Some thoughts

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C: the Prodigal Son. The parable offers that the father has extended unconditional forgiveness to both sons prior to their repentance. What then does this say about the fuller meaning of repentance?

The parable of the Lost Sheep ends with: “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”  The parable of the Lost Coin ends with: “In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Taken at face value, the idea of a sheep repenting is only slightly less absurd than the idea of a coin repenting. Continue reading

The other Son

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C: the Prodigal Son. The story would be complete as it stands with the return of the prodigal son and the father’s open-armed acceptance. But another story interlocks with this: the story of the elder son who has not appeared in the story. The father has responded to the prodigal son’s return with compassion. How will the elder brother respond?

Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. (vv. 24-26)

In anger, the elder son refuses to join in the celebration, thus physically distancing himself from his family and his own role as elder son in a celebration of this kind. “At such a banquet the older son has a special semi-official responsibility. He is expected to move among the guests, offering compliments, making sure everyone has enough to eat, ordering the servants around and, in general, becoming a sort of major-domo of the feast. [Baily, 294] Continue reading

Father and Son

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C: the Prodigal Son. The parable begins with the younger son asking for what he considers his share of the inheritance – something that is for the father to decide. In the asking, the son communicates that he does not view the inheritance as a gift given because of his father’s good graces; rather he sees it as his due.

Kenneth Bailey, a NT scholar who lived for years in the Middle East, asked many people in the Near East cultures how one is to understand the younger son’s request.  The answer is consistent and harsh: the son would rather have his father dead so as to gain the inheritance. In an honor/shame society it would be appropriate to ask, “What father having been asked by a son to give him inheritance…” No father would do such a thing. Again the Lucan answer is not the answer of the society. The father grants the request. Where the younger son asks for “the share of your estate (ousia) that should come to me.” Luke tells us that the father “divided between them his property.” Continue reading

Inheritance Customs

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C: the Prodigal Son. The parable, the longest in the Gospels, consists of three main parts: (1) the departure of the younger son to a distant land where he squanders his inheritance (vv.11-19), (2) the homecoming of the son and welcome by his father (vv.20-24), and (3) the episode between the father and the older son who stayed at home (vv.25-32).  How this parable differs from the two preceding it is that what is lost is a human person – one who has existing human relationships with his father and his brother – and whose relationship gets tangled up in the oldest of family squabbles: inheritance. Continue reading

Prodigal Son: context

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C. The gospel is one of most familiar of all parables: the Prodigal Son, part of a trilogy of parables thematically joined with joy over the recovery of what was lost. All three parables of Luke 15 (the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son) point to the idea of the return of one that was lost.  To the simple structure of lost/found/joy, in the Prodigal Son parable, there is further development of the theme of God’s love and the contrast of the older brother’s hostility. Luke uses this motif to teach a newer, more full meaning of repentance.  Continue reading

What was lost

This morning’s gospel is the parable of “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32)

Luke 15 is one of the great chapters of Scripture for parables, bound together by the theme of joy over the recovery of what was lost. All three parables of Luke 15 (the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son) point to the idea of the return of one that was lost.  To the simple structure of lost/found/joy, in the Prodigal Son parable, there is further development of the theme of God’s love and the contrast of the older brother’s hostility. Luke uses this motif to teach a newer, more full meaning of repentance. Continue reading

The Lost: reflection

Lost_Luke15Final Thoughts (from Culpepper, 304-5)

It is no hyperbole to say that this parable is a gem; all of its facets deserve to be considered. It is no simple simile with a single point but a compressed slice of life with complexity and texture. In the following paragraphs, we will take note of various of the parable’s facets, but in preaching the interpreter should probably avoid such a “shotgun” approach and develop only one or two themes for emphasis. Let the parable be one of those beloved texts that always repays a return visit. Continue reading

The Lost: context

Lost_Luke15Luke 15 is one of the most unique chapters in the Gospels in that it consists of three memorable parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. Many commentators locate these three parables (Luke 15) within a larger section of Luke that asks the question “who will participate in the reign of God?” (13:10-17:10). The section includes the foundational formation of the disciples – but often via the encounter with the Pharisees in which the assumptions of right relationship with God are put to the question. The Pharisees and others in the Jewish religious leadership assume folks such as tax collectors and sinners are outside the “faithful remnant” that awaits the return of the Messiah. At issue is the question of fellowship in the community of God’s people. Each encounter in this larger section seems to be an opportunity to form the disciples (and anyone who would listen) in the understanding of the reign of God. Continue reading