The Son kneels before his father in sorrow. He has tried life his way, and it leads to despair. Starving, clothed in filthy rags, with one sandal missing – he is the picture of wretchedness, of a life squandered.
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
He is not the only lost soul in the picture. To the side, his brother stands. Well-fed, well-dressed, well-heeled – he is the picture of self-righteousness.
He answered his father, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”
The thought for today. Who is the hardest soul to reach: the one who left, or the one who stayed home?
Both lost souls have the same father. The father who was so moved with compassion for his wayward son that he ran and embraced and kissed him. The father who reminded the self-righteous son of his inheritance. Both stories should end in joy.
This 17th century painting by Rembrandt is thought of as perhaps the finest painting in history. Ironically, my print hangs in my garage – only because the frame was gouged in one of our moves. But because of its location, it is the last thing I see as I get in my car to leave. It was given to me as I was installed (the second time) as a pastor at my first church in Tulsa.
The return of the prodigal son might be my favorite parable, because it reflects the heart of God. This Lent, I hope to subtract by adding…or vice versa. Less distractions, more focus on the stories Jesus told. Every story has a lesson. And we have the chance to see both ourselves and God in them.
It is a high calling to know the heart of God; it is an even higher calling to reflect the heart of God.