Monday, March 12, 2007

Jesus parables in Luke 15:11-32

Looking at the usual name given for this parable its easy to start wondering if what we call this story from doesn't give away our perspective on the story.

First up its important that we view Jesus' parables not just as a stories about someone else but as a story that God can use, through the Spirit, to reshape and renew us. Jesus' parables are about all humanity; but In Luke 15:10 we learn that he's not just talking about human beings. Jesus is talking about the joy of the angels when a lost one who returns to God.

We are not just readers and hearers. We fit into this story. If we are saved by grace through faith we find ourselves in this very story. The angels in heaven fit into this story. Above all God fits into this story.

How could one story reveal so much? It happens when the Word combines with the imagination, through the work of the Holy Spirit. That's when we find ourselves caught up in both God's judgment and love.

So what's your perspective today. Where does the spirit lead you as you read.

Note: if you haven't read the story yet this is a great moment to do just that. Try out the Oremus Bible Browser.

After you listen to the words of the great story teller think through the characters in the story. Its easy to name the father and two sons but look beyond them. There are other characters in this story; Jesus, the story teller; the crowd who heard him, both sinners and Pharisees were listening attentively. Don't forget the servants, the prostitutes and friends of the son who left, and the friends of the son who stayed.

Imagination is key to hearing this story.

Its pretty easy to imagine myself in as either the father or one of the two sons.

Yes, I've been the prodigal.

I have been the prodigal son who walked away from a gift that God had given him only to regret later what a foolish thing I'd done. I've been the one to turn my back and to go away from God insisting that I knew better and that I could make it on my own. The grace that's shown to the son is life changing. I've been the one to know that the love of God is not something that we can earn but that it is a gift that God alone can given. Brad Hightower posted a sermon in his blog where he wrote “But when he came back to his father filled with self-loathing and disgust and smelling like a pig, his Father saw him. His Father felt compassion on him and ran to him. Here is the heart of the gospel unfolding.” I've been that one who returned.

I'm trying to be a generous, loving and forgiving father.

One of the wonders about fatherhood is the love of the two girls who call me dad. It's been amazing to watch them accept or not accept my love too. This past weekend one of our 3 year olds lost television for a few days because she wouldn't listen to directions. The look in her eyes was cold. But I didn't stop loving her. I still held her and read to her; but she wasn't going to get that beloved TV back. I still want to be her dad even if I don't want her misbehaving.

And yes I've been the Other Brother.

I've been the one who is so disgusted at the love that God could show to some one else that it eats me up. I've been the one who says to God, “How could God forgive that person?” And in that I find the power of God revealed. God can love me but he can also love the one I find unlovable. Sometimes seeing the love of God at work reveals our own judgments and our own more desperate need for his love.

The final question isn't what the prodigal son does or what the father does, its what the other brother does. David Wee writes in a sermon, “Jesus doesn't tell us what the elder brother does next. A typical short story writer: he stops before the story seems to be over. But Jesus doesn't have to tell us how the elder child responds, because we already know--you and I are the elder son or daughter, and we know ourselves. We will have to write the rest of the story ourselves...”

So go and write an ending for this story.

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