Skip to main content

The story of our lavishly forgiving, abundantly generous, welcoming-arms-around-us, kissing, party-throwing father in heaven.




Unfortunately, the Gospel appointed for this Sunday is what most people call the story of “the prodigal (or “lost”) son.”  You can read it here in the New Revised Standard Version or here in The Message paraphrase.

I say it’s unfortunate that most people call it the story of “the prodigal son,” because the prodigal (lost) son isn’t really the point of the story.

The point of the story the way it is in the Bible – the point of the story the way that master storyteller Jesus tell it – is the story of “the forgiving father.” 


Jesus was indeed a master storyteller.  So let’s assume he knew what he was doing when he made the main character of the story the father, and not the son. Listen to the way Jesus begins the story:

“There was a man who had two sons…”

If Jesus wanted the main character to be the lost son, he’s have started the story differently, perhaps with, “there was a son, who had a brother and a rich father…”

No, the main character of this story is the father.

And the story is a parable. It’s a metaphor, an analogy…a story that conveys a truth – no, the Truth – about the nature and character of our heavenly father.

It’s as if Jesus was saying here “LISTEN UP FOLKS: YOU WANNA KNOW WHAT GOD, YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS LIKE? I’LL TELL YOU.”

As my colleage the Rev. Cathy Tibbetts will explore further in her sermon on Sunday, it’s a story that practically explodes with good news: Good News of Desire, Destination, and Determination.   

And we need to hear that Good News. I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of Christians (and even worse, preachers) who engage in false teaching about God – people who preach the blasphemy of a stern, angry, unforgiving God, when that is NOT the God Jesus revealed, taught about, and incarnated.

Read the story: God is a god who not only knows our weaknesses and sins, but allows them – as carriers of grace.

Read the story: When we’re far off, and start turning back to God, God is not only NOT offended by our sins, but “while [we] are still far off,” God sees us, and is filled with compassion.

And runs out to us.

And puts his arms around us.

And kisses us.”

Read the story: when we come back to God, God clothes us with the best outfit he can find, kills the fatted calf, and fires up the dance band.

Yep, you’re reading that right: when we sin and start to return to God, God’s reaction is to throw a lavish party.

That’s the story we’ll hear Sunday: the story of our lavishly forgiving, abundantly generous, welcoming-arms-around-us, kissing, party-throwing father in heaven.

Wow.

Comments

  1. Thanks, John! Well said.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Sam, for reading and for the compliment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, indeed! Thanks for the reminder. I often get so bogged down in commiserating with the other son that I forget about the unbridled joy in this passage.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for reading, Nancy. Yes: the other son seems to be in the story as a reminder that "God is not fair" and our best response to that notion is "yeah, thanks be to God!" -- in other words, we don't get what we "deserve" -- we (like the other son) get far, far better than that.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Comments encouraged. In the interest of responsible dialog, those commenting must sign with their full name. To prove you're a human and not a spam-bot, I've had to include a word verification step...sorry about that.

Popular posts from this blog

If there's a will, there's a way.

For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year.
What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…

Fasting from Discouragement, Making Visible the Good

So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.

But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…