February 5, 2018 Luke 15:11-32
MEDITATION: This parable is often titled the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Others, recognizing the undeniable emphasis placed on the unexpected grace of the father, have referred to it as the Parable of the Prodigal Father, who is prodigal (reckless, or unsparing) with his forgiveness, reflecting the unstinting grace of God the father. Both of those interpretations beautifully capture distinct themes of repentance and forgiveness. One of the wonderful things about Jesus’ parables, however, is that their several characters allow many perspectives and invite numerous interpretations, depending upon where we focus our gaze. Not being much of a rebel myself, I’ve never identified with the younger son, the prodigal. I’m more like the elder brother who has tried to live by the rules and has become perhaps a bit smug and self-righteous when I’ve seen others fail to do so. When the parable concludes with the elder brother refusing to go in and join the celebration of the younger brother’s return, it offers a challenge of repentance to those of us who, like the elder brother, struggle with the sin of harboring a self-satisfied sense of moral superiority. Perhaps by insisting on our own rectitude, we’re excluding ourselves from God’s banquet.
FOR DISCUSSION: Take a moment to get a sense for each of the characters in this parable/painting? In this moment, are you more like the younger son who seeks his father’s forgiveness? Or, do you feel like the elder son who needs reassurance that his faithful service was not in vain? Or, maybe your attention is drawn to the father and his unrelenting grace.
LINKS/OTHER RESOURCES: Henri Nouwen wrote, The Return of the Prodigal Son, in which he offers his meditations on Rembrandt’s painting by the same title. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the painting/parable. See Rembrandt’s painting here and take it in as you read these verses from Luke.