Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Inclusivity and the Church [5]: The Parable of the Prodigal Son—What Happened Next?

‘Now the man’s 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 elder son was unconvinced, however. “‘All that is mine is yours’,” he echoed. “But I have never supposed that to be true—you have never given me good reason to believe it! And so I have never believed that I could have had a young goat, let alone a fatted calf, to celebrate with my friends.”
‘“Ah, my son, you have always been with me, and I have not neglected you,” the father replied. “Has a day gone by when you have not known my love and my care for you? Whenever you have needed food, you have received it. Whenever you have needed drink, I have provided it. Whenever you have needed rest, I have made it possible. And when your younger brother asked for his share of the property, I gave your share to you at the same time.”
‘“All this is true,” said the elder son, “and yet you have never said, ‘Son, would you like a fatted calf to celebrate with your friends?’ You have never even said, ‘Son, you have been working very hard for me of late—would you like a fatted calf to celebrate with your friends by way of an extra gesture of gratitude from me?’”
‘“My son, if you asked for a fatted calf, I would have given you one, even two fatted calves,” replied the father.
‘“But don’t you see that I shouldn’t need to ask for a fatted calf—not from my own father!” the elder son protested. “I have worked for you every possible hour and still you expect me to take the initiative and ask for that which love should see with its own eyes? You have been standing on the edge of your property every day, going all ‘Absalom, O Absalom!’, while I have stood in your presence, working hard, ensuring that your business does not go belly up. And what do you now tell me? ‘You could have asked . . .’ Father, you have been so wrapped up in looking for your missing son that you have neglected the faithful son here before you.”
‘The father looked at his elder son and said, “I can see you are affronted. Tell me, my son, what would you have me do?”
‘The elder son thought for a moment. He said, “As you have already given my share of your property to me, I’m going to take some time out and travel to a distant land, just as my younger brother did.”
‘“But what will you do while you’re there, my son?” asked the father. “And how long will you be away?”
‘“I don’t know,” replied the elder son. “I don’t know the answer to either question. But I do hope that when I return, if I return, you will accept me and show me the same love that you have shown to my younger brother—a love that goes beyond mere familial ties, beyond simple provision, and truly accepts me for who I am.”’

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