Jesus was a poet, a storyteller, a parable maker, an artist. This was how he chose to share his message. He was not a priest or theologian or academician or a dispenser of sacraments primarily, but an awakener to the sacrament of existence, the sacrament of the cosmos, the presence of the kingdom/queendom of God in which we actually dwell.
In a discussion I was once part of when I was writing my book Original Blessing, a theologian shouted “Christ is the cross and nothing but the cross!” Under the spell and paradigm of fall/redemption religion, it is easy to forget that Jesus’ choice of action was as an artist. His choice to teach in parables was deliberate and it was an immensely creative choice. His parables are the closest we will ever come to his exact words, his exact images, his exact message. Behind them all lies what Brother David Steindl-Rast has rightfully called “a poetic mind who sees everything in the world as a symbol if only we have the eyes to see.”
Behind this unique method of parable-telling that Jesus chose, there lies trust: Jesus’ trust in his own, unique images—leaven and a dragnet and a mustard seed and a pearl and a coin lost around the house symbolizing the kingdom/queendom of God, for example. Or the good Samaritan to instruct us on what compassion is and is not all about.
Jesus also trusted his listener’s ability to find truth in the power of images he relays. Parables are non-elitist. Jesus trusts the intelligence and creativity of his listeners. South African theologian Albert Nolan put it his way:
Nothing could be more un-authoritative than the parables of Jesus. Their whole purpose is to enable the listener to discover something for himself. They are not illustrations of revealed doctrines; they are works of art which reveal or uncover the truth about life.
As Steindl-Rast puts it, he appeals to “the divine authority within each person” and by doing so invites a deep transformation or metanoia in the individual, change of consciousness that leads to a change of life. They invite a whole society to let go and start over again, trusting its images and power for creativity.
He appealed to the imagination. Not unlike Gandhi who said, “we struck the religious imagination of an angry people.” All prophets do that.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 239f., 257.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE
Banner Image: Statue of Jesus teaching the children at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Draper Utah. Photo by Always dreamin. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that artists appeal to“the divine authority” within each of us? And to the prophet in all of us to change and be change agents in society? Do you think our educational and religious institutions know this?