I have finished with Romans and feel at lose ends about what to write. I think I will start the Gospel of Mark after Easter. I want to spend some time blogging about Holy Week, so I am betwixt and between.
This past Sunday I preached on the Prodigal story.
11-12 Then Jesus said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’
28-30 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”
I have been turning it over in my mind and playing with the word Prodigal; meaning spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant. The younger son certainly fits this description, yet I think that is only the beginning/obvious understanding of prodigal in the story.
The younger son is like many people I have known in my life. Wasteful, recklessly, not aware of so many blessings they enjoy that are non-existent on much of the planet. We don’t even need to judge them because it seems as through most people go through the type of life in their twenties. A very typical human being.
The older son is also like many people I have known; hardworking and unhappy. They look at what others have enjoyed more than they have. The older son is correct in his assessment of the younger sons stupidity, yet he does not see his own hard-hearted bitterness. Another very typical human being.
Then, of course, their is the father. prodigal in his love for both sons. I think that Jesus used the parent/child relationship to talk about the Divine’s extravagant love because it is the closest fit to the Divine’s nature. It seems natural that a child would be welcomed back by a parent. It seems natural for the parent to understand that love is a renewal resource that can be spent recklessly and freely. It also seems natural that the parent would go out to the older brother to try to make a bridge to the younger brother. A parent wanting most of all for all of their children to find a way to love each other as the parent loves them. A very typical parent, prodigal in their love.
Now, think of our planet. A family of human beings who do not recognize the depth of our relationship to one another, nor the desire of the Divine Creator for us to live in a healed and whole family. I believe whether we are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Janus, etc. we all call the Divine creator by different names and emphasis different aspects of its infinite nature. Hence the reality of the infinitude of God – no one person, no one religion, no one world view – can fully name or comprehend the Divine.
So, we think about parents and children and people we know all to well. And at the end of the day the only behavior we can hope to change is our own. I think we are asked to live the prodigal love of God, to open our hearts and pray for our family around the world. Maybe we wont all hold hands and sing Kum By Ya, but perhaps we can look beyond our own agenda and care for the world that God has entrusted to us.