If you are looking for something more than chocolate to sink your teeth into this Easter, then prepare to get irritated.
A new video series by Bible Society Australia and Common Grace is aiming to “get under people’s skin” by exploring some of Jesus’s best-known parables, which divided first-century audiences and are still subversive today.
“We’re thinking about the parables as subversive stories … that niggle away at you and require you to process them, that make you think, ‘How does that shape my living?’” says Jessica Smith, Operations Director for Common Grace, an organisation that describes itself as “a movement of Christians who are passionate about Jesus and justice”.
The video series will run over the 40 days of Lent, with the first episode launching on Ash Wednesday (March 6) and a new video posted every week until Easter. Each episode explores a parable that Jesus used to reveal the “upside-down” nature of God’s kingdom, such as the Good Samaritan, the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
“Our hope is that these stories would transform us.” – Jess Smith
“One of the key themes of these parables is the challenging generosity of God, which is what Easter is all about too. At Easter we see God give of himself so richly,” says Smith.
“Our hope is that these stories would transform us, that we would be those generous people in our engagement with others.”
The series will feature Christian leaders from all ends of the church, who will share insights from key parables that have transformed their own lives and work. Among the presenters are Kate Harrison Brennan, CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries; Jon Owen, head of Wayside Chapel; Catholic academic Neil Ormerod; Aboriginal spokesperson Brooke Prentis; and the Centre for Public Christianity’s Justine Toh.
The main aim of the series, according to Smith, is that “people would connect with Jesus himself”, and be provoked to examine their own life and behaviour – to ask, “What does it look like to interact with Jesus and then be transformed by him? How do I end up looking more like Jesus as a result?”
“There is a desire for the rhythms of [traditional] faith to be reinvigorated today.” – Jess Smith
While some may feel that Lent – a six-week period of reflection and, often, fasting before the Easter – is an outdated practice in today’s world, Smith says she has noticed a growing appetite for this ancient tradition.
“We’ve found young people, and particularly those who come from lower church (such as Pentecostal) traditions, are actually really hungry and interested in the traditions of the historical church.
“There is a desire for the rhythms of [traditional] faith to be reinvigorated today. Lent is typically a time of self-examination, self-reflection and focusing on our discipleship as we walk towards Easter. So it’s a good time to say, ‘I’m going to be focused on Jesus during this time, and hear his words afresh’.”
This is the fourth Lent teaching series developed by Common Grace in partnership with Bible Society Australia. Previous series have covered the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes and Jesus’s commandment to “love thy neighbour”.
“This is a unique way to put people from different traditions on a virtual platform.” – Jess Smith
This year, Smith hopes the series will reach an even wider audience.
“This is a unique way to put people from different traditions on a virtual platform that says: ‘This is breadth of the Australian church and we all love talking about Jesus, that’s what we’ve got in common.’ I think that’s really exciting.”
You can sign up for the series now at commongrace.org.au/parables.
Eternity will also post each video in the series on our website over the next six weeks, starting on March 6.