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Archive for September, 2008

The Prodigal Father

This weekend I taught from a familiar story: the prodigal son. Without question this story paints a provocative portrait of God’s love. It confronts any fundamental stereotype that we might project onto God; such as, the overused cliche of a whimsically vindictive god who hurls bolts of lightening at helpless victims. Sorry, that was a long sentence. Anyways, this story was the result of Jesus’ radically subversive action: association with sinful people. It breathes a fresh picture into our sometimes narrow or shallow perspective of grace. I read a statement several months ago that sums up, at least for me, the essence of grace. God is irrationally generous to the least strategic of His creatures. This idea runs through the whole kingdom message of Jesus.

The more I think about this story, the more convinced I am that it should be renamed prodigal father, as some pastors/scholars have suggested. The father was profoundly more wasteful with his generosity then the son with his rebellion. There is an unquestionable je ne sais quoi in this story. ( I don’t know what to make of it). In other words, because God’s grace is infinitely deeper then any category that we could create for it, it is difficult to put into words how scandalous it really is…

But as I was preparing for this message, I begin to see things differently. First, this story was about Israel leaving and then coming back to her God. Exile and homecoming is embossed within this parable. In fact, it seems in explicit and implicit ways, this theme of leaving and coming home again is the plot line of the Hebrew Bible. Israel was not banished; she simply left. Next, this truth about the prodigal son is also our truth. We would rather get our own way and fail; then, not get our own way and be fulfilled. I am realizing the great lengths that we will go to get our own way, even if the result is tragic. Finally, the picture of the Father waiting the return of His son is evocative. I can’t help but wonder if we got things upside down. We want God to move for us and on our behalf but what if God is waiting for us to move towards Him. In other words, and in a downright homespun way, I think God is waiting for us to come home. Our story is that we have left and grace is waiting our return. Perhaps, one of the reasons we struggle with grace so much is that we really haven’t left our pigpen. We are stuck in doing what we want to do which naturally inhibits us from truly understanding how revolutionary grace is. I don’t think the son could have ever conceptually understood his father’s generosity. But he could experience it! He came home not to a father that wanted to banish him; he came home to father that wanted to celebrate his return. That I think makes some sense of grace; it is not just a nice concept but in some way it is a fundamental experience of God’s love…

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I haven’t been able to blog recently because of my hectic schedule but I promise to blog soon and more consistently. I would like to thank all of my fans who read this blog so faithfully( my wife and my sisters dog). Thank you for being so patient with me. God bless you two! So, I look forward to sharing some of my quirky thoughts on everything theological.  I will also write on just about anything, however random, so that I can enlarge my growing fan base. I know it’s shameless but I’m desperate!!  Just kidding….

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