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A Parable based on 1 Corinthians 12

2008 August 27
by Tim V-B

I’m preaching on 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 on Sunday and wrote this parable / story as part of the sermon.  It’s no Booker-prize winner but it might be a helpful way of understanding what Paul is saying.  I admit the body illustration is pretty straightforward, but sometimes it helps having two metaphors for the same idea.  I was especially trying to make sense of why Paul refers to baptism in verse 13.

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All the best stories begin with “A long long time ago, in a land far far away…” so that’s how I’ll begin mine.

A long long time ago in a land far far away was a town, a largish town, with the usual inhabitants of fairy-tale towns.  A mayor, some soldiers, merchants and peasants.  Butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers.

A short distance from the town was a large castle, entirely surrounded by a moat.  There was no bridge over the moat, and only one door on the outside wall.  In the castle lived a Great King; he owned the castle, the land, the whole town- but hadn’t been seen for some years.

One day messengers came from the castle, proclaiming the King’s message.  “A Great Plague is coming,” they warned “And could strike at any time.  Even now your clothes may be infected.  Leave your town and head for the castle.  There no plague can harm you.  You will find new clothes, a place to live for you and for your families.”

Many thought the messengers were fakes.  “We haven’t seen the king.  How do we know he sent you?”  Others said, “Plague? What plague?  There hasn’t been a plague here for generations.  I don’t believe you.”

Some believed the King and asked the messengers, “how can we get to the castle?  There’s no bridge.”

“Through the water” said the messengers.  “At the edge of the moat you’ll find a rope, hold on to that and someone in the castle will pull you through the water. Don’t worry – there are new clothes waiting for you.  The water will make sure the plague isn’t carried into the castle.”

So they walked to the castle and, each in turn, grabbed the rope and were pulled across.  Some plunged in, looking forward to a good clean.  Fathers held little children on their back.  Others, especially those who had nice clothes, were less sure.  A few walked around the castle looking for a bridge, but there wasn’t one. “Isn’t there another way,” they asked. “A bridge, or a tunnel, or even a boat?”  “No,” said the messengers. “There’s only one castle, one door and one rope to pull you through the water.  You must all enter the same way.”  And eventually they realised it was the only way, so they gave in and were pulled across also.

Once inside the castle the people were amazed.  Each was given a new set of clothes to match their new job, and the clothes were exquisite.  No two sets were identical, because the King loved variety, but each carried the King’s crest emblazoned on the front.  Some clothes were for those tasked with looking after the sick.  Some were for those working in the kitchens, there was a huge variety of tasks to be done so that the new community could flourish.

Some of the grandest clothes belonged to the trumpet blowers.  They had the job of keeping time and making sure everyone knew where they should be and when.  Morning and evening, and before mealtimes, the trumpeters sounded their fanfare.

After a few weeks the trumpeters started to get arrogant.  “We’re the ones who really make the place work,” they said.  “We have the fanciest clothes, we’re always in the public.  Of all the people here in this castle, we’re the ones who really belong.”

Actually, they didn’t say that last bit.  But that’s how they behaved.  At meal times they sat together.  They started blowing trumpets after mealtimes and before every coffee break.  They tried to persuade others to join them; “we don’t need cleaners and cooks and water carriers.  The castle would look so much grander if you all joined us.”

Down in the basement kitchens, people were upset.  All they did was wash vegetables, cook the meat and serve it up.  They never had a chance to blow trumpets.  Their clothes, although far better than anything they had in their old town, were more practical than showy.  “Maybe we don’t belong” they thought to themselves.  “Maybe the castle really is for those who play the trumpet, and the King only invited us here to make sure the trumpeters were okay.”

Discontent and grumbling grew.  Divisions formed between different groups.  Eventually the King heard about it and called everyone together in the central courtyard.

What he said, is essentially what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:

  • You all joined this castle community the same way.  There is one door and one castle and so there is one community.
  • You all belong; imagine how crazy it would be if you were all trumpeters.
  • You are all needed.  Whether great or less impressive, we work together.

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This leads neatly into a 3 pointer:

  1. There is one body and one way of becoming part of it. (verses 12-13)
  2. You all belong. (verses 14-20)
  3. You are all needed. (verses 21-26)
4 Responses
  1. August 27, 2008

    Wahey! Brilliant.

  2. Ali_W permalink
    August 30, 2008

    This is really good!
    I’m also preaching on 1 Cor 12:12-31 this Sunday!
    Can I use this illustration?

  3. admin permalink*
    August 30, 2008

    Go ahead!

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