Pesky Parables

Jesus was a teacher.  Some have said that he was was one of the worst teachers, because he confused most of his hearers. He is cryptic in almost all the things he said.  He speaks in parables, he says, so that outsiders will not understand, and the disciples will need lessons in exegesis. He appears to conceal the truth in paradoxical guise. He says things that sound utterly untrue. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” He might better have said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit heaven” or, “Blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth, for that’s the only way they could ever get it.” Even his non-parabolic teaching is cryptic. Read the Gospel of John if you want to hear double meanings and cryptic communication.

But I think Jesus was the best of teachers. That which is truly paradoxical cannot be adjudicated by reason alone.  Jesus caused his hearers to think about life.  He forced them to ask questions.  He spoke so many outrageous things that had the ring of truth about them, that people were freed to think anew about old questions. Jesus was provocative and evocative. His intent was to evoke thinking and believing. The mark of a great teacher!

If you are interested in hearing more about Jesus the teacher, check out “Pesky Parables” on this website.

 

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The Upper Room

The Upper Room
Mark 14:12-16, / Luke 22:7-13 / Matthew 26:17-19

There are places that have become so meaningful, that to mention the place is to flood the mind with memories that move us to the very depths of our lives.  That place may be a small cafe where two people knew for the first time that they loved each other.  That cafe is forever changed in memory.  For others it may be a sanctuary where God became real in our experience, and that place picks up a greater significance than any other place in the world.

An upper room in the city of Jerusalem became such a place, and for the rest of history, all someone has had to say is “The Upper Room” and Christian imagination floods with memories.

As we begin the Season of Lent it would be useful to explore the events that took place in that room one particular Thursday.   The postings can be found under the Rubric  “The Upper Room”.

 

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The Twelve Apostles

 

Who Chose Who and Why?

Very early in his ministry, Jesus decided to gather disciples around himself.  Many chose to follow him in those early days; men and women, young and old, people from the Galilee and from Judea. But Jesus chose from those who followed him, twelve to be his constant companions and co-workers.

But just in case the disciples are confused, Jesus reminds the twelve just before his crucifixion, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”   We suspect Jesus did not just say on the day he chose his apostles, “eeny, meeny, miny, moe, Catch an apostle by the toe”.

So the questions must be discussed, why did they choose each other? Why did the 12 choose him, and more importantly, why did he choose them?  Read further if you are interested, in the postings “Twelve Apostles

 

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Tell Me a Story

For the first 15 years of my life, my family had no TV. But we had books; lots of them, thanks in part to a nearby library.  Our entire family grew up to be book worms. Then, when Amy & I began raising our three daughters, we decided we would live a TV free life during their early years, so we stuck the TV in the closet and made the reading of great stories central to our family times. I must confess they also have ended up being a bit bookish as a consequence.

Some years later while pastoring a church I discovered the writings of F.W. Boreham. This British-Australian pastor and writer wrote around 50 books and published 3,000 articles besides.  But it was his 5 volumes subtitled, “Texts that Made History” that made me a life-long fan of his. The books are titled,   A Bunch of Everlastings, A Handful of Stars, A Casket of Cameos, A Faggot of Torches, and A Temple of Topaz.  They 5 books contain the mini-biographies of 125 people who made significant impact upon their communities, their nation and the world. Being nudged by this man who became my mentor, I too began telling stories in the pulpit.

If you are interested in a good story, you may want to visit “Tell Me a Story” on prodigalprof.com

 

 

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Distressing Psalms

The book of Psalms is a hymn book. It is a collection of hymns that was used first by the people of Israel primarily for services of worship in the temple in Jerusalem and in the synagogues of scattered Judaism. In later years this book of 150 hymns was adopted by the Christian Church as one of the major components in its worship. It was the very first “Book of Common Prayer” used by Israel and the Christian Faith in corporate worship….

Those who do surveys on sermons, report that the psalms are used for the text of more sermons than any other book of the Bible. Those same surveys tell us that they are used more in private worship than any other Biblical book. Specific psalms have also been committed to memory more than any other portion of scripture, other than the Lord’s Prayer. Obviously the Psalms are deemed important by the church.

But this reading or singing of the psalms present us with a rather odd phenomenon. There has been a long tendency to skip verses in the public reading of some of the psalms. We do surgery on some psalms because they shock us. These acts of surgery are called “Psalmectomies” or “textotomies.” We cut out the offending words.

To read more, check out the essays  under this heading that deal with these uncomfortable psalms, such as psalms of cursing, songs that express anger at God, psalms that lament God’s seeming absence, and others.

 

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Christmas

I remember the past 50 years, planning for the Advent – Christmas season each year, thinking about the 5 weeks at the close of the year, and asking what shall I speak about this year. I would look over the past years and ask, what have I not covered recently that I could turn to?  It may be why I am mostly bald: pulling my hair out, trying to think with creativity, while staying relevant to a congregation’s needs.

So I thought it might be useful to post some of the sermons that I have actually delivered over those years, to hopefully prime the pump, and to get the waters flowing, in those of us who get to lead congregations during this high season. The  sermons can be found under the heading, Christmas.  But a word of caution: I am not suggesting that you plagiarise mine or anyone else’s sermons. But …

David Ashton
david_ashton_00@yahoo.ca

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The Seven Deadly Sins

Over the past 50 years when attending conferences of Church leaders I hear the invited guests talking about things regarding which I am quite inept. I have planted no churches, I do not lead a rapidly growing congregation, I am not an expert in homiletics, or church administration. I am not an expert in Post-modernism and I have been unable to solve the worship wars that rage across the face of the church.

But there is one other area about which I am an expert.   SIN.   I have been a practitioner of that vice for over 70 years. There were times that I was an eager participant and other times I was a most unwilling perpetrator. I say this without any rejoicing in my sinnership. I have never “sinned boldly” as Luther has exhorted. I sinned covertly and ashamedly. In my first 20 years I sinned without repentance. In the past 50+ years I have sinned followed by penitence and self-flagellation.

You may want to read more; checkout the articles on the Seven Deadly Sins….

David Ashton
david_ashton_00@yahoo.ca

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