From the Pastor's Desk
Which Son Was the Prodigal?
How we focus on a familiar parable often depends on our point of view. In the parable of The Prodi-gal Son (Luke 15:11-32), a father has two sons. The younger son tells Dad he doesn’t want to wait for dad to die, he wants his inheritance now. Dad gives it to him and he takes off, squandering the money until it’s gone. The older brother remains at home, continuing to work the land, to manage the resources, learning the business so he can take it over in his time.
The younger son repents (which literally means, turns around) of his folly, turns his steps toward his childhood home and intends to ask Dad for a job. Dad, who missed his son as any parent would if their child took off and they didn’t hear from the child for years, Dad saw his son coming up the lane and was so excited he lavished the son with gifts and threw a party to celebrate his return.
That’s where we usually put the spotlight: the son who messed up and the father who forgave him and welcomed him back. And it’s a good place for the spotlight – because we all mess up, we all squander the good that God has given to us, and we all need to repent (to turn around) and make our way back to God. And God welcomes us back with open arms, lavishes us with love and the an-gels have a party in celebration.
But when we put the spotlight on the father and the younger son, the elder son fades into the shadows. But he figures in this story too.
The elder son had apparently been working in the back forty when the party started, so when he drew near to the house and saw signs of celebration, he asked what was going on. And when he heard it was all about his younger brother, he was furious – anger born of resentment.
After all, he did all his father asked. He stayed home and worked, even while his younger brother took off. He carefully tended his father’s resources, even while anticipating his brother (whom he may have seen as “the coddled baby”) was wasting his entire inheritance.
Can you put yourself in his place?
Don’t we get resentful and annoyed with the way others appear to throw away their resources? Don’t we shake our heads when others spend their money frivolously? When we observe people WE think don’t deserve grace (because they haven’t done all the right things), aren’t we tempted to anger?
Instead of a boiling pot of anger, what would it take for each one of us to accept the invitation of the loving father?
In his book, “We Make the Road by Walking,” Brian McLaren suggests that if we want to change the world, we must begin by changing ourselves. Jesus warned against judging others because if we do, we will find ourselves being measured too – and we will fail by comparison. Instead of judging others, instead of being resentful, angry and frustrated by the way “they” live, we should open ourselves to God’s transforming grace. McLaren suggests we do this by following the model prayer Jesus taught – you know, “Our Father, who art in heaven…”
There are four “simple but profound moves” that help us begin to change. “First, we orient ourselves to God. We acknowledge God as the loving parent whose infinite embrace puts us in a family rela-tionship with all people, and with all of creation.”
“Second, we align our greatest desire with God’s greatest desire. We want the world to be the kind of place where God’s dreams come true, where God’s justice and compassion reign.”
“Third, we bring to God our needs and concerns – our physical needs for things like food and shelter, and our social and spiritual needs for things like forgiveness for our wrongs and reconciliation with those who have wronged us.”
“Finally, we prepare ourselves for the public world into which we will soon reenter. We ask to be guided away from the trials and temptations that could ruin us, and
we ask to be liberated from evil.”(McLaren, 2014, pp. 137 -138)
If we, like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal, persist in judging others, succumbing to jealousy and resentment and anger over the good things undeserving people receive, how will we bring about the change to the world we believe is needed?
Join me in praying, daily, the prayer that Jesus taught, saying: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
Grace and Peace,