Mar. 31, 2019 [ 04 LENT] • Joshua 5:9a, 10-12 • Psalm 34 • 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 • + Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 •
Title: Suspicious to Spontaneous, Prodigal Son.
[_01_] The parable of the Prodigal Son is like a familiar house. We have been in this house– the ‘house of the father in the Prodigal Son’ before – and perhaps we can move around in it without a description of all the details. Many of us know the parable quite well.
[*** pause ***] I was taught this many years ago that when you are in a new house, a new place, look for the exits. My father’s brother and my uncle is a firefighter and he – in a new place – always looks for the exits. Naturally. This is his training. He does so spontaneously.
[_02_] And…. spontaneously – the Prodigal Son had a change of heart, a change from within, and he is looking for a way out of his difficulty. But it is a change from within.
I’d like to emphasize the internal – unseen – changes for the Prodigal Son – and for you and me, rather than what we can see.
Of course, there are VISIBLE + MATERIAL reasons for the Prodigal Son to return home:
· FAMINE & lack of food
· BANKRUPTCY & lack of $$
On the other hand, there are offsetting MATERIAL & VISIBLE reasons for him NOT to return home:
· DISTANT – it’s far
· TIME – it’s been a while
· BAD REPUTATION – what would people say?
[_03_] There was something unseen, inside the Prodigal Son – something SPONTANEOUS.
When I say spontaneous, I mean the way the cherry blossoms come into bloom from the inside, or a child develops a sense of balance or even language internally …naturally … spontaneously.
In the case of the Prodigal Son, he moved from being a SUSPICIOUS person to a SPONTANEOUS person.
At first, he was quite suspect or suspicious, taking and wasting his inheritance money. Even his return home – superficially – is suspicious, at least to his elder brother.
[_04_] Why and how does the prodigal son become the spontaneous son?
I’d like to give an example.
In 2004, my parents announced that they were moving and selling the home in which we grew up.
Each of us – my siblings and me – had internal and natural connections to this house, though we were not living there. It was “spontaneous.” And, my sister had the strongest SPONTANEOUS reaction to the sale, despite her distance. She was in California So, despite the distance – visibly – a strong internal or spontaneous connection.
And, the younger son of the parable – despite his distance – geographically – feels he belongs at home, spontaneously, naturally.
Again, there are numerous outward reasons for him NOT to come home. He is responding to something within.
[_05_] And, you – parents & grandparents – are you not always pouring love and affection into your children’s hearts.
You do so from an early age so that they will know they are loved. It then becomes spontaneous for them to know this and experience this. They know your love even if you are not present. They know your love – in fact – even if they – tragically – reject your love.
The Prodigal Son knows – spontaneously – he his loved.
OTOH - On the other hand – the elder brother, does not yet have a spontaneous spirit.
[_06_] Now, about this Prodigal Son parable, I admit that I receive it – often – as a wake-up call … precisely because of the elder brother/elder son character.
I recognize the parable is about God’s mercy and invitationi to us especially if we feel we are far from God or far from good.
The elder son symbolizes any of us and Pharisee/Scribes in their stubborn resistance to Jesus.
Nevertheless, it does not make the elder son/elder child look good…it’s a wake up call to the elder son in all of us.
And, because I am the eldest, I hear it as a wake up call not to change externally but internally, from within spontaneously.
[_07_] EXAMPLE - Several years ago, I recall feeling angry and hurt by a particular person and trying over the period of some weeks and months to pray for the person.
My feelings were not instantly changed, but gradually….. Then, due to circumstances, I did not see the person for about a month or so.
When I finally saw the person again, my first thought –
spontaneously – “I was supposed to be angry at you.” But, I was not. I was free.
That was not me. That was the Holy Spirit.
[_08_] Forgiveness is meant to be spontaneous. It is not something we can force ourselves to do, but it comes from within, with God’s grace and mercy poured into our hearts. (cf. Romans 5:5)
We are called to pray about this, to remember that we belong to the same house, and that in the father’s house there are many mansions.
Jesus goes to prepare a place for us. Mercifully. Spontaneously.