More Parables: Mark 4:21-34

Day 9,
February 23, 2018
‘More Parables’
Mark 4:21-34

Yesterday we got a familiar story – 
I hope we un-learned our version a bit,
To ‘meet Jesus again for the first time’
As Marcus Borg used to invite us.

Today we get 3 more parables,
Shorter, maybe less familiar – 

The first only matched
in Luke 8:16-18,

The second only in Mark,

The third shared
with Matthew 13:31-32
and Luke 13:18-19

Then Mark sums it up,
In an unparalleled note,
About public and private teaching,
As I noted yesterday.

Most readers have heard my ‘Post-it Note’ image:
Christian scriptures composed from verbal snatches of hearsay,
Converted to paper piecemeal, 
Then arranged in communities of faith,
And rearranged by a generation of literary editors
Who may include a few individual geniuses,
Likely not even called Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John
Who ‘redacted’ or censored text into our received form.

I call it ‘the boys and the book’, 
in the original Lent series this century,
‘Heretics Like Us’

Today reinforces the idea
That parables are not simply fables,
Nor allegories nor metaphors – 
They resist ‘this represents that’ interpretation

Their literary form is called ‘maschal’,
(I use it since ‘parable’ in English means ‘moral tale’ to most of us – 
blame the success of the Richard Raikes’ Sunday School movement)

Northrop Frye, the great UCC literary scholar and minister,
Wrote The Great Code and The Secular Scripture
 in 20th century Toronto – 
He was mining John Calvin and William Blake
 ‘typological’  reading of ‘this is that’, distinguishing
 among myth, metaphor, and metonym

This century’s explosion in ‘hermeneutics’ credits European sources,
And literary critics are back in favour in the 21st century
Both movements happily led by a generation of women
Thank God!  (No, really, thank God!)

Now, try to read or listen again- 
Try to meet Jesus,
And his earliest ‘spin doctor’ editors,
His literary executors and fan clubs,
Using maschals

He said to them,
‘Is a lamp brought in
to be put under the bushel basket,
or under the bed,
 and not on the lampstand?

For there is nothing hidden,
 except to be disclosed;
nor is anything secret, 
except to come to light.

Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

And he said to them, 
‘Pay attention to what you hear;
the measure you give
will be the measure you get,
and still more will be given you.

For to those who have, 
more will be given;
and from those who have nothing, 
even what they have will be taken away.’

He also said,
 ‘The kingdom of God
is as if someone would scatter seed
on the ground,
and would sleep
and rise night and day,
and the seed would sprout and grow, 
he does not know how.

The earth produces of itself,
first the stalk, 
then the head, 
then the full grain in the head.

But when the grain is ripe,
 at once he goes in with his sickle,
because the harvest has come.’

He also said, 
‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable will we use for it?

It is like a mustard seed, 
which, when sown upon the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
yet when it is sown it grows up
and becomes the greatest of all shrubs,
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the air
can make nests in its shade.’

With many such parables
 he 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.