Approval/Validity versus Purpose -a Lenten Lectio devotion

Luke 15:1-3,11-32

For the last couple of days, I have been lost in a fog of non-productivity. This always happens when a pathogen decides to take up residence in my body. When I get sick from a virus or bacteria, I usually get a fever followed by an “I don’t want to do anything” attitude. So much for excuses for not blogging.

The story of the Prodigal son is a story told over and over. Likely, many people who have no belief in God whatsoever know this story. It has been taught, preached on, studied, and picked apart by scholars from every potential angle.

The lessons derived from the parable are always someway related to how a father’s love for his son can demonstrate the power of forgiveness. Yet forgiveness does not change the events of the story. Forgiveness can only give it a seemingly happy ending.

This is not a simple story. Jesus tells this parable in the context of answering criticism as to why Jesus eats and enjoys the presence of people who are not socially acceptable to the regular religious folk of the day. It seems, in the eyes of Jesus’s critics, to eat and fellowship with people is to approve of their lifestyle, to give validity to their choices.

I believe the purpose of the parable was to put forth one central teaching. I believe it was told to remind Jesus’s critics of the essence of the covenant. That essence is God’s desire to be chosen by the chosen.

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14 NRS)

We do not know how many of the “sinners” Jesus fellowshipped with actually came to their senses, realized their spiritual poverty, and returned to God. What we are told is that God hopes. God makes covenants as promises demonstrating God’s desire. Every covenant God makes comes out of God’s very nature, a nature revealed as love.

Do you wonder whatever happened to the prodigal son in the story? Did he ever reconcile with this brother? Did he face any consequences for his actions? Was he ever troubled by guilt? Did he learn from his mistakes? Was he changed by his father’s love?

These questions are not answerable using the text. Maybe they are questions we get to answer for ourselves.