Dear Friends in Christ,
For over fifteen hundred years; Christians heard the parables as they were read during the Eucharist. Scholars, monks, bishops, and some priests read them personally, studied them, and wrote books about them. They even reproduced them, word for word, often with great style and beauty. Most people heard Scripture and heard sermons about the passages read. As we read them, we are given an eye to see Christians together at prayer centuries ago. In short. the Scriptures were not read critically, nor read literally; they were prayed, The biblical stories were reflected on in the context of worship, in buildings containing wall paintings about biblical themes.
The parables have not survived to be dissected; they have survived in the context of worship. Many modern people have forgotten that. They dismantle, and often hear preachers dismantle, the biblical texts or, if they are fundamentalists, they seek to make propositions out of words and stories which were meant to be meditated upon and offered in prayer. We pray for the Church, that it may grow as we meditate on the parable of the sower, which assures us that the Church will continue in strength despite the rocky ground and the weeds.
We learn about wheat and weeds, and how it will be God and not us who will finally do the weeding because we can’t tell what is wheat and what are weeds any more than we can tell a sheep from a goat … and then we ask God to have mercy on the people we were about to judge and condemn.
As we pray the parables, we are told not to leave our measure of faith “buried” with a hymn book in the parish church. We discover, as our pride is shaken, that we were found, lying on a road, mugged by our own foolishness and the evil that lurks around our path, and that it is Jesus who picks us up, applies the salve and the bandages, and leaves us in the household of God with all the grace we need until Jesus returns.
Praying the parables – indeed, praying the Scripture – reconnects us to the sacramental reality of the Church in God’s world. Of course, we may use our intelligence and training to study scripture. If we do that study completely outside the context of the worship of the Church, however, we may well find the process arid unless we are Bible geeks! But the Church needs Bible geeks, and we are all called to study the Scriptures. Discovering Scripture in worship, in the Eucharist, in the Daily offices, and in our devotions, opens them to meditation with the eyes of faith and in the company of the baptized.