Now is the perfect time to be prodigal – like God, not like the wayward son in the familiar story in Luke’s Gospel. We are all weary for many reasons, not the least of which is the on-going pandemic. Pastors and worship leaders are navigating technology we never thought we’d need. We are all on edge wondering if we are witnessing the beginning of World War III. White supremacist culture is alive and well and trying to convince us that everything is fine. The tsunami of despair, depression, anxiety, and suicidality claims more victims everyday. On top of all this, many of us are trying to navigate Lent without undue emphasis on sacrifice and sinfulness.
Enter the parable of the “Prodigal Son.”
Honestly, I love this story because every time I read it, there is something new to learn. I remember very vividly when I realized that I never new what the word “prodigal” meant. And when I looked it up, I was certain it applied to the father figure (the God figure) in the story more than the younger son who foolishly spent everything he had. This it occurred to me that we, all Christians, behave as the older brother. We are quick to point out what isn’t “fair” and be angry about it. At the same time, we seldom recognize that God is always with us and everything that is God’s is ours.
This is important enough to repeat. In the story the father tells the eldest son, “You are always with me; all that is mine is yours.” If the father is representative of God, then this statement is meant for us. There is no shortage of Love, grace, healing, forgiveness, hope, etc. There is more than enough for us. God is always with us. Do we take time to realize that we are always with God? Do we recognize the abundance that is all around us? No. No we do not. If we did, we would not behave as we often do in the world.
Instead, we act as if there is a limit on God’s love. We behave as if God can only love those who get it right. Those who earn grace through proper theology and doctrine, right practices, clear membership rules, and whatever else we tell ourselves God needs from us. Then when someone outside of our inner circles experiences a bit of grace, we start talking about fairness. Fairness does not matter to God one iota. God wants justice. Yes, I said it. God wants justice for the marginalized and oppressed, the devalued and the dehumanized.
In the parable the father doesn’t go running toward the duty-bound eldest son. The father ran toward the lost son, the son believed to be dead, and the father ran with open arms and open heart. Who is God running toward today? It isn’t likely all the duty-bound Christians with our rules and obligations. It is much more likely that God is running toward anyone who is seeking wholeness, justice, love, community, healing, grace, hope, etc. – especially after they have been dismissed and disregarded by the duty-bound ones.
Isn’t it time we all stop behaving as if God needs all our rules under the guise of doctrine and theology, and really needs us to, as Micah says, do justice, love kindness, and journey humbly with our God. And how do we do that? By being prodigal with love because God is always with us and God’s abundance will refill, refresh, and renew our weary spirits when we offer love to the most vulnerable among us. Don’t you want to be prodigal? God is. Why aren’t we?