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A Cliffhanger!

March 31, 2019

Scripture - Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

 

The title we give to this parable gives away our point of view

  • Prodigal Son = focus is on the younger son

  • Angry Brother = focus is on the elder son

  • Maybe “Two Jerks” is a better title; then we can focus on both sons!

  • New title: “Loving Father” or Prodigal Father

    • The story has 2 distinct acts

 

Act 1: younger son

  • Asks for - & gets – his inheritance (a disgrace)

    • Basically saying, “Father, I wish you were dead.”

    • Then he apparently sells his share of the land!

  • Leaves for a foreign country – Gentile territory (a disgrace)

  • Quickly wastes his money

    • How?  Extravagant living; the rumor: “prostitutes & parties”

  • Eventually works feeding pigs (a disgrace)

  • Finally comes to his senses & plans to return home

    • His speech has 4 parts: address, confession, contrition, petition

      • Does that sound a lot like our prayers?

  • Before he can reach home, he finds himself in the arms of a loving - & unfair – father

    • The robe, ring & sandals signal a welcoming back into family

 

Jesus tells this story at a time when his audience is under foreign rule – Gentile rule

  • There are echoes of the Egyptian exodus & return from Babylonian exile

  • When people repent & respond to the gospel, it’s time to party!

    • Remember last week?

 

Act 2: older son

  • Diligent in his work, awful in his attitude

  • Hears the party, music & dancing

  • Is told the reason, & refuses to enter the house

    • I’m glad I’m not the one who told him!

      • Note: Your brother has arrived

  • He begrudges the party & shows no respect for his father (a disgrace)

  • He puts all the blame on dad

    • This son of yours

  • His justification: I never disobeyed your instruction.

    • Sounds like a Pharisee, doesn’t it?

  • And then finds himself in the arms of a loving - & unfair – father

 

Jesus is saying to the Pharisees & scribes (& to us?)

  • God may not love as you expect, but there is still plenty to go around

  • Also, where new life is occurring, it is not only appropriate to celebrate, it is necessary

 

This story tells us that God is more interested in relationships than in rights

  • The father in the story, of course, is God

  • R Alan Culpepper, New Interpreter’s Bible: “We usually learn to demand our rights before we learn to value our relationships.  The younger son was acting within his rights, but he was destroying his closest relationships in the process.  How many times a week will a parent [or a teacher] hear one child say to another, “It’s mine.  Give it to me?”  Children quickly learn to demand their rights, but it often takes much longer for them to learn how to maintain relationships.  Governments & law courts defend our civil rights, but how do we learn to defend our civil & familial relationships?”

  • Jesus tells us that rules are important; but grace, relationship, is even more important

 

The good news: God is always waiting for us with open arms

  • Even when it isn’t “fair”

  • God does this because love & forgiveness are God’s nature

  • God does this to model for us what kingdom forgiveness looks like

    • Jesus’ model prayer: forgive me my sin as I forgive those who sin against me.

 

How does the story end?

  • Does the older brother join the party?

  • How does the younger brother behave from now on?

  • Will the 2 sons - & their father – be reconciled?

 

Jesus doesn’t say, & I think this is on purpose

  • It is a cliffhanger so that we will think it through, ask ourselves where we fit in the story, & learn more about ourselves

    • What role in the story comes most naturally to you?

    • How can we more become people through whom new life happens to others?

    • How can we celebrate the party of God’s love in such a way that the younger brothers who have come back from the dead, but also the older brothers who thought there was nothing wrong with them feel welcome?

 

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