Sunday, September 15, 2019

Prodigal Love

 Image result for rembrandt prodigal son etching
This morning we hear again the story of the foolish extravagance of the father’s love, his prodigal love. There was a very prosperous man with two sons, so the story begins. Soon we see the younger son coming to his father with a misguided request. “Please give me my share. I want what’s coming to me.” The boy’s is self-assured but blinded to love’s responsibilities. And so, he’s off with his share of the estate- in Hebrew law, one third of the estate - since he is the younger son. It’s an incredibly large amount of money. And he wastes it all.

Then there’s a famine. And now the boy gets so desperate, he's happy to feed pigs. And so he makes himself totally unclean! And he's starving; but even more it seems, he is longing for someone to notice; yearning to be loved back to life. For, Jesus tells us, “No one made a move to give him anything.”

And then this bright idea: “I will be a servant. I don’t deserve anything. I have messed up totally, but I will return. How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough. Yes, I will arise and return to my father.”

Now mercy, the father’s dear old face buried in his son’s unwashed neck. He’ll have none of the boy’s protestations; he responds only with extravagant love. The son wants to be treated as a slave, instead he will be treated as an honored guest - as the son he never ceased to be. 

Enter the sweaty, hardworking, dutiful son. For weeks he’s been nursing a grudge big as Gibraltar. “Why, you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends,” he says to his father. The father might have answered – “You never asked me; I’d give you anything.” Tragically, this boy has lost sight of all the love that’s available for him. He too is lost, desperate, though he doesn’t realize it. “Please come in,” his father says. “You are always with me. All I have is yours.” 

The younger son wrongly believed that he no longer deserved to be called a son, but this older son is even more deluded, for he thinks he deserves something because he’s been ‘slaving’ for years. But he’s not a slave, he is a son just like his brother.

So, two lost sons learning about love, that it is extravagant, even reckless, far beyond the rules of justice, our too small equations. They are learning what it means to be a son, a child of God, the God who is Love without measure, the God who has given us everything, everything in Jesus his Son. Indeed “All I have is yours” is another name for Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam), 1620–69, etching, pen and ink, 6 1/8 × 5 7/16 in., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.