I'm in a great class about the parables here.
Every week, three people bring in a little five minute presentation which includes
a) a recitation of a parable
b) the context that they're dealing with
and c) a reperformance of the parable. (For example, today someone did 'the unjust judge' in terms of Emmett Till)
It's a great way of thinking about the texts/stories, and some of the folks were reading have some interesting arguments. John Dominic Crossan, for instance, sets up this continuum of literary forms, from myth to parable. His argument is that while Myth creates a world, parable subverts a world. (apologue0 defends world, action- explores world, and satire- attacks world all operate between the two ends of the continuum.) In other words, the very form of the parable is designed to break our established ideas about the world. This has led me to see more of how Jesus' parables fit into his other teachings that make use of the 'subvert to overcome' method. (ie- turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, etc... for those unsure of why this is subversion, ask me or check out wink's powers that be).
Last week I did a pirate retelling (in honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day) of 'The Land of a rich man produced abundantly...' (The one where he tears down his barns to build larger ones, then dies.) We've been reading a book called The Parables as Subversive Speech, which argues that this parable is a condemnation of the rich man, because he did not return the abundance of the harvest to the community, its rightful owners. I named an Oberlin College convocation as my context, then told the story of the pirate captain Shankleford Firearm, to try to get at the too-often prevailing mindset of academics getting knowledge wherever they can and keeping it in the proverbial ivory towers. But see, it's better as a story, you know?
The professor warned that the class would get us thinking parabolically about most things before too long. It's already happening to me.
What if the widow in the Unjust Judge parable is to be read as God? What if the parable encourages us to take heart and keep praying (as Luke suggests) by reminding us that God keeps showing up, to grind away at the terror of Empire?
I'm also curious about how the Uncultured Man and the Ramayana story fits in. I can't do it justice here, but it's like a world-subverting/world-affirming tale combined. I think I might tell it to my professor sometime, in the hopes of figuring out what it does, in order to more clearly articulate how awesome it is.
I also continue to love the way that we go from the theoretical to the practical. For example, a riff on the Great Feast parable led us to a discussion about open and closed communion. Imagine an place where the smartest people in town gather and figure out how all this stuff applies to the local church. I'm in it. Hot.
Emily, Beth, Rachael: I think you should all consider going to seminary sometime. Maybe even this one. It'll teach you why wearing one of those little mustard-seed necklaces around might be a radical act.