He told a relatable story to the people whom he was speaking, and by the end of it, they’d realized He’d answered their question. Some were frustrated. Some were furious. Some were comforted. Sometimes, the answers found in the parables of Jesus were not ones that the people listening anticipated or appreciated, but all were given an invaluable gift: Truth. And not just any truth, but truth in the way that best suited them, their situation, and their understanding. No one has ever been more reliable and consistent in that pursuit. Flowing from His very heart, each word, each story, each look, each touch, just cradled you in that truth.
So, I ask the question to you…what is God trying to teach you and I through these parables today? If His Word is still living and breathing, then surely it is still relevant to us, today, here in Tacoma, trying our very best to do ministry, and be worthy of the calling and commission of Jesus.
How does the parable of The Great Banquet, or the one about the Laborers in the Vineyard relate to the person who will be walking through the door marked “SIMPLICITY” this Sunday morning for the first time?
As we approach our Grand Opening, what whispers of Jesus are turning into shouts? Will we let Him have our attention this week?