Would you throw a party for a prodigal?

Dolly Lee Book Reviews, Fathers 0 Comments

We tell God: “I wish you were dead!” But God (as Jesus) dies to restore our relationship with God (if we want).
Crazy (agape) love.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

“11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 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.

13 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.” – Luke 15:11-13 NRSV
We can’t understand the depth of the father’s pain at his younger son’s request in the Parable of the Prodigal Son without understanding a little bit of first century Middle Eastern culture.
The story doesn’t tell us why the younger son hated his father so much. But his anger didn’t preclude asking for money from his father to finance his wild lifestyle.
 
Although he didn’t have to, the father agreed to his younger son’s request. And the son leaves for a distant country, putting the greatest amount of distance between him and his father.
Later, the economy tanks, the money dries up, and his “friends” disappear. The parties end.
The once wealthy younger son hires himself out for menial labor: feeding the pigs. The smell of the greasy slop (which would have once sickened him) now makes him salivate!
But no one gives him anything. Now, his perspective on his father changes. He realizes his father treats his servants better than his current boss because his father’s servants have enough to eat.
He begins the long dusty walk home. He rehearses what he will say to his father. He will ask to be a servant as he assumes the role of a son isn’t an option.
Isn’t that where many of us have been in our relationship with God? (I have.)
We think: I did [fill in your unpardonable mistake/failure- which varies from person to person] and God can’t forgive me. (Yes, we live differently after we return home but that is another post.)
If this was a movie, cue up the music.
Before the son reaches home, his father (who probably has been scanning the horizon on a regular, if not daily basis) runs to him.

Welcome to Week 6 of 7 for our 7 Days of Soul Care Book Club

 Excerpt from Day 6 (Take Steps Toward God):

“The father saw his son first, picked up his robes, exposed his legs, and ran toward the prodigal. By doing so, he bore his son’s shame and protected him from the villagers’ wrath.[i]  According to their first-century culture, an older man didn’t bare his legs, but the father’s actions prevented the villagers from stoning the prodigal. The father embraced and kissed his son, ignoring the swirling stench of pig, sweat, and dirt. The father showered him with extraordinary grace, mercy, and love.

 

According to their first-century culture, an older man didn’t bare his legs, but the father’s actions prevented the villagers from stoning the prodigal. The father embraced and kissed his son, ignoring the swirling stench of pig, sweat, and dirt. The father showered him with extraordinary grace, mercy, and love.

 

The father owed his son nothing; his son owed him everything.

 

But in his great love, grace, and mercy, he gave his son a fine robe to replace his filthy rags, a ring for his dirt–encrusted finger, and shoes for his blistered, bleeding feet. The rich robe, ring, and shoes signified he was the father’s son and not a servant. No need for his son to eat with the servants—the father restored him to his position as a son. What an extraordinary father!

 

The rich robe, ring, and shoes signified he was the father’s son and not a servant. No need for his son to eat with the servants—the father restored him to his position as a son. What an extraordinary father!

The father threw a big party to celebrate his son’s return. The prodigal didn’t reject his father’s undeserved generosity out of pride.

 

When the prodigal’s older brother returned and discovered the reason for the party, he refused to join. The oldest felt he had served the father and deserved a party more than the prodigal.”[i] See section titled, “Middle Eastern Village Context” of Joan Huyser–Honig’s, “Kenneth Bailey on Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes,” accessed January 9, 2016, http://worship.calvin.edu/
resources/resource–library/kenneth–e–bailey–on–jesus–through–middle–eastern–eyes/.

What a picture of God the Father’s love for us prodigals. He welcomes even our feeble self-centered reasons for returning to him.
Such grace! Such unconditional love!
The prodigal knew his father was kind but he didn’t know the depth of his father’s love for him.

Excerpt from Day 6 Journal Questions:

 “What touches you about the Parable of the Prodigal Son when you read Luke 15:11–32?
The prodigal ran from his father and wasted his inheritance. The older brother remained out of duty but
not love for his father.
Which brother do you identify with more and why? How can you return to God today?”

Excerpt from Day 6 Prayer:

“Our Father God,
I thank you for how you long for me to be near you, and you grieve when I wander.
Please give me the grace, hope, and courage to walk back to you when I travel to the far country.”
What does traveling to the “far country” look like for you?
(For me, the “far country” can look like running to busyness or anything other than God to meet my deepest heart needs for unconditional love and acceptance. Or it can look like focusing on what a loved one ought to be doing instead of on what I can do to improve a situation. Not pretty.)
What motivates you to return to God when you travel far away?
I travel away from God whenever I forget I have all I need in him and instead seek my soul’s fulfillment elsewhere.Day 6 of 7 Days of Soul Care: A Guide to Letting God Do the Extraordinary with Your Ordinary
During our book club, if you want to transform your soul through connection with God, you can buy a copy here and read reviews (get a free Kindle copy with purchase of a paperback).

Feel free to invite friends to join.

Remember soul care is not selfish. It’s wise because it connects us with our extraordinary God who is our life (see John 15:1-5) so we can be fruitful in our relationships and work.

You can find a selection of the available questions from the book that was used here in a downloadable PDF.

Why are we taking one week for each of the seven days in the book? Learn why and read part of the Introduction here.

Thanks for being here. I appreciate your presence here.

Next week, we discuss “Day 7: Rest and Play” with new questions and activities.

Linking with encouraging Holley Gerth

Thanks to Patrick Fore for the use of his photo of the dirt road via Unsplash.com.

Thanks to Brooke Lark for her photo of holiday cocktails via Unsplash.com.