Section 2: What’s a Parable?
A pair of bowls? No! A parable!
A parable is a story that someone tells to make a point beyond the story itself. The story is most often untrue, and for all we know, all of Jesus’s parables were fictional stories. They didn’t happen in history. But this doesn’t mean they’re untrue. This sounds like an absurd statement, that something didn’t happen but that it is a true story. But we tell these kinds of stories all the time to prove points.
Sometimes they’re about historical figure. You know that story about George Washington cutting down his family’s cherry tree with his brand new hatchet but being honest about it when his father confronted him? It never happened. It’s a story made up by one of Washington’s earliest biographers, a guy named Mason Locke Weems. In trying to convey the truth of Washington’s honesty and integrity, Weems made the story up to prove a point. Most people just don’t realize that it’s a myth, a parable, instead of a historical event. Washington’s honesty is true, even if the story didn’t happen.
At other times we just make up stories altogether. Perhaps you’re familiar with The Boy Who Cried Wolf, where a boy lies about a wolf’s appearance so many times that, when a wolf really does show up, no one believes him. Someone made up this story to impress upon children the importance of telling the truth and not deceiving those who can help you. Aesop’s Fables, a large set of moral stories, perform the same kind of work.
They’re also stories that sound familiar to the hearers. Jesus uses lots of parables that reference farming and agriculture because many of his listeners were familiar with that way of life. Our parable today, of workers in a vineyard, would sound quite similar to the experiences of 1st century Hebrews who worked in vineyards, made wine and ate fruit from those vineyards, or walked past those vineyards on their way to work or temple. Since we might not be as familiar with vineyards or farming, it’s sometimes helpful to read these parables alongside people who’ve lived and worked in settings similar to the story Jesus is telling. That can help us more accurately understand the truth that Jesus is trying to tell us.
Ultimately, Jesus uses parables to teach people about truth, God’s truth, through stories that can connect with anyone. Since they’re not historical stories, hearers could imagine themselves as any of the characters in the parable. That way, the deep truth of the story can connect with all of the hearers.
Section 3: Faith With(out) Works
First, take a minute to read Matthew 21:33-46. You can use your own Bible or read it here.
Then, give it a watch!
Section 4: What Does This Mean?
This image of God’s love is a key for us all. Nothing, not even our own selfishness, can prevent God’s salvation from coming to our world, which is the vineyard which God gave to us, in which God calls us to work, and from which God calls us to share.
Section 5: Closing Prayer
Almighty God, you have called us to labor in your vineyard, and without you we can do nothing. Grant your gracious presence at this meeting, that what we do will build up your whole church. Let your Holy Spirit govern and direct us, that we may consult together peacefully, pleasing you with all that we say and do; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Opening and Closing Prayers from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinting by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.