My post tomorrow will concern the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
However, rummaging amongst my old bookmarks, I came across one for The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32):
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
The old bookmark related to this parable comes from a member of the Maronite Church, the main Christian denomination in Lebanon.
This person, who lives in New York, says that his/her pastor holds ‘gospel soirées’ once a month in a congregant’s home.
However, instead of allowing an open-minded, postmodern interpretation of the text as many present-day Bible studies do, the pastor (emphases mine):
asked us what we understood. We all began with the obvious response – the first one. He then ‘unpacked’ the parable beginning with the vineyard. To do so, we were transported through time, back 2000 years ago, so we could be part of the audience to whom the parable was directed. In those days, everyone had a vineyard (still true for many today in the middle east). The vineyard provided the family with wine, vinegar, grape juice, grapes and raisins. To maintain the vineyard took a lot of work. One had to till the soil with crude instruments, remove rocks and boulders, trim the arbors, etc. The sons were the heirs of the property, hence they needed to be working members of the vineyard.
As you can see, Father unpacked the story, shedding light on various aspects of this small passage that were not obvious at all to a contemporary, mechanized, non-agricultural society. By the time we were done discussing this parable, 3 glorious hours had passed!
These “gospel soirées” are common practice in Lebanon. It is one of the teaching methods used by the Maronite Church to draw families into Bible Study and enlighten their minds and open their hearts to the Word of God. Wish you all could have been there!
I also liked the way this person remembered the Sundays of Lent by the gospel readings and their wider meaning:
In the Maronite Catholic Church, Lent is the season when we hear the miracle stories of Jesus. It kicked off with ‘Cana Sunday’ when Jesus began his ministry by changing water into wine. This was followed by Sunday of the Leper, Sunday of the Hemorrhaging Woman and now the Prodigal Son. The season continues next week with Sunday of the Paralytic, then Sunday of Bartimaeus the Blind, followed by Lazarus Saturday. It culminates with Hosanna Sunday when Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. No matter how many times I hear these gospels, I am always moved by the gracious mercy of our Lord to those who trusted in him to heal them.
Explaining Scripture in a truthful, historical and relevant manner never fails. Our churches would be better attended if more clergy adhered to this simple concept.