The Common Good

Sermon on the Worst Parable Ever

wedding feast

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, "Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet." But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet." Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

'But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?" And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen.'

-- Matthew 22:1-14

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When my mom and dad returned from visiting Israel and Palestine, they told me that sometimes nice unsuspecting Christians from the West fall for a little scam. Apparently they buy tours of biblical sites that include a visit to the very road where the Good Samaritan helped the man beaten by thieves. This seems like it would really complete a trip to the Holy Land until you realize that the Good Samaritan was a parable. It would be like selling tickets to see the childhood home of the Billy Goats Gruff.

But our desire to believe that there is an actual road we could visit where the Good Samaritan helped the beaten man points to our desire to domesticate parables into something understandable and unchanged that we can take snap shots of ourselves standing in front of while on vacation.

But that's not what parables are -- they are metaphoric speech, part riddle, part joke, part fable and totally unsolvable. And they can be maddening which is why throughout Christian history people have tried to define what each one means and neatly allegorize them so they are less mysterious -- which, for the record is like trying to nail jello to a tree.

But I understand wanting to simplify parables into something small and understandable -- preferably with a moral lesson tacked onto the end. Yet what makes Jesus' parables so powerful is that they are endless sources of meaning

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