Some thoughts – Donna Cavedon
Today’s familiar story is known as The Prodigal Son or the lost son. This particular story is set as the third in a trilogy of parables about the lost – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. It is so familiar that sometimes it is hard to expect something new to be revealed. But as we know, we are never to put a period where God has put a comma – that new understandings and blessings continue to emerge from these old, old stories.
Our focus so often is on the returning son and the father’s response. There are two other characters I think are important in this story. One of them is never mentioned, but I have always wondered where the mother is while all of this is going on. Is she alive? Is she brokenhearted or broken? Is she relieved? Is she rejoicing? Where is she?
The other character is the older son – the one who has been the ‘good’ son – who stayed home and worked and cared for and listened to his father and did what was expected of him, without grumbling – until his younger brother came back home.
The older brother’s response reminds me of Dorothy. I met Dorothy in my first church years ago in Maine. During the time I knew her she had been forced to move out of her own home into a nursing home. She was so unhappy and cranky and unpleasant. She blamed her daughter-in-law for the fact that her son couldn’t take her into their home. For the turn her life took she also blamed God. Every time I visited she would lament: “I’ve been good all my life. I’ve done everything everyone has expected of me. I’ve gone to church every week. How can God allow this to happen to me?” Does she remind you of anyone you may know?
And then there was a new awareness as I read these words this time around. Perhaps it was the sermon last week recognizing that we are both saint and sinner – the good one and the bad one and wonder if we can ever reconcile both aspects of ourselves. Is there a third character within us, the loving parent, who empowers us to embrace and forgive ourselves? I am sure that there are more significant learnings this parable will reveal to us – today and well into future generations.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the scripture lesson was not included in today’s bulletin. That was not an oversight, but done quite deliberately. We often turn to the printed word as our source for learning, but that was not always so. Before the written word, humans shared their stories and learnings verbally with one another. The stories that are familiar to us from the Hebrew texts were shared for centuries in the oral tradition. The stories and parables Jesus shared with his followers, as well as his detractors, are part of that same oral tradition. These written words came so much later. We invite you now to just listen. Use the gift of imagination to allow this brief story to come to life. Let the words of the story capture you, and may the Spirit bless you with fresh hearing of these words. (My part is as the narrator. Randy takes on the voices of the characters in the story.)
Luke 15:11-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. (Randy plays lighthearted music)
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
The Prodigal Wolf
Rev. Randy Granger
There is a story of the Two Wolves that many people know from the Interne based on a Cherokee teaching. I’m going to tell you the abbreviated version.
The Story of Two Wolves a Cherokee story.
There once was an Indian elder. His little grandson often came in the evenings to sit at his knee and ask the many questions that children ask. One day the grandson came to his grandfather with a look of anger on his face.
Grandfather said, “Come, sit, tell me what has happened today.”
The child sat and leaned his chin on his Grandfather’s knee. Looking up into the wrinkled, nut-brown face and the kind dark eyes, the child’s anger turned to quiet tears.
The boy said, “I went to the town today with my father, to trade the furs he has collected over the past several months. I was happy to go, because father said that since I had helped him with the trapping, I could get something for me. Something that I wanted.
I was so excited to be in the trading post. I have not been there before. I looked at many things and finally found a metal knife! It was small, but good size for me, so father got it for me.”
Here the boy laid his head against his grandfather’s knee and became silent. The Grandfather, softly placed his hand on the boys raven hair and said, “And then what happened?”. Without lifting his head, the boy said, “I went outside to wait for father, and to admire my new knife in the sunlight. Some town boys came by and saw me, they got all around me and starting saying bad things.
They called me dirty and stupid and said that I should not have such a fine knife. The largest of these boys, pushed me back and I fell over one of the other boys. I dropped my knife and one of them snatched it up and they all ran away, laughing.”
Here the boy’s anger returned, “I hate them, I hate them all!”
The Grandfather, with eyes that had seen too much, lifted his grandson’s face so his eyes looked into the boy’s. Grandfather said, “Let me tell you a story.”
“I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. Only you. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me, one is light and one is dark. The light Wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
But the Dark Wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them seek to dominate my spirit.”
The boy, looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes, and asked, “Which one wins Grandfather?”
The Grandfather, smiled and said, “The one I feed most.” He added, “If you feed them right, they both win.”
I see the Dark Wolf as being our “lost” Selves and the Light Wolf as being 0ur found Selves. Whether you identify with the loyal son, the prodigal son or the father in the parable, we are each of these at times in our lives depending on how we respond to life’s lessons and challenges and each other.
Who hasn’t had that dark night of the soul moment when we are “lost” without hope when we discover humility and surrender and have to finally admit we cannot heal our pain on our own? Like the prodigal son we reflect on our errors or “sins of judgement” realizing our actions have brought us here. In fact the word “sin” has an original meaning of “missing the mark” as in an archery arrow missing the center of the target, an error.
The parable of the lost son is a parable for today. It offers hope for all who long for reconciliation. Whether it be with a child, a parent or a friend from the past, this story points to hope. It teaches that even when hope is deferred and the heart is sick, there is the promise that hope will blossom into a tree of life rooted in love and knowingness, in faith.
Imagine how happy is God when we come home to trust, hope, faith, love in life. The light Wolf or as Abe L called the “Better Angels of our nature.” Too often we live in ego, unforgiveness, judgment, worry, jealousy because it gives us an illusion that we are in control. The Dark Wolf. All the while there is creator wishing to see us coming over that proverbial hill and never stopping loving and caring. We are all god’s children and we are meant to shine, bask in that light and reflect it back to the world.
In her book, A Return to Love Marianne Williamson wrote, “We’re affected by the other person’s lovenlessness only to the extent to which we judge them for it.” The best we can do for someone we are in judgment of is to “release them to where they want to be, doing whatever they want to be doing with whomever wants to join them” to paraphrase Williamson. In other words, let go and really really really let god do what god will do. Who are we say, but wait, I’ve been way better than that person, I recycle, I use my own bags, I am thrifty, I fast so why did they win the lottery and not me? When I am struggling with comparison and thoughts of unfairness I silently pray that God would find me where god knows me to be.
Eknath Easwaran, the author and spiritual teacher wrote, “Human relationships are the perfect tool for sanding away our rough edges and getting at the core of divinity within us.”
And it was Ram Das who wrote, “If you think you are so enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
The Prayer of Abandonment by Brother Charles de Foucauld (1858–1916) expresses openness and intention to give up control to God in life or even before our physical death.
Father, I abandon
myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will
be done in me
and in all your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Copyright DMC/RG 2019