Timothy Reynolds commented on my post regarding the preaching of parables. I’d like to elevate that comment to a post, along with my response, so that perhaps others might want to have a go at a modern retelling of Luke 18:9-14. If there is some activity on this, I might also post what I actually preached. I used a contemporary version of the parable as my introduction to the message. My introduction is by no means a great example, but it is an example. Anyway, Timothy wrote:
Interesting idea to retell the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in a modern context – I’d be interested to know how you did this in a way that would gain the same reaction or anticipation as Jesus’ audience had. I can’t see how it would work, because congregations don’t have the same sort of expectations of religious leaders as those in Jesus’ day did. Let’s try:
An elder arrived early for the service and sat down on the other side of the chapel from the young lad he’d never seen before. He looked like one of that gang that hung around outside the swimming pool being a nuisance on their skate boards. The elder bowed his head to pray as he always did and said, “Thank you, Lord, that by your grace I have been kept from that sort of life and was a member of the church and had a good job by the time I was this guy’s age.”
The young lad didn’t even bow his head or close his eyes, but just said , “God, I don’t even know why I’m here, but I know I need you. Please forgive me for ignoring you.”
Are we getting any where near with that? I’m not sure – I think most congregations would see it coming!
Thanks Timothy – perhaps you have started something here. Your story certainly parallels the original in many respects. Like you wrote, I also think most congregations would see it coming! Of course, it’s hard to really surprise people when the reference for the message is in the notice sheet. Having said that, I think it is possible to think through a modern version of a parable, deliberately paralleling key points, but also deliberately obscuring some parallels, so that the tension is not given away too early. The goal is not to totally surprise people, but to have our story “do” what the original story “did.” So, perhaps others will follow your lead and give modern versions of this parable.
Peter has responded to a question on this post – see comments