Sunday, 10 March 2013

Let me in

GospelLuke 15:1-3,11-32 

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:
  ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.
  ‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.
  ‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.
  ‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”
  ‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

A problem with having such well known tales in Luke is that we can skim them with the authority of hindsight expecting that we have learnt all we need to know.  The parable of the Lost Son speaks to Christians of God's overwhelming love; something we have, hopefully, learnt to trust no matter where we are in our lives. Maybe this year it is worth looking at where it begins.

 Jesus isn't speaking to Christians, he's speaking to Jews; with a long tradition and culture of family and community responsibility. A people with a long memory of exile and separation and reconciliation. People who should know better.

At the beginning of this account it is the Pharisees, the priest clan - the keepers of the faith, who are disturbed. With the confidence of law keepers they question Jesus' authority.  How can this prophet, rabbi, holy man - and they do seem to accept that this is what he is - welcome the sinners and the traitors? 

The Pharisees are so concerned with entitlement that they cannot acknowledge that this is a rescue mission. For all their scriptural knowledge they have not recognised the signs; they don't see that these people, these Israelites, are being called out of exile.

Like Moses, these 'runaways' are being lured to a Burning Bush, to the Light of the World. Accepting the invitation of God's presence they stand, sit, laugh and talk on holy ground; they delight in God's words and are fed by them. The believe that they are loved and so they are made holy.

It worries Jesus that the Pharisees cannot see it.  Jeremiah promised a law written in minds and hearts - somewhere along the path the heart has turned to stone. Breaking stone is no easy task. 

Instead of comforting their sense of disorder, Jesus heightens it. A son who has, to all intents, wished his father dead. Who has shamed his family; left them impoverished; broken every rule on his prayer shawl. Yet, somewhere in his overused, misunderstanding heart he finds the desperate humility to drag his unclean, sinful self back to the only person whose generous love he did not doubt. He had seen his father with those who were only servants, and that would have been enough.

The older, hard working but resentful, son stands side by side with the Pharisees. Both stubbornly set outside the offered hospitality, healing and loving acceptance. 

With the same mind, they ask why? The answer will take time; self-reflection; letting go. Maybe one memory of that same unconditional love; maybe one deep breath of release to cause a crack in a heart long sealed. 

And only through that, can the light get in.



Philomena Ewing said...

Oh this is such beautiful writing here
Thanks and Blessings Word !!

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks for being here Phil - blessings to you

Lynda said...

I agree with Phil - this is beautiful. One statement really stands out for me and I think of this in relation to all of us but especially the marginalized with whom I minister, those who have been affected by the justice system: "They believe that they are loved and so they are made holy." We hear that so often - they feel they can approach God because we love them. Thanks so much for this reflection.

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks Lynda, God has no face but ours so we must love them. Blessings on your ministry