Sunday, March 18, 2007

You love that one more than me?

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

I so love it when a sermon speaks to a new interpretation of a well-known (and beloved) parable. Our celebrant today is one of those preachers who can always find a new twist. He blew us away on Christmas Eve, and once again he has stirred my imagination with his take on the "prodigal son".

His lead in was typical and hooked me immediately: a certain sympathy for the older brother's resentment. (Any of us who fall into the judgmental category can relate... Hey! what about me? Haven't I been good enough for you? Haven't I been the one who stayed put, slaved my heart out, and what did I get? Zip, nada, zilch... not even a stupid goat to have a party with my buddies?)

While Jesus continually stresses that the lost sheep found is cause for more rejoicing than the ninety-nine who did not stray, it still rankles somehow. How come? And then the unspoken question comes to mind: is it possible that God loves his lost sheep more than his faithful sheep? What's that about? And just when do the ninety-nine get their reward?

As long as we look at things from this perspective, the answers will fail us. Because we're asking the wrong questions. As the sermon today pointed out, we're focusing on our relationship with God as if we're in some competition for His love.

When the elder son says to his father: "But when this son of yours came back... you killed the fatted calf for him!" (Translate: You love him more than me!)

But the father re-sets the reality of the situation in his own perspective when he answers: "But we had to celebrate... because this brother of yours was dead, and has come to life; he was lost and has been found."

Well of course. I knew that.
Or at least I always know it on some deep cosmic, and spiritual level. Yet I do not reside in that deep spiritual world much of the time. I am made of matter and I am dense... dense to the deeper meaning of who God is and why I am. It takes hearing it again from yet a slightly new perspective to get my attention. Thanks be to God.


Anonymous said...

An old preacher in Ponca City, Oklahoma always said that the elder brother was the prodigal at heart. .. . Becky

Pat said...

I've come back to read this several times, it has that strong a hook. Now I think I know what it is. As you said, "when do we get OUR rewards" (paraphrased).

It's about that, too, isn't it? Rewards. As long as what we do we do for rewards, we miss the boat. But hooboy that's a hard layer to peel off in a world where almost everything is about…rewards.

Thanks for writing this.

kpjara said...

I still struggle with the story of the Prodigal Son. I guess I'm just not 'there' yet.

I also struggle with the 99/1 sheep!

Clearly I have issues!