GNB 2.40

February 16, 2023


The older brother became angry and refused to go in. The father went out and pleaded with him saying ‘All that I have is yours but we had to celebrate because your brother who was dead to us is now alive. He was lost and now has found himself.’” (Luke 15.28,31-32)


I have mentioned several times that it would be easy to consider the story of the Prodigal Son to be the story of the Prodigal Sons. As this trilogy of “lost stories” promotes celebrating that which is lost has been found, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the truth that the presence of the older brother/oldest son should not be “lost” on us. Let me preemptively say, because someone who has been reading this collection of reflections might remark, the father did not chase the older son. He did not run to him. The sense of urgency is inclusion not exclusion. I have no doubt that the father would extend the same opportunity for the older son to “choose for himself whom he would serve” just as he did with the younger son. Both sons were raised under the same roof with the same values and expectations. As we know from our own childrearing and raising of children, what we can control far less is how each child is wired and how they respond to that “same” environment. We certainly don’t love one child more than others. Their uniqueness, however, should inspire every parent to love their child as they love the rest but in a differentiated way which speaks to each of them as powerfully. God most certainly does that for each of us. Indeed, Christ died for all our sins. He bore one cross and surrendered one Spirit to make us as one people. In faith, we ought to be in concert with one another. The harmony of worship and praise as well as our service and ministry should blend together to make one grand sound. That would be the sound of our spiritual industry: a well-oiled machine; a fine-tuned automobile; the cadence of victory; the joy of affirmation. What would it look like? The best image for me is a completed puzzle where all the pieces fit together and the image to be projected…IS! But, we cannot forget that in the midst of all the differences there is but “one Lord, one faith and one birth [baptism] as we are called in one hope as one body with one Spirit which exists before us as One God and father of us all who is above all, through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4.4-6) The urging to the community of faith in Jesus as the Christ in Ephesus goes on to say, “Acknowledge there is to each one grace given in measure to the gift of Christ and the one who receives Him [as Lord and Savior.]” (verse 7) Have you ever put a puzzle together? You see the image of completion on the outside of the box. You open the box and the myriad of pieces nearly overwhelms you. You look for pieces still connected and not fully cut into separation so that you have a head start on putting the puzzle together. You devise your strategy for moving forward (mine was to collect the border pieces together because they all have one flat side in common and then work by design or color scheme and so on.) Just when you think you have the puzzle completed (after searching for that “missing” piece), you notice that one piece is gone. You would have sworn it was there just moments ago when you snapped the last piece in. But, as you look over the finished product something is lacking. But, you don’t panic. You don’t have an attack. You don’t call out the national guard. You may look for the nearest pet with a wary eye! But, knowing it was just there means it couldn’t have gone far. And in that calm, that which has been displaced is easily replaced.

That is the father’s demeanor when it comes to the older son. He does not chase after the son whose temper tantrum of green-eyed jealousy and “righteous indignation” has led him out of the party and into his “pouting place.” I received an email from my dad today about his computer not working correctly. He hadn’t been receiving emails from family and friends. He thought he was being isolated intentionally or accidentally. After a phone call, the problem was resolved. He sent me an email of confirmation. I noticed the title of the email which said “My Compouter.” Yes, I know it was a simple misspelling but appropriate to the moment and the event. The distress caused by the computer issue gave way to an emotional reality of sadness. Without resolution the “compouter” issue would have compounded into something more severe. So it was the father gently led his older son back with words of truth. The truth was the priority of feelings. The arrival of the younger son posed no threat to the older. The father said “Remember, all that I have is yours.” We dare not forget that the younger son already had received his portion of the father’s inheritance. He would not be “re-inherited.” But, more than that, the real issue was restoration and reconciliation. How can we feel wholeness when a piece of the puzzle is missing? And we each have a sense of that feeling inside. We have a longing for fulfillment. We have a dissatisfaction with an emptiness or a lack of completion. We may chase after things we believe, or are convinced by someone else, will “complete us.” It may be a partner in love, a job with money, property and a bag of chips, fame and misfortune, drugs and an anesthetizer. But, things of this world cannot satisfy and cannot overcome the emptiness which is carved out in us. I won’t even say it is carved out in us by sin. Sin becomes a double-whammy in this world. I have no doubt of that. The first whammy is convincing us that we are not whole in the first place to show us “we are not God” or that “God is capricious.” The second whammy is convincing us that we do not need God to be the person we want to be who is in total control and fully fulfilled. What sin, and its promoter Satan, want is for us to put sin and Satan into that empty place. Doing so does not fill us up but eats us up from the inside out. The father would not let this happen to the older brother. (I will reflect more on the application of thought inspired by the presence of the older brother as it may have spoken to the people who first heard this “lost” story tomorrow.) For the moment, the father promotes the same truth which God offers us so that there is no wandering away and seeking after that which cannot satisfy. We have, mighty ones of God, all that we truly need because Jesus took on the cross and suffered death in order to be the gift of life which God wants to give to each of us. It is our choice, however, whether we want to accept it, reject it or just allow it to lie fallow. It is the same gift but comes to us differently according to our own individuality of createdness. God is able to differentiate His love so that there is a “one size” fits all. That size is the patient endurance of the cross where God showed us such love in sending His only begotten Son to bear the cross for us. From the cross it was said, “All that I have is yours!” We hear Him say to His Father, “Into Your hands I surrender My spirit.” What we have heard before that was “Father, I pray You will send them My Spirit.” Jesus couldn’t give us His Spirit while He was still holding on to it. He had to release it into the only capable and trusted hands known to the universe: His own Father. His Father just happens to be “our Father.” Just as the same man was the father of two sons: one older and one younger. Just as God is the father of many: one eternal and the rest with a great future in store for them if they will remember, “In my Father’s House are many rooms; room enough for everyone who will believe.” We all have a bit of prodigal in us. The potential exists but so does our salvation, redemption and reconciliation because of the Father’s love.


Father, it seems simple enough to say “I love you” and we do and we say so. But, we know it means so much more than words. Thank You for loving us into life and making it so much more than we could imagine. Amen.

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