(Thoughts for Sunday's contemplative service)
I grew up hearing the Parable of the Prodigal Son many times - always in the context of the Sunday Evening Gospel Service. The visiting preachers (a different one nearly every week) would use the parable to talk about how "......we are all the Prodigal Son, wandering away from God and living a life of Sin and Debauchery until we eventually come to our senses and journey home towards the Father who loves us so much he will run to meet us....and we can begin that journey this evening, just walk to the front of the church while the final hymn is played."
I would nod wisely to myself while inwardly I was wishing that I had the courage of the younger son. (Though back then I would have labeled it arrogance.) And so as the organ played 'Just As I Am', I stayed just where I was, wondering who I was in the story.
I do that with a lot of bible stories.
Am I the Prodigal, or the Older Brother? Am I Wheat or Weeds? Am I Sheep or Goats? Am I a Wise or Foolish builder? Who am I?
I am everyone
I am the older brother, staying at home being obedient to what Father wants, and resenting him for it.
I am the older brother, jealous of my younger brother for having the courage to do what I wanted to do.
I am the older brother, angry with my father for never rewarding me for slaving away on his farm. I'm obedient, but not loving.
I am the younger brother, running away from community, viewing my own selfish pursuit of pleasure as the most important thing in life.
I am the younger brother, realizing I've made a mess of my life and wondering if I can sweet talk my father into letting me back into the house.
I am the younger brother, overwhelmed by forgiveness that I don't deserve.
I am the father, recklessly loving even when it could be exploited.
I am the father, offering forgiveness without conditions.
I am the father, seeking reconciliation because I want all my children to be at the feast.
I can even find myself in the residents of the far country who helped the younger brother squander his inheritance, in the servants at the farm, helping in the background of an unexpected feast and in the absent mother, not mentioned in the story at all and therefore having no role to play.
I Am Everyone
As you read through the story of the Prodigal Son, find yourself in everyone. Who is it easy to be? Is there any character you don't want to be?