Parable of the lost son

Jesus said “A father had two sons. The younger one said to him ‘Father, give me my inheritance now,’ and his father honored his request. Not long afterwards, that son took all of his belongings and traveled far away to another country, where he spent all he had living large. When he was penniless, a famine broke out there and he became needy. Then he found a job working for a local citizen who sent him to feed the pigs in his fields. He desperately wanted to eat even the seed pods that the pigs were eating but nobody would let him have any.

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself ‘All of my father’s workers have plenty of food, and I’m starving to death because of this famine! I should get up and travel back to my father and say to him Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Please take me on as a hired hand.’ He then got up and started to walk back to his father. But while he was still very far away, his father saw him and was overcome with compassion. He ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’

But the father called to his servants, saying ‘Hurry! Fetch the finest robe we have and put it on him; bring a ring and sandals and put those on him as well. Then slaughter the fattened calf and let’s have a feast of celebration, because my son was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and has been found.’ And thus the party began.

Meanwhile his older son was in the fields. When he approached the house he heard the sounds of music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him and asked what was going on. The servant said ‘Your brother is here, and your father had us slaughter the fattened calf to celebrate that he has safely returned.’

The older son then became very angry and didn’t want to go into the house. His father came outside to plead with him. But the son replied ‘Look I have worked many years for you and I’ve always obeyed your orders, yet you never even gave me a young goat so I could have a feast with my friends. But when this son of yours shows up, the one who threw away your money on prostitutes, you have the fattened calf slaughtered for him!?’

‘Son’, he said, ‘you have never left me and all I have is yours. But we had to rejoice and celebrate because your brother was dead and has returned to life; he was lost and is now found.'”

LK 15:11-32

Advertisements

Unconditional God

Jacob, not yet Israel, said to God in Genesis 28:20-21:

20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”

He’s just had his amazing dream in the desert, and set up a small rock as a reminder that this is where God spoke with him.

Note all the conditions he gives. If you do this, then I’ll do this. He’s making demands of God.

Moses said to the family of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:1-6:

“When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am giving you today, 3 then He will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 Even if your exiles are at the ends of the earth, He will gather you and bring you back from there. 5 The LORD your God will bring you into the land your fathers possessed, and you will take possession of it. He will cause you to prosper and multiply you more than He did your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.

This is the other way around. If you, as a people, do these things, then God will do these things for you.

In the first section, God has to do the work first. In the second, the people have to do the work.

It isn’t unconditional in these stories, but it is interesting to see that the focus has changed. Instead of us demanding more from God, they are demanding more from themselves. It is more mature, but it is still conditional. It is if-then. Not that God loves you anyway, but that love is dependent on another’s actions – even if that other is God.

What chutzpah to demand anything of God! And how sad to think that God won’t love you regardless.

But then Jesus says in Luke 15:11-2 (the story of the prodigal son)

11 He also said: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

The father had never given up on him. All he had to do was return, and the father ran to him. Note verse 20 – “…while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.”

This is how our Heavenly Father is. We have to return and all is forgiven.

Likewise, we are to forgive others in the same way. Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22 – how often must we forgive someone? And Jesus said that as many times as they ask for forgiveness, you must forgive them.

God gives us unconditional love. We are to share this love with the world. In the same way that we are forgiven, we are to forgive.

This is Heaven on Earth.

(All Bible translations are HCSB)

The miracle(s) of Hanukkah

When the Maccabees went to rededicate the Temple they discovered there was only enough oil for one day. This was a problem, because the Temple menorah had to be lit all the time. Making the oil was very difficult and would take at least a week to prepare more. It has been said that it was a miracle that the one bottle of oil that they found was enough to keep the flame burning until more was made.

I think it is a miracle that they went ahead and lit the lamp anyway.

They knew that they didn’t have enough oil and yet they still did what they had to do. They didn’t wait until they had a backup supply in order to get started. They knew how important it was to have that lamp going to honor God.

How many of us hold back, waiting until we have enough to get started? The Maccabees trusted God. They didn’t expect a miracle to occur. They lit the lamp anyway.

Certainly someone was at the task of making more oil. God kept things going until humans could take over. It isn’t that God made that oil last for years. It lasted just long enough until the new supply was ready. It isn’t as if they stopped making the oil when they noticed that it was still going after a few days. They kept on, fulfilling their part of the task. Each did their part – God with a miracle of making the original oil last, and people with their work of making more oil.

This reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. He started back towards his father, and his father ran the rest of the way to him. This is how God treats us. If we make an effort to go towards God, God will more than make up the difference. But we have to do our part too. We have to get started.

We can’t sit around and wait for God to take care of all of our needs. We have to put in the effort. But we also have to use the gifts that God has given us and not hoard them up. We have to trust God and do our part as well.

Poem – path

The path that leads away, also leads to me.
It isn’t just for me to walk to the unknown.
The unknown now knows how to find me.

We are on the same path, it and I.

It, like the father of the prodigal son, is coming to me.

That which I am seeking is seeking me as well.

It is no longer a one day, someday goal.
It is already here, on this path, with me.