The thing that strikes me about parables is their lack of clarity. So much of the American Church these days seems to want truth and reality handed to it with a pretty little bow; simple, clear, straightforward, unambiguous.
The clearest way we see this is when a preacher tells us that any particular scripture passage has one true meaning or correct reading. Leftover from the Scottish Common Sense School of the 19th century, this philosophical position is the epitome of modernism.
I mean, don’t you have to wonder how every preacher who invokes such a “plain reading” of scripture always happens to be right? If we put everyone in a room together who held to such an understanding of scripture, can one really expect that they would all articulate the same understanding? Or would we find, more likely, that widely divergent voices would each be calling his or her own understanding the one true “plain reading” of any given passage?
This is the glory of parables. Not only is some “one true meaning” harder to claim, but the very form of parables draws you into discussion about the point (or points) of the story.
May a (renewed) interest in parables open up the world for us!