Archive for the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’ Tag

Devotion for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Scandal of Grace VIII

MAY 9, 2021

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 13:1-12

Psalm 67

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

Luke 15:11-32

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Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.

–1 Thessalonians 5:11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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That verse is a fitting counterpoint to the attitude of the elder brother in the story traditionally called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Or is it the Parable of the Resentful Older Brother?  Or is it the Parable of the Lost Son?  If so, which son was lost?  Or is the Parable of the Loving Father?  The text is too rich for one label to describe it adequately.  Psalm 67 begins, in the translation of Mitchell J. Dahood, S.J.:

May God have pity on us and bless us;

may he cause his face to shine,

may he come to us.

That fits well with the parable.  On the other hand, it does not mesh with the blinding of Elymar the sorcerer in Acts 13.

Back to the father with two sons, a formula for trouble since Cain and Abel…

Which son was really lost?  The younger one–the wastrel–came to his senses and acted accordingly.  The resentful, dutiful older son–a character easy with whom to identify–played by the rules and expected commensurate rewards.  Yet could he not have rejoiced that his brother had returned?  Perhaps the older brother was the lost one.

The parable ends with unresolved tension.  The ambiguous conclusion invites us to ask ourselves what we would do in the place of the older brother.

Grace is scandalous.  It does not seem fair, by our standards, much of the time.  It violates our definition of fairness frequently.  Grace may not be fair, but it is just.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/the-scandal-of-grace-viii/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

God Cares, Part I

MARCH 30, 2019

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:7-14

Psalm 32

Luke 15:1-10

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How blest is he whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin has been remitted.

How blest the man

to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt,

And in whose spirit there is no guile.

But I had become like a potsherd,

my bones had wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night, O Most High,

your hand was oppressive;

I was ravaged, O Shaddai,

as by the drought of summer.

My sin I made known to you,

and did not hide my guilt from you.

I said, “I shall confess, O Most High,

my transgressions, O Yahweh!”

Then you forgave my sinful guilt.

–Psalm 32:1-5, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible (1966)

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Acknowledging one’s sins is pat of the process of repentance, or turning away from them.

The key word in the assigned reading from Luke 15 is repentance.  Jesus answers criticisms for welcoming and dining with sinners by telling parables of being lost then found and welcomed.  Sheep were essential to the livelihood of shepherds in verses 3-6, just as the small amount of money in verses 8 and 9 probably constituted the woman’s entire savings.  In each case a penitent sinner is as precious to God as the lost sheep is to the shepherd and the ten silver coins are to the woman.  Heavenly celebration ensues after the return of the newly penitent.  This theme continues in verses 11-32, traditionally the Parable of the Prodigal Son, although the loving father and the dutiful yet resentful older brother are equally compelling characters.

I detect a difference in the portrayal of God in Luke 15 and Exodus 32.  God seeks the lost in two parables in Luke 15 and waits for the return of the penitent in the third parable.  In Exodus 32, however, Moses has to persuade God not to destroy the Israelites.  Granted, they probably did not know the error of their ways, but the God of Luke 15 would have responded differently than the God of Exodus 32.  The God of Luke 15 would have, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (for lack of a better name), waited for them to realize their sins then repent.

In universe, then, did the ten silver coins know that they were lost?  The Prodigal Son came to his senses in time.  And the lost sheep was an especially stupid animal.  Yet all of these were precious in Luke 15.

I acknowledge that both judgment and mercy exist in God.  The balance of them is beyond my purview.  Yet I rely on divine mercy, which I understand to be vast.  That mercy, extended to me, requires much of me.  I am, for example, to act mercifully toward others and to respond gratefully to God.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Principles are easy to state, but coming to understand how best to apply them in daily life is frequently difficult.  A well-meaning person might, out of faithfulness and compassion, act in such a way as to make a bad situation worse accidentally.  The most effective method of helping might not be obvious to one.  What is a person who seeks to apply the Golden Rule properly to do?  May you, O reader, find the proper answers in your circumstances.

May each of us, precious in the sight of God, remain faithful, repent when we depart from the proper path, and function as the most effective agents of divine mercy possible, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/god-cares-part-i/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Sixth and Thirty-Seventh Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada

Numbers and Luke, Part I:  Respecting God

MAY 9 and 10, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 3:1-16, 39-48 (36th Day of Easter)

Numbers 8:5-26 (37th Dayof Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–36th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–37th Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–36th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–37th Day of Easter)

Luke 14:25-15:10 (36th Day of Easter)

Luke 15:11-32 (37th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter/

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I belong to a wonderful congregation in Athens, Georgia.  It is friendly, generous, socially progressive, and open to free intellectual and spiritual inquiry.  The parish has become a community leader in environmental stewardship, with plans to improve according to this standard.  Of all the churches to which I have belonged, it is the closest fit for me.  Yet I think that my parish is too casual.  This is not a deal breaker for me, but the place is too casual.  So I come to church most Sundays dressed in a suit, a tie, and a fedora.  I stand out.  In a place where I, once the resident heretic in southern Georgia, am now relatively orthodox (without having changed my mind much), I stand out in another way.  Blending in is overrated.

The concept of one’s Sunday Best is a dated one in my increasingly casual North American culture.  Without turning church into an occasion for a fashion show, I affirm the underlying principle of Sunday Best:  One ought not approach God with a casual attitude.  That principle also undergirded the purity and Levitical codes in the Law of Moses.

This God whom we should not approach casually is the one whom we should love more than any person, possession, or other attachment.  This is the God who seeks us out when we are lost.  This is the God who listens to our insults, waives the death penalty from the Law of Moses, awaits our return, and welcomes us home.  (The son in the parable had told his father, via his early request for his inheritance,

I wish that you were dead.

This met the definition of cursing or insulting a parent, an offense which carried the death penalty.)

This is God, worthy of all our respect.  May our manner and attitude of approaching God in public and private reflect that reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-i-respecting-god/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Ninth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-First Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  A Long-Playing Record

Image Source = Tomasz Sienicki

Leviticus and Luke, Part V:  Like a Broken Record

MAY 2-4, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 20:1-16, 22-27 (29th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 21:1-24 (30th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 23:1-22 (31st Day of Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–29th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–30th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–31st Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–29th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–30th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–31st Day of Easter)

Luke 11:37-54 (29th Day of Easter)

Luke 12:1-12 (30th Day of Easter)

Luke 12:13-34 (31st Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter/

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 I admit it; I sound like a broken record:  Loving people and seeking justice for them matters far more than does keeping an obscure element of the Law of Moses.  Speaking of that law code, shall we consider some provisions of it?  We read some sexual laws and an order to execute one for the offense of idolatry.  Then there is this law:

If anyone insults his father or his mother, he shall be put to death; he has insulted his father and his mother–his blood guilt is upon him.

–Leviticus 20:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

To insult is also to curse, the sort of activity the Prodigal Son committed in Luke 15.  Yet the father, the God figure in the parable, forgave the son.

We read in Leviticus 21:16 forward that physically handicapped or deformed Levites were forbidden to serve as priests.  It seems that such men were not supposed to serve God in that way because their physical imperfections reflected the divine form inadequately.  I am glad of progressive attitudes regarding physical differences in modern times; may these ideas flourish.

Then we read about what makes a sacrifice acceptable.  I do not care, for none of that has mattered since the first century CE.

Jesus criticized people who were meticulous about legalistic details while they ignored the imperative of social justice.  He advocated humility before God, trust in God, and active concern for the conditions and circumstances of others.  I think that he cared about blind and disabled Levites, who got to eat well yet were still second-class spiritual citizens.

Speaking of Levites, contact with a corpse made one unclean (Leviticus 22).  That concern played a role in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).  And who was the hero in that story?

People matter more than arcane laws.  Here ends the lesson, again.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/leviticus-and-luke-part-v-like-a-broken-record/

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C   8 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Image Source = FranzMayerstainedglass

Before and After

MARCH 31, 2019

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Joshua 5:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Joshua,

Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.

And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalm 32 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said,

I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,

and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful

offer prayer to you;

at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters

shall not teach them.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying,

This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.

So Jesus told them this parable:

There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands'”‘ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

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These are readings about new beginnings in God.  Happy and blessed are the forgiven, Psalm 32 says.  In Joshua 5 the Israelites celebrate the first Passover in the Promised Land.  Jesus, in Luke 15, tells a story about a wastrel son, his resentful brother, and a loving father.  I choose to focus on the parable in Luke.

Sometimes familiarity breeds reading on autopilot.  So let us read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Let us really read it.  A rebellious younger brother insults his father and wastes his share of the inheritance.  Then he comes to his senses after he hits bottom.  So he returns home and throws himself on his father’s mercy.  The father, who has been looking for his son’s return, welcomes him home and throws a great party for the occasion.  All is forgiven.  Yet the dutiful older brother  wonders why he never got a party.  And this brother imagines what his younger sibling might have done with all that money.

Before the younger brother was a fool; now he is sensible.  Before the older brother was resentful.  But is still that way after his father pleads with him at the end?  The story ends without resolving that question.  Now the younger brother can be what he is supposed to be, but what about the older brother?

How does this story relate to you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/before-and-after/

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