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Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus Paperback – March 11, 2002
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Writing in a casual style, almost as though he were speaking to his dearly beloved congregation from the pulpit, Capon leads me down familiar territory. I smile, I nod my head, I murmur a quiet "yes" here and there, and then he grabs my attention in a new way with an interpretative way of seeing the text that I had not thought of. This is a small quote from his discussion on the Parable of the Sower that caused me to stop and mull over what he said: "It says, first of all, that the Sower is God the Father, not Jesus. What Jesus turns out to be - since he is the Word - is the seed sown." His writing is full of little gems like that which cause me to engage more fully with the text.
I Believe Capon's style is meditative, full of wondering and wonderment. I recommend it to anyone wanting to take a meditative look at Jesus' parables.
The book is really three combined into one, the first on the parables of the kingdom is the clearest and most compelling. It is worth the price of admission itself. The other two extend the reading to all of the synoptic gospel parables which Mr. Capon plausibly breaks up into parables of grace and parables of judgment. The dividing lines between the parables are events in the life of Jesus - the feeding of the 5000, and the triumphal entry/Palm Sunday. The author writes in what might best be described as a spoken manner. The prose reads like a very good preacher and bible study leader engaged in an intelligent way but one that avoids all academic jargon and pretension. Mr. Capon is not ignorant to critical studies nor the struggles of his own church (Episcopal) which were just getting roiling at the publication of these books, but deals with them typically as trifles (i.e. almost not at all) compared to the core of the gospel. If you have ears to hear what he says, these are simply the trials of the kingdom. If you don't, they swallow whole churches. Hence, like the parables themselves, Mr. Capon proclaims to those who have ears and to those who don't the same message of the Kingdom.
This book is a great retelling of grace and the odd and wonderful ways it works in the midst of this world.
Individual parables are divided and discussed according to three major themes: kingdom, grace, and judgment. Capon does not shy away from the parts of the parables that are uncomfortable, bizarre, or harsh, but rather seizes these parts of the parables as paths by which to take you on an adventure. His style of writing asks questions of the reader, pulling you into a dialogue about parables you thought you knew well. For example, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Capon challenges the reader to re-envision this parable with a focus on the "Man-Who-Fell-Among-Thieves" rather than the Good Samaritan. With this simple shift in perspective, Capon offers an evocative path to explore the potential identity of the Christ-figure in this parable.
While not convinced of Capon's proposed interconnectedness of some parables with other passages, I appreciate actively thinking about the parables using this holistic approach. Whether you are a church leader looking for new ideas for preaching or someone intrigued by Jesus' parables, you will find this book engaging and easy to navigate. Overall, I highly encourage you to enter this dialogue with Capon.