Parables: New Testament

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Part of "The Kingdom in Parables: New Testament, Cosmology and Contemporary Poetry"

2. Parables: New Testament

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really move from layer to layer to layer to start far into the caribbean, far into the south, but we can't do that in this framework. Now let's start with a poem. Would somebody like to read Mary Oliver number 8? That's the summer day. The summer day. Who made the world? Who made the swan? And the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? His grasshopper ate him. The one who had split himself open in half. The one who was eating sugar out of my hand. The human who would throw on a bathroom floor to stay up and down. She was gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and here she walks into space.


Now she snaps her wings open and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and restless, how to scroll through the field, which is what I've been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die fast and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? That's a kind of poet, isn't it? It's also an epiphany. Notice how, like many modern poets, she moves into the exact observation of what's in front of her in nature, which in this case is the grasshopper. And she abjures anything. She's like Stephen Smith. She'll say, well, I don't know anything about God.


I don't know anything about prayer. I can't see this grasshopper. And this grasshopper, for me, represents an extreme intensity of reality, of vitality, of life. The most convincing argument there is, at this moment, is the grasshopper in front of me. But then it comes back right inside of her, and she says, what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life? It feels quite wonderful when she does it. And she'll do it again and again. I think it's not a formula, but it's a pattern in her poems. And it's a kind of parable in the sense that it comes home to you as Nathan, you know, after he tells David his story, says, you are the one I've chosen. You are the man. What's your eternity? But in a way, it opens rather than closes. And this is typical of, I think, a modern parable, has to leave you free instead of seeming to determine you in some way. So what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?


She's not telling you one thing to do. She's trying to put you in touch with your inner freedom and with the preciousness, the unrepeatability, the uniqueness of life and of this moment. In talking about parables and poems, sometimes I think in terms of two fullnesses. Because there's a fullness in the New Testament. And some of you may have heard this before. There's a fullness in the gospel. And it's in the parables too. The parables of the kingdom especially. The fullness we can call the Christ mystery if you want to go to theological language. But it's the totality that's in Jesus. And we know that it's there. He brings it into the world. And of his fullness we have all received. Remember from John's prologue. And Paul talking about Christ and how he brings together heaven and earth and Jews and Gentiles. And everything is somehow summed up. And all the churches of wisdom and knowledge. The whole of divinity is in him in a bodily form. Now that fullness is there. And the New Testament is a tremendously convincing witness to that fullness that bursts into the world in Jesus.


And starts to transform the world. Because it's not only a fullness. It's not only light. But it's also energy. Well that's there. It's in the New Testament. But a lot of commentaries on the scripture are like a narrow pipe. A little wire. Or some kind of mediation. Some kind of conduit. That reduces that fullness. Until it's no longer recognizable. In other words. You never get the gospel on the level on which the gospel was written. You never get the experience. The reality. The explosion of that fullness. On anything like the wavelength on which it really is. Okay. Now what can we bring to that fullness. In order to be able to relate to it as it is. The only thing we can bring to it is the fullness that we have. The fullness that we are. The fullness of our present world. And of our present self. Our one wild and precious light. And we can't put that into words. It's the most fugitive thing. The most ungraspable thing possible.


Is our own being. With it's unarticulable dimensions. And depth and so on. And richness. And intensity. And we know this. And it slips away from us. That's what the poet does. He brings us back in touch with that fullness. Fullness is only one word for it. Because it's kind of an explosion to every dimension. It's fullness. It's intensity. It's light. It's fire. It's intensity of experience. And it's also that which goes beyond it. It's also a depth that's out of our touch. It's both spirit and it's body. Oliver will talk at one time about the wild beings of your body. Nothing will ever dazzle you like the beings of your body. There are dimensions of experience that are out of touch of our experience somehow. But they're in us. So what can we bring to the word to get in contact with. To participate this fullness of the word. Unless it's the fullness of our self. But we can't do that just with our heads obviously. What the poet does is try to bring you in contact with that fullness of your self.


And then you can bring that to the scriptures. So bring the poem into the scriptures in that sense. But it's the poem of itself. It's the poem that all the poems are trying to open up inside of you. The poem which cannot be put into words. The inner, call it energy field if you like. But whatever it is, the totality of your consciousness and what's beyond your consciousness. Now that's what Oliver is trying to get to all the time in the poem. It's also what Wallace Stevens is about. Trying to open up those dimensions of existence and of experience into the fullness of what we are. And the fullness of what we have. And the fullness of what we are not yet but shall be. Of which we have the seed inside ourselves. Which is an energy of the fire. The seed of fire. A kind of mustard seed burning inside us. And it's only that really which is worthy of the scripture. Worthy of the gospel. The gospel itself is trying to open that up inside of us. And interpret it as being Christ. Interpret it as being the seed of the word. As being the gift of God.


And our destiny. The poem helps us to do it nowadays. So, one reason for bringing poems together with parables is precisely that. The two fullnesses. It's a great gift to be brought in touch with the fullness which we are. It's already a sacred experience. And also it breaks down the walls between the sacred and the sacred. Because the fullness that's in the gospel really wants to reach out into the whole of reality. It doesn't want to be confined within religion, within the church, within a particular church. When Jesus comes into the world, religion turns into humanity. Religion sort of runs into the ground of human life. Amos Wilder has a wonderful book called Early Christian Literature. It's a kind of forbidden title. There's a chapter on the parables on that. The thing about the parables of Jesus is that they are about ordinary life. These stories are about ordinary life. These stories are what Jesus creates and what Jesus is. Which is divinity which has simply disappeared into the ordinariness,


the incarnateness of human life itself. So there's no religion, there's no church built on top of human life. It runs into human life and disappears into it. And that's the problem. That's the wonderful thing about it and that's the problem. From one point of view, it disappears because it runs into the ordinary which often times we just resist. We want to get away from it. Because we haven't been able to handle it and therefore we fear from it. We have to have something special. From another point of view, it simply disappears into us. So the religion is gone. The experience is gone. The miracle is gone. The revelation is gone. The only thing that's left is us. But the whole thing is inside us. And the whole thing only emerges in a kind of creative mode. The whole thing only emerges when we take an active part in some way, believe in it and bring it forth, not according to a pre-decoming plan, but according to the spirit, which means according to our own creativity. According to the leading, as it were, of our own deepest instinct, which we're never quite sure of until we bring something forth. What is


a parable anyhow? Well, the word has a wild variety of meanings and it's used in the New Testament of course. Parabola is used in the Greek of the New Testament for a lot of Jesus' sayings, but they're different kinds of things. And in the Hebrew tradition, parabola can mean a lot of different kinds of figurative expressions. Here's a little definition of cross and once again which is applicable to what we're going to use it for, the New Testament parables. An extended metaphor or simile frequently becoming a brief narrative, generally used in biblical times for didactic purposes, for teaching. So it moves between simple metaphor, figure of speech, or as he says, aphorism. Just like a proverbial saying. A figure of speech being a proverbial saying. Like the lamp we had yesterday. The mark that we put. The lamp on the last night. Or to say that the kingdom of heaven is like a well or something like that. That would already be a parable in the New Testament, wouldn't it?


It develops and all the way over here becomes a story on the other side. So the other side is a full-fledged narrative like we have in the story of the sower, the first parable in Mark's gospel. And so there's a whole spectrum between those two. So it's very difficult to speak precisely about parables because they're not just one thing. They're a kind of horizon of things, a kind of front of things. This is what Crossman says further about in a deeper way about what a parable is about. A parable is a metaphor of normalcy. It's a horrible language. Which intends to create participation in its reference. It talks of A so that one can participate in B. Or better, it talks of X lowercase so that one can participate in X capital. And so understand the validity of X lowercase itself. A metaphor of participation


which resists your understanding so that you'll have to, in a sense, to beat it. So in a sense, you'll have to swallow it, which means to become what it is in order to understand it. We were talking about that yesterday. A metaphor of normalcy which intends to create participation in what it refers to. So participation in the kingdom, you can say. When Jesus says, I am the bread of life and people resist that, it's very much like that, isn't it? He's saying, I am the bread of life, I am the bread which comes out from heaven, unless you become a person in my blood. And they resist that. The human is undiscipled against that going away. It's the same thing, isn't it? It's a metaphor, a figure of speech which resists you until you participate in it. And that one is direct, that one is explicit. I am the bread of life. See, it resists your understanding until you eat it. Until you become what it is. Until you participate in what it's talking about. See, in John the language becomes much more direct. The parable is what you had of your symbol


in John. And then Jesus identifying himself as a symbol. I am the bread of life. There are no parables, strictly speaking, in John's gospel. There are plenty of symbols. You have a whole bunch of symbols. But they're fairly simple symbols, you know, like life, and light, and water, and place, and so on in John. They tend to, then begin to orbit. They tend to form a circle. And in the center of the circle is Jesus saying I am. I am. And that's like the fire in the bush in which all of the particular symbols disappear. They're all burned up in there. But before they get burned up, and after they're burned, they form an orbit around them where he says I am the bread of life. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way and the peace and the life. I am the great shepherd and so on. I am the gate of the sheep. Each of these is like another symbol, just at the edge of that fire of the eye of Adam before it disappears. Before the symbols disappear into the land. So, in John, we've got the


sentence here, the whole symbolic or parabolic system. In the parables themselves it disappears. The stories have disappeared into one story, which is the story of Jesus himself. John's gospel is very concentrated. There's very little going on at the margins. There are no independent characters in John's gospel. Everything is reflecting the one bright light at the center, which is Jesus himself. As he expresses, especially when he says I am. So he says each of these, you have those at the bottom of your parable list. Select them all. They may seem inappropriate. There are seven of them. And that comes from the appendix to the first volume of Brown's The Gospel of John. He's got a very nice appendix on the I am statements, which are of two kinds. The absolute ones, where Jesus says, simply, I am. Remember he says that when they come to a rest in the garden and the soldiers fall backwards. He says it when he's walking across the water, now midnight. Do not be afraid. I am. He says it to the Samaritan women.


And often, it doesn't come out in the translation, because they'll say, I am he, or this is I, or here I am, or something like that. Instead of those words, I am, which reflect the name of God in the Old Testament. But that's another story, which doesn't relate directly to a parable. But at the center of the parables, as it were, at a temperature which the parables can no longer resist, is that I am statement of Jesus. It's too hot there for the parables. The stories burn up. And there's just one story, and then the story itself burns up in that blaze of the identity of Jesus, which is then blended into Western baptism. But meanwhile, you've got this inner ring of the I am statements. I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the sheep food. I am the true vine. I am the model of the shepherd and true shepherd. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth, and the life. And we're meant to be, by those statements, drawn into the center until the individual predicates disappear. And there's just the I am, which is no longer even


outside of ourselves, but somehow has become our own identity. Because in all of those symbols, all of those mediations, he's really coming towards us, coming closer and closer and closer, until we are what he is. And that's the secret of John's gospel, of course, in the role of ethics. But in the synoptic gospels, Mark and Matthew and Luke read the parables, the stories which often, they don't concern Jesus immediately at all. He's telling them that they're about somebody else and something else. But the parables are further out from the center. We could talk about the relationship between parable and these other forms of figurative speech that are in the New Testament. The difference between parable and myth, for instance. Well, it's Crossan. I keep calling him Crossan. There's a book of his called In Parables, I think it's from 1973, which is a wonderful book. And what he's trying to do in that book, actually, is


find out what it is between modern poetry and the parable. He starts out with a bunch of quotes from modern authors, poets and critics, which is entitled Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Parable. That may sound familiar to you. Good. It's a little more like Stephen's poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Parable, by the black poet. And I wondered for a long time what it is. How does he make the connection? Is that just window dressing? Does he just, in a jazzy sort of way, associate the parable with modern poetry? Or does he really see a connection? I think the connection comes out when he starts saying what he means by a parable. Because his definition of a parable gets pretty narrow and it's the same way he would define a modern poem, ultimately. It's something that's not determined by its external reference. It doesn't relate to something outside itself. You only understand it in terms of itself, in terms of the relationship of its own elements. So it's a completely, what do you call it, autonomous composition coming from the author. I'll read


his own words about that in a minute. I did want to say something about this book of Croson's, which is, I love this book, but I think it's a lot different from his more recent work. He tends to be much more disintegrated in his more recent work, whereas here he's got a real reverence for the mystery and what's inside the parable. A parable gives us imaginary gardens with real toes in them. Remember this, Mary Ann Moore, talking about what a poet should do. A parable gives us imaginary gardens with real toes in them. And he's stretching it a little bit. Because, you see, the parable is in counter-verse language normally. It really could happen. But he says a myth gives you, what do you call it, an imaginary garden with imaginary toes. Because its language doesn't have to be real. It's not down to earth. It's in the archetypal language that can state it. Like the Greek myths and so on. The parable is in our language of our things. Myth moves freely


in the spaciousness of archetypal imagination, but the parable is down to earth in its language. And therefore it's incarnational. Therefore there's a cogency, a presentness to us which is not in the myth. Allegory is distinguished from parable because the allegory is like something that's constructed after the fact. You've got an idea or a series of ideas and then you create a parable, you create an allegory, the imagery to embody the ideas. But the parable is a thing in itself which is not a translation of pre-existing ideas. The image comes first and the ideas come afterwards. It's like music. Remember John of the Cross says about his own poetry that poetry came first and it came immediately out of his mystical experience. And then he writes a prose commentary on his own poems. But it's the poetry, it's the image which comes fresh from the center, fresh from the source, and contains the fullness. And the commentary is like


so it is with parable and allegory. The true parable in Croson's definition is something that issues straight out of the creative center, straight out of the source. And of course you see this uniquely happening in Jesus because Jesus is the word. Jesus is the creative word. So what comes from him in that sense is of utmost preciousness. They say, this is fairly agreed I think, that the parables are the most reliably authentic things that we have in the New Testament. Because the hardest thing to change, to fool with is a story. Is an image or a story. You can change doctrine, you can fuss with the words in one of the discourses, one of the sermons of Jesus. But it's hard really to change the essence of the parable. You can add something on to it, like the explanation of the parable of the sower in Mark and in Matthew. But it's hard to change the parable itself. Sometimes it's done. But that's one reason why I consider those to be the most reliably things to have from Jesus. Practically the words of Jesus himself.


But that has this other consequence, that here's something very, very precious. If this is something that originates from Jesus himself, is woven as it were, if this is the poetry of Jesus, then it's got a special value to it, got a special fascination to it. Maybe the fascination of the parables is really rooted there. And if these are coming out, they're woven by Jesus himself. Not something that he picked up and adapted or anything like that. Not even something that's coming from an idea. But something that's woven. Something that's created. A kind of new creation within the old creation. And which is resonating with, it's playing a kind of music on the old creation. On human life. So an allegory comes after the ideas. The parable is the primary source which generates the ideas. A parable and a metaphor are very close. A parable on one end is a metaphor and on the other end


it's an arctic. It's just there. But according to Crosman, it's a metaphor sort of trying to become an arctic. Trying to develop into a story. Somewhere on that spectrum. And a symbol is something that's already there. It's not something literary. It's something that's in existence. And then the poem or the parable may pick it up and use it. We've got lots of symbols in John like water and like water and the tree and life and so on. But those are already symbols. And they refer, as it were, not to one or another thing. But they go right into the ground of being. They refer right to the totality in some way. And therefore to a divine level of being. As well as the root level of human and creative existence. So the symbols are already there. The parable or the poem will pick them up. The I am sayings of Jesus in John


particularly pick up the symbols of being that connect them to Jesus himself. Connect them to their source and to their center. And some of the parables fit into this special category that Crosman is talking about where it's all one thing. And where there's a mystery hidden inside it and you only get to the mystery by participating in it. And in that it really approaches the modern poem. In that it really touches the modern poem. So I think the C parable would probably be a parable of that kind in his interpretation. But there are other parables, called parables in the New Testament which don't fit into that. Which are exemplary stories. So from that point of view you might think them to be inferior. But then you look at what they are and they're not inferior at all. They're some of the best stories. He says there are four of those in the New Testament. They're all in the Gospel of Luke. There's the Good Samaritan,


the Pharisee and the Republican, the Rich Fool and the Rich Man and Lazarus. Now especially two of those stories are hence the most marvelous, resonant, luminous stories there are. So it doesn't, because they don't conform to this kind of mysterious thing, this mysterious modern poetry parallel that he's defining a parable it doesn't mean that they're inferior. We'll say something about those particular parables later because they have something in common. It's clear it's peculiar to Luke. So those are called exemplary stories. I think it was Bookman who made these distinctions. So in a general sense they're called parables. In a restricted sense they're exemplary stories. Why? Because they're not mysterious in the same way. They give you a story which is plain. Sort of a Mariella story. They give you a story which is plain and which is as it were a principle of life for you. Is it positive or negative? The Good Samaritan is positive, the Rich Fool is


negative. The other two parables? The other two parables? The other two exemplary stories? The Good Samaritan, the Rich Fool, and Rich Man and Lazarus. Yep. Pharisee and publican. Yeah. Now those are among the most powerful stories in the New Testament. You can see where the definition is essentially at some point in time. As far as the inner fullness of the parable is concerned. I'd say that Croson's idea of the parable close to the modern form works better for the parables of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is like a treasure, like a pearl, like those which are explicitly parables of the kingdom and not so well for these stories in which they're given an example of a particular kind. I think that's it. Wilder's got one other idea


in his chapter on parables that I'd like to bring before you. It kind of ties up both with the poetry line that was following and also with the cosmology line. He's referring to the French poet Saint-Jean First who received the Nobel Prize. He gave an address as they always do when he received it. And he spoke of the power of language, especially of the power of the image maker, the poet. He had the audacity to compare that power to that of nuclear energy. He did not hesitate, I'm quoting Wilder, to set the fragile clay lamp of the poet over against the atomic oven, a source of world transformation. Therefore that means the sun too, because it's the same thing that happens in the nuclear fusion reaction. On Earth it happens in the sun, it happens at the heart of the star, which is always the same in all the stars. It's the same reaction. This fusion takes place, which is the


source of all of our energy, all of our life and all of our life. Unimagined futures lie folded as in a seed, in a new creative word, in the birth of language, in an emerging net. So it's in the poem or in the parable, where some kind of fusion has taken place. See, there's been a fusion between the spirit, let's say, the inner spirit and the world, but it's something that comes forth. And there's a fusion between image and truth. There's a fusion between knowledge and feeling, that we talked about before, that delightful knowledge. There's some kind of fusion that takes place under the heat and the pressure of the creative event that brings this new thing forth. This new concentration, you can say, of energy, which is contained within the poem or within the parable. So he goes on. This is a dim analogy of the power of the gospel and of the dawning kingdom of God as Jesus knew it and brought it to expression


in his parable. There's something about Wilder that he's got a sense of the power of the gospel. He's one of the contemporary writers, and there are not too many of them who have that sense of really the transcendent power of energy that's in the gospel. And he does not quitter a bit of it away by their analysis. If he analyzes then he allows it to come back together into his poem. It is this kind of authority certainly that voices itself in the seed parable, aware of cost and ordeal but also of joy. If the poet's clay lamp is ultimately more determinative than an atomic oven, as powerful as the sun, you might say, we hear in the gospel also of a lamp set on a stand where it gives light to all in the house and of a city which has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the lamp. There are a lot of implications I think in that. I mentioned a solar kind of, as Jesus said, a solar interpretation


before, which is interpreting the scriptures, not only the scriptures but also other writings, in terms of that solar reality which is God, which is Christ, and which is our self, which is our emerging self. And which even interprets our self in terms of what we are becoming, which is that solar reality, which is the sun. The sun is the best thing in the world. Remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus when Jesus opened the scriptures to them and as he opened the scriptures their hearts were burning. They looked back at their wisdom and said, well, we're not our hearts burning within us as he opened the scriptures to us on the road. As he opened the scriptures, what did he interpret? He interpreted the scriptures in terms of himself, didn't he? He showed them himself in the scriptures of the Old Testament. But at the same time he was showing them something else which doesn't come out in the words. He was revealing themselves to them. He was opening up that solar reality which is within their own hearts, which is their own heart, which is their own being.


We're not our hearts burning within us as he opened the scriptures to us on the road. See, inside the word is that reality of ourselves and the ultimate principle of interpretation, I think, is precisely that. The word is meant to communicate to us or to awaken us to that which is given us, that which we are, which is just awakening, which is this solar reality. And that's why the poems are helpful, I think, in reading the scriptures, because they don't let us stop short of that. They don't let us bring to the scriptures a world which is smaller than that. They are outbreaks, as it were, from a confined world, from the prison, as it were, of a restricted consciousness into the height and the depth and the length and the breadth in all their secularity. And in their secularity is their strength, because they don't slide down the rails of the old religious beliefs, the old religious ways of thinking that are so ingrained in us, and which also are so obligatory to us. In other words, they engage human freedom,


they engage human creativity, and that's where the expansiveness is. That's where the bigger world is. It's within you, waiting for you to bring it up. It's within each of us, waiting upon our own action in which we shall discover it. ... ... ... What I'm trying to say is that this fullness which we're talking about is the very energy that's in us, which is somehow identical with ourself and identical with our own initiative, identical with our own will, identical with our own ascent. And it first awakens in the ascent of faith when we say, I believe. When we believe Jesus, not knowing and believe in him, when we accept him, not knowing what we're doing. When we first believe in Christ, and you see it happening by kind of


sparking like popcorn all over the New Testament, when we first believe in him, accept him, recognize him, we sort of sign on to this, and that spark is started in our own heart, which is our own self-discovery. The self-discovery is that switch in which we find this larger world, but we only find it as we create it in some way. And that's, I would say, the modern discovery, or the modern wisdom, the new wisdom, or the wisdom of the West is the reality which comes from within the personal freedom of the human individual. And which also, of course, can get terrifically cut off from communion if it goes in the wrong direction. That's the thing we have to get back to. But the fact that the larger world we're talking about, the larger fullness, the second fullness of this world, of our self, is concealed within the seed, within the mustard seed, within the invisible spark of our own freedom.


It's a little like deciding whether we're going to have a good day or a bad day, you know, in the morning. It's up to us. It's up to us in the sense whether the sun shines or not. It's up to us whether we smile or we don't smile. So it's a very simple thing. It's up to us whether we have an affirmative attitude towards life, whether we affirm someone or whether in some way we take a little of their life away. The day or night, somehow, is within us, in our own world. Remember when Mary Oliver was interpreting the Buddha's last instruction and said, there will be a light in the world. But the light in the world is not a light that burns bravely in darkness, helpless against it. It is a light which has the power also to transform the world because it's an energy. And even to do it in the smallest way is to be doing it. Even to be doing it on the smallest scale is to be recreating the world in some way. I wanted


to go through some kind of principles of interpretation of the parables, but before that let me make a kind of pattern on this mandala figure here. What's so funny about that? You know, if I spin the four Gospels toward a mandala, it will bond over here. Matthew goes over here. Luke's over here. And Mark is down here. Now, behind this, remember, is the simple scheme of clinical creation. God, our Father, Word, Spirit, and our Creator. Now, I think


the four Gospels work themselves out on this. John's word, the unitive vice, or the application of vice, the right of the unitive reality to become before the Word and before the Spirit, before emancipation, before emancipation, before emancipation. This is the God of the Eastern tradition of Buddhism. And the God of the Eastern tradition knows that our understanding, especially in Buddhism, Buddhism is really the witness to this reality, and refuses to speak at all, refuses to say anything at all about this reality. And the apotheosis of Christianity is very clear. Matthew is over here in the Word. John is up here in the unitive reality, and the light is coming on. And the I am statement of Jesus, which I'll look at in a second, where he simply says, I am, and that is the unitive expression of identity, which is actually God himself, everything else. And which feeds you in the center of your own being, which is also the center of God's being, which is also the center of God's being.


And those statements of Jesus, then, are statements, as it were, of the pure unitive identity, beyond every, and before every diversity, before every expression, in a sense. And that's why the individual parable, the individual stories and symbols, even burn up as they approach that point. In Matthew, what you have is Jesus asking the new Torah. So Jesus is the teacher, and he brings the new law, the principles of the new Israel, and he creates what you can only call in some ways, the kingdom of God. Let me just give you a promise where I have found myself in some. In Luke, there is something else. Luke is the gospel of the spirit, and what you have in Luke's gospel and in Matthew's gospel is the energy of the spirit coming out into the world, okay? And Mark and these two contrasts along the heart of our lecture, and these two contrasts along the heart of our lecture. Down here we have Mark, and Mark is the gospel of the messianic secret. The messianic secret is that everything


somehow is real. I don't want to go on about the ephemeral, the real and so on, but the climax of itself of Mark's gospel is an anti-climax. The living is a state where we remain hidden in the ground. Now, this works also for the parable. At least it illuminates something in the parable, and that's what I'm doing. I think what you'll find over here with Matthew is parables of the order of creation, the revelation of the Lord, the divine Lord, which is expressed in two ways. It's expressed in the wisdom parable, like the treasure in the coat. This mysterious wisdom which turns everything upside down, which is not precious at all, but which is still a wisdom. And it appears also in the whole judgment framework of Matthew's parable. You have in Matthew many times, he seems to prefer this parable, that he has a master who goes


away and leaves his servants with something to do and then a master comes back to them. When a master comes back, that's the time of judgment. So he tends to put us into this framework. It's an order which is given to you as a directable wisdom in the pearl and the treasure. And it's also an order which indicates itself in judgment at the end of time. So the hard side and the soft side of this order is Matthew's wisdom. In truth, what he's got is not an order, he's got energy. He's got it coming out for him. For instance, the parable of Lucifer. What do you see there? This is a kind of principle that I'm stating. If there's a principle, a temporary principle that I'm going to use today, what do you see in the parable of the prodigal son? Same principle. The principle is an abounding energy which is unlimited. The solar principle, and that's not here in the parable of Lucifer.


That is, what you're supposed to imitate is the love which God gives. What you're supposed to imitate, what you're supposed to participate in, the rule of life, is something that outpours itself. John, Mary, and Mark is a deceit parable. Those of you who are the opposite of the revelation of God and how life changes. Deceit parables are parable stories of something which is buried in the earth, which is hidden, which is secret, and only revealed at the end. And open up your course. That's not just the word. It's not just the parable, it's Jesus, and it's ourselves. That law of life which is that deceit must go into the ground and only at the end of the earth. There's a different sense of time, a different sense of movement in Jesus and in God. In Mark we have a kind of organic time, a time of growth, a time of the hidden sproutings of deceit


and so on, and the joy of the rest of his life. In Matthew, you have a clock which is the clock of judgment after all. The time that you're given to do your work, to make your response before you're sentenced to judgment. In Luke, you don't have the same sense of time. A judgment can be there. It can be inherited there without it necessarily being an outcome. But the movement is a different kind of movement. It's a movement of this outcome. It's either a movement of striving towards God, like the widow of the unjust God, you know, that keeps pestering until it breaks down, you know. It's either that movement, or it's the movement corresponding to the outpouring of the good Samaritan and the son of the Father. Again, we have a kind of thing. In John, it's not so much a question of movement, nor it is a question of time, because he takes it to a kind of timeless center. And it's unfair to try to


shoot through this so quickly, but I want to just suggest some principles of interpretation of the parables, and if anybody's interested, I can Xerox this for you. The first principle is prophetic confrontation. That is, the parable is often aimed right at you. Sometimes it's aimed right at you like a pistol. A good example is in Mark 12, where Jesus is in controversy with the scribes and Pharisees and so on, and then he tells the parable of the wicked husbandman. Remember the wicked vine growers? And they realize that this parable is told against them, that he's told it for them. Or another example, a more friendly example, is with a lawyer. When Jesus has been in this discussion with him about the great commandment, and lovely neighbors and so on, he says, well, who is my neighbor? And then Jesus tells the parable of the


good Samaritan. Well, that's a prophetic confrontation, but it's a very gentle one. The lawyer is a friendly fellow. And Jesus says, you're not far from it. The second principle is the principle of the two levels, the surface and the interior. And I think this is true of all the parables. You're always reading a story which means something else, which refers to something else. This is almost a definition of parable. And so, one example is the seed, the parable of the seed and the sower. It obviously refers to something else, and in the explanation in the Gospel you're told that's the Word of God. But as I say, it's often important to leave that inner meaning open, both so that it can have the maximum of meaning, and so that you can sort of work, you can ferment with it, digest it, until you really yourself move inside the parable, and feel the energy of it, experience the energy of it, and not just the ideas in it. The third


principle is the principle of the unitive mystery. I've got this prejudice that all the parables are really saying one thing, and it's true and it's not true. It's true of the parables of the kingdom, I think. Take once again those parables of the treasure and the pearl and Matthew. Those are easy ones. Or take the parable of the workman in the vineyard, okay, and when the Lord, the master comes and pays each one the same amount, remember, and then the ones who came earlier, and they complain, they say, well, these guys only arrived at the eleventh hour, and you've given them the same wage you've given us for one denarius. See, I think what's happening here is that there is a single mystery, a single gift which is given to us, which is referred to either as the wisdom of God, or here in the parables, as the kingdom of God. And the parables are inviting us all to enter always inviting us to enter into that single reality, to find as God,


as Christ, as the kingdom of God, as the fusion of God and humanity in Christ, or finally, as the inner reality in ourselves. All those layers put clearly one thing. Now, that works very well for the parables of the kingdom. It doesn't work so well for the stories like the prodigal sons, the exemplary stories or Lazarus and the rich man and so on. And yet, you don't have to go too far to make the connection. There's a principle of coherence. The kingdom is one thing. This goes along with a lot of these follow-me from one another. The kingdom is one thing. It's homogeneous. So, if you want to live in it, you have to be what it is. Remember the story of the great banquet and then the fellow without the wedding garment, okay? He didn't put on the wedding garment, so he's cast outside. Now, what does that mean?


Well, it means that it means in some way that if you want it, you have to take it. If you want it, you have to receive it. If you want the kingdom, if you want God, then you have to take God. You have to accept God, which means you have to become God in some way, okay? You have to take on, become that which you desire, that which is offered to you. Another example is the two servants. Remember the servant who had the enormous debt and the master forgave him. And then the other fellow owes him some pittance and he goes out and throttles him and throws him into prison, okay, until he pays. And the master goes back and reproves him and punishes him. Why? Because he didn't really take what he was given. See, when you go beyond the level of the parable, the literal level, to the interior of the thing, that gift which is given must be coherently received so that you become what you were given and then you express what you were given. Otherwise you don't really have it. So in a sense you cast


yourself outside, but in another sense you never really enter. The door was open if you didn't go in. This one mystery, the gift of God, which is easily translated into the word love, isn't it? The fifth principle is the total demand. To enter the kingdom requires a totality of response of faith, of surrender, of gift of self. That comes out not so much in Mark but in Matthew and Luke. They've got numbers on their foot. The parables in which you particularly find these things. The treasure. Remember the man who finds the treasure in the field has to go away and sell everything he has and buy the field. And the one who is the merchant who finds the precious pearl goes away and sells everything else, I guess all the other pearls, and he has to in order to buy that one. So this kingdom, this homogeneous fullness, requires somehow all of yourself. Not only do you have to become what it is, but it makes you in some way let go of the other things. Sixth,


there's a kind of gratuity, a kind of freedom, and something which is incalculable about this. So you're continually finding excess, especially in Luke's parables. I think the best example of that for me is the prodigal son once again. When the father comes out and the son has just come back, he's come back because he's hungry. I don't know how a father repents, but he's come back because he's hungry and the father comes out and throws his arms around his neck and dresses him in the best garment, puts a ring on his finger, puts shoes on his feet, and kills the prodigal enraging the elder son, the elder brother. Now there's something about that which is infinitely touching, infinitely moving. And it goes way beyond any of our rational possibilities of figuring things out. And there are a number of those other things. There's a number of examples of that in the other parables, especially in Luke. It's another facet, another side of this one reality of the kingdom that's in the parables. It's in all the parables.


Examples in Matthew are the good employer who gives each worker the same wage, which is a denarius, but which is also infinite, you can say, which is also everything. That's number 18. And the great supper. Remember the great supper of the people who are picked in from the bushes, remember, and hauled into the supper. Seventh, the surprise of paradox and reversal. Lots of times things are turned on their heads in the parables. One example that I like is the crooked servant, remember, who squanders his master's goods, and when he's called to an accounting, he says, well, I'm not going to be able to keep my job any longer, so he goes and squanders them even more. And then the master commends him for doing it. Which is, if you can't find humor in Jesus' discourses in the New Testament, it's certainly there. Also, the Pharisee


and the Republican are a good example of that. Notice how close these principles are to one another, so that one almost becomes another. One is like another face of the one just before. Then there's a kind of passionate all-inclusiveness. That's in the parable of the banquet, when the master says, all right, they wouldn't come, so go out into the hedgerows, go out into the streets and force them to come in. It's also in the woman seeking the lost coin, and the shepherd seeking the lost sheep. Now, these are close together, so that one of these, as I say, is very nearly the next one, and they're all describing one thing. These principles are really trying to persuade, actually, that we're talking about one thing in all of the parables. You can say, of course, that that one thing is Jesus himself, and that comes out in John in the I Am statement. But you can also say that it's the kingdom. In any case, it's the gift that's given to us. The parables are like


what you call commentaries on the one gift that's given to us, which is imperative, command, and gift at the same time. But we need to awaken to the fact that it's gift, because we more often forget that. We don't so easily forget that it's a command. This principle of hidden gross fertility is another one. You find that especially in Matthew, in Mark's parables, the parables of the sea. Then there's the principle of the timescale, of the moving clock, which you find in those terms, you find that especially in Matthew's parables. The servant who's given charge of the household, and the ten virgins, and the talents, and the last judgment, again and again and again. Matthew comes back to that. Then there's a principle of the birth of creativity, and this creative reversal of direction that I was talking about, and that's harder to find. I think it's implicit in a lot of the parables, right from the start of the seed parables of Mark.


That seed which goes forth into the ground, and then springs out, and multiplies itself 30-fold, or 60-fold, or 100-fold. Now we can interpret that flatly in one sense, as being merely the word of God, the gospel is sown in us, and it's realizing itself only, as it were, always in the same light. Or you can think of it as the seed coming out and realizing itself in many ways. Or you can go further, and think of it as the seed of creativity itself, the seed of newness, which is sown in us, so that it and we will emerge in a totally new way. And so that the newness of that rests in the power of our own imagination. The newness of that is only limited by our own limits of our own courage. The limits of our own ability to imagine. In Luke, you've got the


where it comes out in Matthew, especially in the parable of the talents. In the end, the judgment strangely, is on the basis of how you multiply what you've been given. And the one who only gives back what he received in the beginning, the one without talent, even loses what he was given. But the one who is traded, somehow given away, traded with the talent, is the one who is rewarded. In Luke, it's implicit in the parable of 28, the Good Samaritan. He sort of has to imagine how good one can be to someone who is in need. And it comes out in the unjust steward who squanders his master's money. It's a kind of a kind of commending of craftiness,


a commending of the use of one's own power of inventiveness in which this is implicit. But it's hard to find that principle explicitly in very many places in the Gospel. Finally, there's this solar principle, which is related to the unitive principle I was talking about. This is, as it were, the personalizing or interiorizing of the principle of the unitive mystery. But it's not only unitive, it's also dynamic. And it's the interpretation of everything else in terms of what we are given to become. Just as Jesus comes into the world as what we are and interprets our world for us as a human being, as if the key to interpreting the world is the human being that Jesus is, which has divinity in it, so the same key is given to us. We are to interpret everything and interpret the Scriptures according to what we are with the divinity in us. According to what we really are as


embodying that divine light, that divine energy, which is given to us in Jesus. So ourselves become the principle of interpretation of the Scriptures. I think in the old days, instinctively, the rabbinic exegesis for instance, the Scripture, which is simply wild, wildly imaginative and so on. Sometimes it's stuck in ruts, but often, or Paul's use of the Old Testament and so on, it's very personal, it's very creative, but so creative we say it's not objective at all sometimes. But that's because I think he's interpreting the Scriptures according to the fullness which he knows in himself. And he's not going to have to write a textbook about it, so he's not worried about whether he'll do it next time the same way. He's interpreting the Scriptures out of the fire that's in him. Interpreting the Scriptures out of the very gift that the Scriptures are made to interpret, or intended to interpret. So I'll come back to the solar principle again later on I think. And as I repeat, that's our reason really for bringing the modern poems


and the parables together. Now I've worked you pretty hard. Let's conclude with a poem if we can once again. Would anybody round up here to do another Mary Oliver poem? Number seven there, somebody wants to read. The one about the ponds. Here I am talking about creative freedom and I'm giving the numbers of the poems to you. That's the Wallace Stevens one. This one is Mary Oliver's number seven. Yeah, just after the Buddha one. Let's start with the ponds. The ponds. But what in this world is perfect?


By getting closer and seeing how this one is clearly rock solid. And that one wears an iron plate. And this one is a glassy sheet half-nibbled away. And that one is a slump first for its own unstoppable decay. Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be desperate. To cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even the phobia above this difficult world. I want to believe my working is the white fire of a great mystery. I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing. That the light is everything. That it is more than the sum of each four blocks in writing and paper. And I agree. Thank you. So I won't comment on that one.


So, we won't go so long except for now. So thanks for your patience.