Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our Gospel for this week, from Luke 15, is focused on the fairly well known “parable of the prodigal.” Here, the younger son of a living father persuades his father to give him his inheritance. He departs and manages to run through all his money, ending up in very humble circumstances.
While many will shoose to focus on the younger son’s offensive behavior toward his family or on the plan for restoration, or maybe the restoration itself or the older brother’s reaction, I’d like to take al ook at the trouble the young man found himself in. We may remember that pigs are considered ceremonially unclean by Jews. They will not raise them or eat them. How, then, does this young man end up helping someone who keeps pigs, and wishing for a share in the pigs’ food? He is far from home, taking despreate measures in order to stay alive, and engaged in activity which provoked him to guilt and shame on a daily basis.That’s about as far from home as you can be. It’s a profoundly sad place.
How did the young man get there? He had purposely thrown off the shackles of restraint provided by his family and his culture. In asking for his inheritance, he was declaring his father dead. He left home, the place of security, and tried to make his own way, according to his pleasures. By departing from the structure and restraint of his culture, he was faced with the monumental task of re-inventing it all, in a way that would work. This is a recipe for failure.
Many in our current Western world are, sad to say, not like the prodigal. Yes. Not like him. Our culture ran away from those reasonable foundations in the past. Different people will place different dates on the departure, but no matter how you stack it, we are very unlikely to be the first generation in this exodus. Our parents, grandparents, or even earlier generations made the shift. We were born in the foreign country, starving, and feeding pigs, which is loathsome but we were never told why. It’s a sorry state of affairs.
Jesus’ message is the same for us as for the young man. God stands ready to welcome those who have wandered, even those who have never known him. He calls us, by His Word and by the community of Christians, to be restored, to be clothed, to be fed, and to see that He is very much alive. He himself is our everlasting inheritance. This is the good news for us who are far away and starving. We are welcome home.
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