The problem with parables is that they are way too familiar to most of us. So we hear them but we don’t really listen. We don’t really have to puzzle out a parable’s meaning the way Jesus intended. I’ve decided to help with this situation by providing another version of our the parable that is our gospel lesson today. Listen up!
God’s creation, at its best, is like a very sleek sailboat with a well-trained crew. We’re talking YAR here, and no one could beat that boat. Not only was the boat itself fast, fast, fast, the crew was perfectly synchronized. Why, it’s as if that crew had sailed together for EVER! That crew was one well-oiled machine.
One night, while the crew was asleep, a rival crew snuck in and damaged various parts of the boat in clever ways. The damage was such that the boat couldn’t be repaired without throwing away the whole thing, as if this beautiful boat were mere trash. (Don’t ask me to explain how this could be; just go with me, here.) When the boat’s crew awoke, they INDEED found that they could not repair the damage without destroying everything they loved about their boat.
Well, not liking the way that things had turned out, the damaged boat’s crew turned on each other and on the boat’s maker. “Why,” they demanded to know, “did you design our boat’s parts the way you did? Didn’t you know that this design left our boat susceptible to this kind of sabotage?”
Now the boat’s maker—who by the way was actually the owner of the boat, not the crew—the boat’s maker could have defended himself by saying, “You LOVED what I made and what I have loaned to you.” The boat’s maker could have gone on the offensive by saying, “Why were you asleep? Didn’t you value what I made for you enough to protect my creation?” Of course, the boat’s maker could have been pastoral and, presto, could have restored the boat to its original glory. Instead, the boat’s maker merely said, “Some enemy has done this damage.”
Well, instead of learning how to sail THIS boat, and instead of learning a new dance of sailing, the crew got so fixated on assigning blame to the maker that they stopped racing all together. Oh, they would take the boat out on occasion, just for a spin around the bay, but these excursions were somewhat depressing, considering all that they had lost. The crew just couldn’t re-capture that specialness that had so inspired them to be sailors in the first place. Soon they spent more and more time ashore.
Why, a few of the crew members even took to damaging other boats, so that theirs would not be so dismal by comparison, as if winning races was what had made them special in the first place. The crew members who hadn’t turned to crime resented the others.
The boat’s maker—who, remember, had been the boat’s owner all along—let the crew stay together, even knowing of their current situation. He loved them beyond measure, and he loved his boat, even though damaged. He knew, you see, that if his crew could ever learn how to work together again, to work together in a new way, that they could once again be a crackerjack crew. And, if the crew would take boat-repair lessons from him, they could be a crackerjack crew with a boat that could sail forever. Fair winds and following seas, all the way into eternity.
So the boat-maker sent his best apprentice, one he had been grooming all along—his own Son—to join the crew. And that Son taught the crew everything they needed to know: about sailing, about boat-repair, and about being a crew; everything!
We won’t go into what became of the Son, at least not today. But right now, even to this day, sailors everywhere are deciding on what to do, now that the Son has come:
- Will they blame the boat-maker that the boat doesn’t work the way that they wish?
- Will they let the maker’s Son teach them how to race a damaged boat?
- Will they, now knowing, again fall asleep and leave their boat unguarded and subject to further damage?
- Or will they learn to sail in this new way, so well that they can teach others how to sail, also?
Listen up! There are consequences for your choices.