Thursday, May 26, 2022

A reflection by Rev Alistair McLeod for Sunday 13th June 2021

June 13, 2021 by  
Filed under Weekly Reflection

Scripture reading:  Mark 4:26-34

“With many such parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.”

Parables are truly wonderful teaching tools and can range in length from this very brief one about a mustard seed to much longer ones, like that of the Prodigal Son. The Hebrew word most often used for parable is mashal, which also means “riddle.” Jesus, of course, was not the first to teach with the use of parables or riddles. In fact, he stands in a long tradition of Jewish teaching. Mashalim are found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, with examples in Ezekiel, 2 Samuel, Isaiah, and 1 Kings. The beauty of this style of teaching is that there is not an objective interpretation, nor is there one that is always immediately obvious; the meaning is veiled and takes some digging to uncover. I often wonder if Jesus gave his own, fuller take on all of his mashalim at the end of the day while lounging with the disciples – I bet he did.

The mustard seed in this parable is most often related to personal faith, and how a tiny bit of faith can grow into something more significant, even moving mountains, remember that line in Paul’s letter, sometimes called his ‘love poem’ to the Corinthians, when he quotes “I have all the faith needed to move mountains; but if I have no love this does me no good”, it causes the reader to unpack the wider meaning of the passage… Another view, on a somewhat larger scale, would be to see the mustard seed as the Gospel itself. After all, Jesus and his followers were a tiny band of people, and they occupied a tiny speck of land on a vast planet in an infinite universe. And yet somehow, the Gospel spread against all odds and has survived and produced branches, leaves, and a habitat for the soul.

Jesus preferred to teach the crowds by way of parables instead of through direct, unambiguous lessons, because it made the listener think more deeply in order to arrive at a clear meaning for him or herself and so it was more likely to have a more profound and lasting impact on them.

And a short prayer for you:

Lord Jesus Christ, when we read, or listen to your word being read, help us to stop and think about what the words might mean.  More importantly, what the words say to me, in my life and my relationships with others, and then put into practice what we have understood, always feeling safe in the knowledge that you will never try to trip us up.  In reading your word Lord, help us to build a strong faith that we can share with others.  Amen

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