Monday, June 13, 2011

Two Brothers and Their Dad

There's a familiar story told by Jesus, as related by Luke[1], paraphrased here:

There once were two brothers in business with their dad. The younger one wanted to leave home and so asked his father for his half of the family estate. When he received it, he left, traveled far away and partied with everyone he could convince to join him.

In time the money ran out and everyone left for the next rave. He was left alone with no friends and no means of support. Finally he got a menial, part-time job in order to have a place to stay. He fed himself by dumpster diving behind eating establishments. Eventually he realized his father's employee's ate better and decided to return to see if his father would employ him.

After a long and arduous trek back home, his father saw him in the distance and ran to embrace him. The son started his prepared speech, "Father, I am not worthy to be called your son..." whereupon his father interrupted him and, calling to his general manager, said "Put his name back on the checking account, put clothes on his back and call the caterer for a big feast. My son has returned."

When the older son returned from a business meeting, he saw all the festivities and asked the nearest employee what was happening. "Your brother has returned and your father is treating us all to a feast." The brother was angry, stalked to his office, slammed the door and sat down for a sulk. His father heard he was back and went to talk with him, "Your brother has returned. Come. Eat. Rejoice."

"But I've worked for you all these years and never asked for anything. You never had a feast for me."

"Oh, son, all I have belongs to you. But today, we must celebrate because your brother who was lost has been found."
Both these sons had their individual failings and short-comings. I don't think the father was ignorant of their problems. He knew the younger would waste his inheritance. He knew the older had a chip on his shoulder. Neither one's issues took him by surprise. But in both cases, he embraced them and reminded them of his love. To one he had to remind him that he was his child, and all he had to do was return to be restored to relationship. To the other, he had to remind him that he was his child and all he had belonged to him.

This parable is the third of a series. The first talked about a lost sheep.[2] The second talked about a lost coin.[3] And this one talked about a lost son.[1] The end of all of them is a celebration of the lost thing being found.

One of Jesus' really mind blowing statements is similar to these stories.[4] He has just met the woman by the well in Samaria and has engaged her in conversation. She asks Him a question about the proper place to worship. In an almost non sequitur response He replies with "A time is coming, and in fact is now here, when the true worshippers will worship in spirit and reality, for such worshipers the Father seeks out." The idea of almighty, self-sufficient God seeking, being on the look out for, searching out, weak, broken people for relationship is amazing.

As we celebrate Father's Day here in a week, remember the One who wants to be the Father of each one of us. If you're in a far country, out of fellowship with Him, take the risky step toward Him. He will run to you and embrace you. If you're in fellowship with Him and living by His side, remember He loves you in spite of your short-comings. You may be dark, but He finds you lovely. In any case, focus on His overwhelming love, return His embrace and let it be what produces the change to make you into the child He wants you to be.

1. Luke 15:11-32
2. Luke 15:3-7
3. Luke 15:8-10
4. John 4:7-26