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Michael's blog

Can it mean that?

We are now well into our month of parables. Preparing for each Sunday, and diving into several parables, has brought home to me the importance of understanding the social world of 1st century Palestine. This is both inviting and demanding; that world operated in ways we struggle to comprehend. In particular, it was imbued with an honour-shame code. Only traces of that code have endured into 21st century Western culture.

How do you know that?

Last Sunday in church, I identified 3 steps in attending to Jesus’ parables. The first is to listen for your own response to the story; that is, your spontaneous, emotional response. (It might be joy, yearning, shame, guilt, anger…) The second is to analyse what’s happening in the parable. The third is to integrate these two steps.

How is that possible?

November is our Month of parables. Parables are, to quote the picture above, ‘small stories… big ideas’.

Many have thought of parables as stories which illustrate an important point. For example, the story of the Unusual Samaritan illustrates the need for compassion and care. Recent scholarship, however, has thrown up a new way of engaging parables. It reminds us that when Jesus first told these stories, in first century Palestine, they would have elicited shock and confusion amongst those who listened.

Not spinning out

Yesterday, I read about Abdullah Elmir, a 17 year old Australian teenager from Bankstown, who featured in a recent IS video and claimed that IS would not stop fighting until, ‘the black flag is flying high in every single land.’ It is chilling and disturbing. Yet, it underlined for me the importance of what we are doing at Gordon Uniting in our Inter-faith month. In reaching out the hand of friendship and welcome, we will better understand what Islam stands for, and what it doesn’t stand for (and the ways in which it has been co-opted recently by a small extremist group).

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