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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…

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….

An impatient exegesis

I have come to terms that I can be deeply impatient when reading my Bible. If, for some strange reason, I haven’t come up with anything meaningful as I read, which happens more then I would like to admit, a curious sense of hysteria takes over. I become very cantankerous and irritable simply because I haven’t gotten anything from my Bible. I find it terribly ironic that some days I can become less and not more of a Christian as I read. I believe most of this is connected to my false expectations that I have imposed on God’s word itself, though my wife might suggest that I have some inherent problem that needs to be talked through.:) For what it’s worth, I have realized my irritability is more or less the result of a hopelessly selfish point of view: “my” set of expectations have not been met. This perception is a pernicious and complex web that I can get caught up in; unless, of course, I can get free from this deeply flawed point of view. But if my whole approach to reading God’s word is to get something out of it for me then I think I have missed the whole point. The ethical/cultural/theological dimensions wrapped up within the word discipleship, a word I’m not sure I or we comprehensively understand, explicitly calls us to think less of ourselves. And I really try hard to do that very thing, of course, through God’s grace. However, I find it bizarre that I apply this “thinking less of myself” ethic with regrettable selectivity. I choose to live this sort of thing out with people in meaningful ways, but when it comes right down to it, I forget to live this out in meaningful ways with God’s word. Obviously, I am guilty of compartmentalization and putting the cart before the horse. But the worse of it is that I have played selfish with God. The last thing I want to do is to succumbed to this wrong vision; this wrong hermenutical perspective. In fact, and again on more occasions then I would like to admit, I have fundamentally misunderstood what the Bible is really all about: It is not a Book that I can use for any old selfish reason; rather, it is a book that invites me to live within a greater story. So, I am now attempting a fresh exegetical approach to God’s word- it is more humble and patient and significantly less narcissistic. Hopefully, those days of hysteria are all over and done with…

In the next few days, if all things go as planned, I will attempt the most significant and daunting journey of my life: kayaking with the Orca. So, with much reservation and fear, I’m beginning to prepare myself to face these large, wild, and unpredictable mammals. I have to admit that I am wishing, actually dreaming, that some act of God will keep me from having to make this perilous trip. A storm would be nice! But what I’m really hoping for is one of those “gut” feelings that Kelly gets when imminent danger is close. I need one of those get-me-off-the-hook moments.  Help me Jesus! Anyways, I know this walk of faith will only be strengthened as I embrace this journey of mine. You never know I might just have the time of my life. Please Lord keep me safe, amen….

I just watched Dana Torres win her semifinal heat in the 50 meter freestyle. What is remarkable is that she is 41 years old!! So, I have been thinking… What are the chances that I could make it to London in 2012. I’m 32 years old and in terrible physical shape but I have four years to work out my old man hangups. Right? I was a collegiate athlete a long time ago, that must count for something!? Anyways, I have been infused with such a compelling vision of Olympic possibilities that I have decided to ask for some advise: Should I or should I not make an attempt at gold in 2012? Any thoughts? Please be kind!!!

Ready Set Go