I have been reading quite a bit this Christmas season, and one of the books that has given me much to ponder is Eugene Peterson's, The Contemplative Pastor, Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, originally published in 1989. In his chapter entitled, "The Subversive Pastor," he writes:
Jesus' favorite speech form, the parable, was subversive. Parables sound absolutely ordinary: casual stories about soil and seeds, means and coins and sheep, bandits and victims, farmers and merchants. And they are wholly secular: of his forty or so parables recorded in the Gospels, only one has its setting in a church, and only a couple mention the name of God. As people heard Jesus tell these stories, they saw at once that they weren't about God, so there was nothing in them threatening their own sovereignty. They relaxed their defenses. They walked away perplexed, wondering what they meant, the stories lodged in their imagination. And then, like a time bomb, they would explode in their unprotected hearts. An abyss opened up at their very feet. He was talking about God; they had been invaded!
I probably feel the closest to Jesus when I am walking and looking at leaves and flowers and the curious things I am lucky enough to see in the neighborhood. Through these walks, I have come to understand a little more about the movement of growth, color, and form. In other words, I have learned something of my soul, and maybe of angels and Mary: an abyss of beauty that is ever with us. May we remember that no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are not strange and separate, rootless creatures. Rather we are souls that belong completely in the light and love of the Divine.Jesus continually threw odd stories down alongside ordinary lives (para, "alongside"; bole, "thrown") and walked away without explanation or altar call. Then listeners started seeing connections: God connections, life connections, eternity connections....Parables aren't illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imaginations, which if we aren't careful become the exercise of our faith.
Let us exercise our love.
photograph: Oakland CA, May 2018