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Parables That Open and Close
Matthew 13: 10-16: "The disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

"He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. [. . .] In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will ever be hearing but never understanding; you will ever be seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."

How do you engage those who will not be engaged? How do you communicate when seemingly  an audience hasn't the capactiy to understand?  You can't speak. You can't sign or write because they are listening with closed ears and eyes.   They don't even realize that you have a message they need to decipher.

Jesus grasped this quandry well, so he spoke in parables.  He continued to teach despite many of his "hearers" not really hearing what he was driving at.  Often, we are tempted with two kinds of self-delusion about our abilities to communicate -- we either lack an awareness that others might not understand us, or we assume that we are special and can always cross that barrier to someone.   Jesus the Word recognized that his proclamation of the kingdom of God was not necessarily an explanation.  It takes a certain kind of person to grasp and receive truth: those who are humbly aware of their own limitations and who are willing to act on the truth they receive.

So why did Jesus communicate a message he knew many were not comprehending?  In part he recognized that you shouldn't try to sort out the hearers from the non-hearers in a crowd.  In one of his parables he compared this to good grain and weeds growing up together in the same field.  Only at harvest time, do you sort out who's who.  Equally, Jesus recognized that all deserve the chance for a future hearing.  His message, he noted, is like a seed that grows up into a mighty tree or a pinch of yeast that works its way through a loaf of bread.  Sometimes the message has to sink in longterm for an audience to be ready to receive it.  Suddenly, what seemed closed, opens up, and with a shock of recognation, someone believes.

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding