Luke 15.11->

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them.

“Not many days later, the younger son gathered all that he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.

“And when he had spent everything, a famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate, and nobody gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise 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 as one of your hired servants.”‘

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

“And 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 servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found!’ And they began to make merry.

“Now the elder son was in the fields; and as he came and drew near the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.

“And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’

“But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”


6 responses

  1. NT Wright: "None [of the commentaries] that I have been able to consult has noted the feature which seems to me most striking and obvious. Consider: Here is a son who goes off in disgrace into a far country and then comes back, only to find the welcome challenged by another son who has stayed put. The overtones are so strong that we surely cannot ignore them. This is the story of Israel, in particular of exile and restoration…. This is what the parable is about…"Careful study of the peasant context in which the story makes fullest sense offers the following striking points. For the younger son to ask for his share of the inheritance is almost unthinkable; it is the functional equivalent of saying to his father, 'I wish you were dead.' The father should have beaten him, or thrown him out. Instead, he agrees. The son ends up doing the job beyond which is was impossible, in Jewish eyes, to sink: feeding pigs for a gentile master. He then does a further unthinkable thing: He returns home, threatening to disgrace the whole family in the eyse of the village. The father runs to meet him; senior members of families never do anything so undignified at the best of times, let alone in order to greet someone who should have remained in self-imposed ignominy. The party is for the whole village, like a big family wedding; a fatted calf would be far too much for a single household. The elder brother, meanwhile, also shames his father, by quarreling with him in public; and in his turn suggesting that he wished the father dead so that he could at last enjoy his share of the property; but again the father is astonishingly, unbelievably gentle….This, says Wright, is the job Jesus is doing for God in his welcome to 'sinners.' "It is not a matter… of Jesus offending some petty scruples here or there… Jesus is enacting the great healing, the great restoration, of Israel. And he interprets his own actions in terms of the fulfillment, not of a few prophetic proof-texts taken [out of context], but of the entire story-line which Israel had told herself, in a variety of forms, over and over again." The Pharisees– and the rulers of the Temple– are being cast as the surly elder brother.Even for these 'establishment' figures, the story still implies "the wish that the elder brother be reconciled." But for those who believed they'd been doing God's will along, and been rewarded for that (ala the "Rich Young Man" in that other story) there was a natural reluctance to see their situation in this light.We can also, of course, read this as a timeless depiction of the self-righteous of all religions… It isn't easy being self-righteous; and we shouldn't be so hard on them.

  2. Excellent comment, Forrest; it shows careful scholarship.The story has various meanings to each one of us. To me it's a statement of the general psychology of any group. We all belong to one category, and frequently different categories at different times. I find myself categorizing every one I meet as elder brother or younger brother.In general the individualists and/or rebellious I call younger sons; in contrast conventional types fall in the other category.I know noble elder brothers — and younger ones and vice versa despicable ones of each type, but it's a helpful classification.Keep up the good work; comments lead to creative discussions.

  3. Two typos and a missing final quote mark in the 2nd paragraph, but yeah, it's good when I sometimes read a book. The Wright one left me with much stuff, still rattling about in my head!Your comment takes me more toward that Other Important Question!I mean, I really need to look into the raw bits history a little, seek for What Really Happened before I can use that to place my little 'You Are Here' mark.But ultimately, once I've got that mark in place, I need to be reading: 'Where is this telling me to go from here?' Which your comment leads me into.So, you are leading me to wonder: Does my younger son MO constitute "rebellion against God," a wish that He were out of the way so the world might run My Way? No doubt that's a part of why I found 'Fiddler's Green' such a scary story; I don't really want to run away from home! But, Daddy, sometimes what we're all doing here just doesn't look like enough fun! Why can't I give the Meeting Elders a hotfoot from time to time, get their circulations up & dashing about in terror? Do them good, to have them run around the house screaming now & then, wouldn't it?Being an only child means having to do both roles… but then I'm not God's only child, am I? So what's the Intended God/human Relationship? Different strokes for different folks, maybe? How might it look, to "walk humbly with my God"? For me, maybe getting better at this as we go along?…I'd thought this might be a blog post… but been reading about child development, having been one myself, having ruined one of my own, seeing how I did on this test. & it's kind of no-brainer common knowledge that there are two natural younger-son phases. Those "terrible twos" when one's parents make all these impossible demands, and one just has to learn when to say "No!" And adolescence, when it's time to get out of the house and breed!– or go through the motions as opportunity opens, which is what seems utterly essential at the time.Anyway… These are not problems; these are what's supposed to happen. They only become problems when stuff goes wrong, when we aren't able/situated to do them right.All the ugly trouble & fuss in the world– what Revelation casts as 'the rebellion of the human race.' That's our natural process of development! "Individuation."Once I was attempting to breed, & suddenly got the notion that I and the lady involved were really becoming "the same person." But we were supposed to be, really needed to be, two people. So I was frightened, and told myself 'Whoa!' Didn't make 'trying to breed' any less fun…When we've collected all our unique-and-wonderful scars, when we've got our own silly stories– Then we can start coming home. "What happened?" "Oh, I fed pigs for a living. Not much fun. But there was this time I dreamed I was home eating the fatted calf Mom cooks so well…!"Nuthin much around here except pig pods… No, actually, it's a really marvelous world. Coming home doesn't mean leaving it, but leaving what we think it is, who we think we are in it.

  4. Rethinking that story I just told…I loved, and wanted love– but that fear came because I wasn't able yet to do it right."Too much ego"? Maybe more like: 'Not yet good enough at egoing to let go of it when that might otherwise have been a very good thing indeed.'

  5. I dig it, Forrest, at least partially. Re LOVE I had several abortive ones before God sent the right one–55 years ago. (I guess I'm too proud about that.) Read in today's paper about a couple married for 70 years.But those who get married at 18; I have to wonder about them.

  6. There's probably some imprinting mechanism that can keep "those who get married at 18" attached, provided this hasn't been damaged too much in the course of their own development…What happened with me, I think, is that an early hospital stay derailed my development at a point when I needed to have secure parental attachment, and left me desperately seeking human love thereafter, while not so good at giving it out. Quite a few people caught in similar patterns for diverse reasons, modern civilization being pretty good at stressing people while leaving them without much family/neighborhood backup… In my parents' day, death of parents was a common disruptor; both of mine had lost a parent or two and weren't too sure how this parenting thing ought to be done. My ex had grown up with her mother, her father having fled when she was young– and (consequently?) scheduled her "Forrest, we really don't have that much in common do we?" talk for soon after we'd adopted a baby… who has naturally enough grown up better than he might have, but with problems of yet a different sort. People in this civilization typically grow up with a great need of love– and while they seldom grow up actually loveless, they often come out not knowing what to do with the love they feel– a situation which triggers all the dysfunctional stuff they learned as babies, while everyone around them was losing it…Life puts its marks on people. We get bonzaied in our various ways, and grow on from there. If we're blessed, as I've been also, we end up with the right person when we've finally become halfway right ourselves.Does this, perhaps, mean that God needs to limit Himself in order to Be separate "beings"? All of us formed by being squished into the mold of this world– but now, having been formed (and deformed) this way– the Who we're to develop into remains a mystery…

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