Occasional thoughts from a young adult reveling in the messiness of life.
For the fourth installment of the “Lent through Lens” series, we’ll be examining Luke 15:1-3 and 11b-32. As always, we’ll start with the reading and then dive into my reflection.
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So Jesus told them this parable:
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”
Oh me, oh my, what a passage! There are cries of jealousy and injustice; there is abounding selfishness and love; there is longing and hope; there is reconciliation and forgiveness; there is desolation and celebration. So many great paradoxes. I could have shot pictures on this for a whole month and not have captured everything. But alas, we are only asked to share a few pictures…
Leap of Faith
This first image is one that I actually pulled out of my “archives,” meaning, it isn’t one that I snapped this week. I include it here because it represents a new lens with which I’m seeing this Gospel passage. So often with this passage, we look down upon the prodigal son for demanding his inheritance early and for squandering it all away. But this time when I read the parable, I couldn’t help but wonder if what he did could be considered a leap of faith. It’s a leap that went terribly wrong, and he landed flat on his face in squalor and desolation, but it was a leap nonetheless.
What I like about this angle is that it says to me that even if we take a chance in life that turns out to be a horrible decision, God is there to catch us. God will always welcome us back home. I find comfort in that.
A Bike Without
The area around the church was eerily vacant by the time I left last Sunday, which was unusual, as it sits on one of the busiest surface streets in the city. When I got in my car in the parking lot across the street, I noticed a bicycle leaning against the gate in front of the church. I looked around to see where its owner was, but there was nary a person in sight. I grabbed my camera. This one inanimate object exuded a feeling of longing for me, and one that connected to all of the longing that I saw in the passage: the longing of the father, waiting for his son’s return; the longing of the prodigal son, wanting to get out of his desolate conditions; the longing of the older brother to have justice served.
I imagine that when the son left, he never expected to come back again. I can almost see the “exit only” sign above the gate to the property as he walked the long, dusty road away from home. It was supposed to be a one-way ticket. It would take his life being in absolute desolation before he could take a chance on finding out if it really was a one-way deal. I wonder how many times he had considered going back home before he finally decided to see if his sins were too great to be forgiven by his father.
This got me thinking about what roadblocks we put up in our own lives that keep us from understanding and experiencing REAL love – that real, unconditional, forgiving, healing love that God has for us. Truly, there is nothing so terrible that we can do that would make our relationship with God “one-way.” There is no exit sign. There isn’t a point of no return. God is always there, even when we’ve wandered, he’s patiently looking down the road, waiting for us to appear from beyond the horizon. And when we do appear, he will run to us with arms opened. How beautiful.
What do you see or hear when you encounter the story of the prodigal son?