The Quixotic Pastor

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two Kinds Of Prodigal and other thoughts

Ah, that wonderful, unique parable of Jesus, variously called the parable of the loving Father, the prodigal Son, the Jealous Older Brother. Personally, I kind of like the Parable of Two Prodigal Sons as a title.

At this point, I'm thinking we have two kinds of prodigal here. Both sons are out of touch with their father's love for them. The younger thinks he can live his life better on his own [maybe he was trying to escape his older brother?], the older one describes himself as his father's slave and works so hard at being so obedient and dutiful, he forgets to ask for his own party along the way. He's so busy concerning himself what is RIGHT ... that he forgets what is GOOD, a la the movie The Rainmaker. I think that is the movie with that quote ...

What both brothers have in common is a joyless existence and the experience of being lost --one in riotous, loose living, the other in believing he has to be "good" in order to "deserve" or "earn" the father's love. Each one is selfish, self-centered, in his own way.

Notice the father goes out to meet BOTH sons --the more obviously lost one on his return home, the more subtlely lost one as he stands outside the house and refuses to welcome his brother home, even as his father gently reminds him --this is your brother.

The father knows how much the brothers could benefit from loving each other as he loves them: think of the balance each of the sons could gain from one another. The message of the younger to the older: life is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated --lighten up. The message of the older to the younger: excess leads to pain and sorrow --settle down.

It is important also to remember the context of this parable. Jesus tells this story in response to the Scribes and Pharisees' complaint against him that he welcomes sinners and eats with them.

The commentators from HRC as found on Textweek [Out In Scripture, A Party for Everyone]claim: "All "sinner" stories in the gospel of Luke have one thing in common: in none of them does Jesus correct the sinners or call them to change their behavior. Rather, Jesus simply enters company with them. Indeed, in his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus describes a sinner who merely pleads for mercy rather than one who repents. No wonder the religious leaders, those invested in a theology of judgment, complain about Jesus’ company — Jesus made his home with sinners (15:1-3). "


  • At 9:44 AM , Blogger Sue said...

    Good reflections! I've been thinking this week about the older brother as well. I've also been thinking about retelling the story during the sermon, but with two sisters instead of brothers. Does gender change the context? I'm still working on it...

  • At 1:03 PM , Blogger Reverend Dona Quixote said...

    I don't think the gender of the characters changes the context or the points of the narrative, Sue. One of the commentators on the textweek website retells the story as if the father were mamma --it's the article from the open door community of atlanta, I think.

    Thank you for your kind words, too.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home