So far in this series, we have been exploring creativity and the divine. We have opened this series by looking at the trinity. Two weeks ago we explored the creativity of the Creator – or Father- or the head of the trinity, and how that creator is still at work creating meaning with us today. Then a week ago Pastor Carrie explored the holy spirit, who is doing ongoing creative work with, to help us come up with new responses to conflicts.

Today I am going to be exploring the third part of the trinity, Jesus. And I am going to be focusing on a creative act that Jesus often utilized – Parables. So, we are going to explore three parables. One of the parables one by Franz Kafka, one from Jesus, and one from the TV show Black Mirror. And in doing so, we will look at what parables do, and how they might change us, evolve us, perhaps even morph us in our spiritual journeys.

Kafka’s story “the metamorphosis”

Franz Kafka’s story “the metamorphosis.” Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect. Shocked and disoriented, he struggles to get out of bed, only to discover his new form makes even the simplest actions difficult. His first concern, despite his bizarre transformation, is missing his train and the impact this will have on his job, as he is the primary breadwinner for his family.

His family, who are financially dependent on him, is bewildered and horrified by his transformation. His sister, Grete, initially takes on the responsibility of caring for him, bringing him food and cleaning his room, but she is repulsed by his appearance. Gregor’s parents are similarly distressed, with his father becoming increasingly hostile towards him.

As the days pass, Gregor’s condition isolates him further from his family. He becomes confined to his room, hidden from visitors and treated as an embarrassing burden. His family’s financial situation forces them to take on work themselves, which increases their resentment towards Gregor. The family takes in renters to make ends meet, and Gregor’s presence becomes even more of a secret and a shame.

Grete, once his ally, grows tired of caring for him and begins to see him as a hindrance. She argues with their parents that they must get rid of Gregor, believing that they can never be free or happy with him around. This realization deeply hurts Gregor, who has retained his human emotions and understanding despite his insect form.

One night, Gregor is drawn out of his room by the sound of Grete playing the violin for the renters. His appearance frightens the renters, who demand to leave without paying rent. This incident is the last straw for the family. Grete insists that Gregor must go for the family to move on with their lives.

Weakened and heartbroken, Gregor retreats to his room, where he succumbs to his injuries and the neglect. His death is discovered by the cleaning woman the next morning. Relieved, the family feels a strange sense of liberation and decides to move to a smaller apartment to start fresh.

They take a tram ride into the countryside, talking about their future prospects. Grete, who has matured throughout the ordeal, is seen as a bright spot in their otherwise dark experience. The family begins to look forward to a more hopeful future without Gregor.

Metamorphosis, like many of Kafka’s stories, makes me feel uncomfortable. I read the end of that story, thinking of the family driving off into the sunset, looking forward to their new future without their sun turned insect.

Their son’s work had transformed him. His work, that his family relied on, turned him into an insect. Turned him into a mess. Was the family terrible for wanting to no longer be associated with what his work turned him into?

I find myself empathizing with his family, and him. Sad for the family who had to put up with him. Sad for him, for he was turned into something awful, while doing work out of necessity.

Kafka’s writings do not leave you settled. They make me question how the world has shaped me and how I look at the world around me.

Hopefully being a pastor will not turn me into a cockroach, that Flora will have to crunch. But its a common trope that many jobs destroy us. Turn us into cockroaches.


Kafka’s writings remind me of Jesus’ Parables. We know the good samaritan and the prodigal son – both stories that force us to rethink our relationships with each other, the earth, and with the divine, without giving clear rules or instructions. These stories push us and tug on us.

To come up with such stories demands a lot of creativity. Creativity that Jesus brought to his ministry. So I would like to take some time to look through the two parables that the gospel of Mark has for us today.

In both of these parables, there is an attempt to describe the kingdom of God using seeds. From Mark 4:26:

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

I read these parables about the kingdom of God and I think – what is he trying to get at? Jesus isn’t explaining the intricacies and the laws of the kingdom of God. But Jesus is talking about what it is kind of like. Instead of a rule book, there is a description of a plant. This is what a plant does. And this is how small the seed is. And it grows, and we don’t really know how -at least at that time it was more of a mystery.

Parables speak of something that cannot be said. They point to something that can’t simply be explained. It would be nice if life could be simply laid out. Simple explanation. But we know that our experiences as humans are more complex than that. Our relationships are not as simple as that.

Instead Parables invite us into the complexity of life, full of mysteries. They make the listener question how they see the world. Their meanings are illusive and so the listener can come back to them again and again, to help them struggle through whatever they are experiencing at the time.

Theologian Peter Rollins writes, “Parables subvert the desire to make faith simple and understandable. They do not offer the reader clarity, for they refuse to be captured in the net of a single interpretation and instead demand our return to their words, our wrestling with them, and our puzzling over them. “

In wrestling with these stories, we are allowing the creative words of Jesus to break us open so that other possibilities and worlds can come into existence.

Like Kalfka’s writings, Jesus’s parables in the bible send us spinning. Reading them makes us want so badly to have clarity over truth and faith. But this is exactly what Jesus is inviting us not towards. We are being invited through these stories to instead be broken open so that we might change, and perhaps even change the world around us.

Black Mirror and parables for today.

So I want to tell a parable from our time, from the TV show Black Mirror, which uses science fiction to tell stories about our struggle with technology today.

In the episode, “Nosedive,” society is depicted as a dystopia where individuals rate each other on social media on a scale from one to five stars for every interaction they have. Every interaction. The averages of these ratings influence their socioeconomic status. Lacie Pound, the protagonist, is a young woman who is obsessed with improving her rating to achieve a high social standing. She meticulously curates her social media presence and behavior to gain approval from others and to try to increase her social-economic status.

Lacie’s life revolves around achieving a 4.5 rating, which would qualify her for discounts on a luxurious apartment she desires. Her current rating is around 4.2, so she tries to boost it by ingratiating herself with higher-rated people. Lacie’s big opportunity comes when her childhood friend, Naomi, a popular and highly-rated socialite, invites her to be the maid of honor at her wedding. Lacie eagerly accepts this opportunity, believing that associating with Naomi and her elite circle will significantly boost her rating,

However, things start to go wrong. A series of mishaps during her journey to the wedding causes Lacie’s rating to plummet. She misses her flight, has a confrontation with an airport employee, rents an old car that breaks down, and ends up hitching a ride with a truck driver.

Arriving at Naomi’s wedding in a disheveled state, Lacie is no longer welcome, and her presence is seen as a threat to the event’s high-rating atmosphere. Despite her efforts to deliver a heartfelt speech, she is forcibly removed, and her rating drops to an abysmal level. Lacie’s outburst leads to her incarceration in a facility where technology no longer monitors her behavior.

In her cell, freed from the societal pressure of constant judgment, Lacie engages in a cathartic exchange of insults with another inmate, finding a semblance of authentic human connection in their mutual release from the rating system.

This story includes many things that those of us who are on social media understand. We rate things on amazon or good reads. We “like” pictures. My facebook profile is one with Flora, that I have had up for 2 weeks and only has three likes. One of them’s my wife. What does that mean?

We know what it is like to look at other peoples lives on social media and feel jealousy. That people who have money can become influencers with their huge homes, fantastic vacations, and perfect families.

This story uses technology we are familiar with but told in a science fiction dystopian future, which helps look at our lives through a different angle. An angle that is hard to get to without the parable.

This is what parables do. Parables pull us out of the ideology that we are immersed in to give us a different view of reality. They expose the issues that are at hand. They make us question ourselves and how we are living, and how it affects others. This story doesn’t give clear answers but invites us to reflect on our social media usage. Perhaps it could even transform how we use it.

Conclusion: The hope in the Kingdom of God

One thing that Jesus’ parables offer that Black Mirror and Kafka don’t, is that Jesus’ parables, which are often used to describe the kingdom of God, bring a type of hope.

Mennonite Theologian Ched Myers in his gospel of Mark Commentary, Binding the Strong Man, writes how in Jesus’ parable of the sowing of seeds, which we read earlier, “Jesus pits the revolutionary patience and hope of the kingdom of God against the cynicism of the economic determinism of the system.”

The kingdom of God, throughout the Gospels, is hope to people who are struggling. The kingdom of God was a different reality than the one than the early listeners of these parables, who were struggling with empire, poverty, and violence. And through the parables, Jesus is inviting his listeners to morph little by little into this new reality.

Can we let parables lead us through a type of hopeful metamorphosis? Perhaps for us Mennonites, a Menno-morphosis – the title of my yearbook that I came up with my senior year at Lancaster Mennonite High School, that I am using for my sermon title today.

Not morphing into Kafka’s cockroaches but morphing into a reality more beautiful. Like a hungry caterpillar forming into a cocoon, that breaks open, and so we might stretch our wings into a new reality. Into the kingdom of God.

This route is not obvious. There are no clear steps to take. No recipe to follow. It isn’t painted by numbers and wala, we have the kingdom. As we struggle with the parables they morph us little by little, and little by little we emerge out of the cocoon. We do not know what it will look like – because an easy answer will never be satisfying. That’s why the parables are so crucial.

May the creative Parables of Jesus pull us towards this different reality. The kingdom of God. Where we are not ruled with social media superficiality or work that turns us into cockroaches, but a kingdom that brings about human flourishing. May we emerge from the cocoon together.