So, what’s going on with this series so far? We’ve been talking about “giving up.” We are not giving up what’s good, but rather giving up on what we shouldn’t be. Susan began by talking about the idea that things can change. She gave us the image of the hungry caterpillar. Change matters to us because of what comes after, not because of what was before.
That’s what Lent is in some ways. A dangerous memory that while things seem uncertain, we know that change is coming. After that we then got a Randy Double Header. The first week, Randy spoke about the need for us to have light. It ended on that video of the northern lights, and we need the contrast, we know that light needs the darkness, like the rebirth after Lent. We then came to the story of the fig tree, and a reminder that we need to give up on the idea that we don’t need to change.
So, where are we now and what’s going on in Luke 15:11-32?
A son returns home after being away from his family for a long time. Long ago, he had been given wealth by his parents. He left, took on a crappy job and now he’s run out of money.
While working that crappy job he realizes what he’s done, and that this goes against the hard work of his family. The son goes so far as to think that he’s not even worth being an equal member of the family any more. We can all imagine a image a friend with like $80k in OSAP (our friend Brett has a great song about this), moving home, to somewhere in the suburbs In the process of returning home though, the son finds that his parents (well, actually his dad) are just glad to have him home.
But in comes the other brother who says, look, I stayed close to home. I have been loyal and you never celebrated me. Father says: He was lost and now is found. He has literally returned from the dead.
So, this is what happens, and this is where it ends.
What does this end mean for us?
And I get my why from a quote Randy used last week:
“the Christian outlook on repentance arcs toward joy. And it finds grace experienced within the awful precariousness and strange beauty of our fleeting existence”. – Matt Skinner
Randy went on to say that “God has created you to joyfully be. Repentance is the darkness of Lent and death that moves us into the joy of resurrection, growth, and renewal.”
Why this story matters is that it’s not just about the love of the father. The father sees the son returning from the lost and literally from the dead. Vs the brother who sees his brother not with joy, but with resentment.
The father’s love and celebration isn’t there as a thing we’re supposed to focus on. Rather, the joy sets up the conflict. The brother’s anger towards his lost brother matters because the father is so happy. The happiness of the father matters because the brother is angry.
I think that’s where it’s supposed to go with this. Well, not me exactly, but I’ve been told it’s a reading near and dear to Henry Nouwen. What we’re looking at here is the true challenge: to see the parable for the conflict. For the lost brother is the one who broke the social code, the social law of the family. In terms of life skills, and responsibility.
Pete Rollins would says that we can only forgive that which is unforgivable, which is how the one brother sees the other. So, it’s not the father, since the father doesn’t see the son as wrong, but as lost and dead. Therefore, he acts as any parents would.
It’s the brother who is the site of the event that should be forgiveness. It’s the brother who points out the wrong. Which is funny, because when you look at the art, the brother isn’t present. This is where I showed the google image search, which really focuses on the father and the returning son.
What I love and what I think is for us is that we are the brothers in this story more often than not. Being the father is easy, being the lost son is okay, but being the brother, that’s the hard part but it’s what we’re called to do.
What are we giving up? We give up our roles as the father, in simply wanting the dead to come back. That’s not for us, that’s for God. Instead, we take up our role as the brother, in knowing that we should be forgiving those who we don’t think are worthy. It’s with this that we need to be reminded about giving up, to see ourselves, and be reminded once again that we need to change.
- When have you been the son? When should you have been the son?
- When have you been the father? When should you have been the father?
- When have you been the brother?