St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

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March 2010


Sibling Rivalry

Among the best loved stories told my Jesus must surely be the parable of the Prodigal, or lost, Son, or, as it is more commonly called today, the parable of the Loving Father. You can read it only in St Luke's Gospel, chapter 15 from verse 11. It is worth noting at the outset that this story and the two preceding it were aimed both at the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, and also at the tax collectors and "sinners" who had gathered to hear him. The Pharisees were outraged that Jesus should even contemplate talking with the lower classes [15: 1-2].

You know the story I am sure. [If not read it now!]

15: 11 - "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' " Bold as brass he was. He wanted to enjoy now the inheritance he hoped to receive when his dad died. It is as if he had said, "Dad, I wish you were dead!" Suppose you had a twenty year old son, who said this to you. What would be your repost? Well, I would probably have said something like, "Son, wise up! Get a grip! Don't be so daft!", or words to that effect. What the younger son said is really quite shocking.

So what does the father do? Well, "he divided his property between them." Now the parable is intended to illustrate the extent of the love that God has for his children, his willingness to forgive even the most outrageous sins when we come in repentance to him. So, is God daft enough to do this, to give his quite undeserving child such a gift? Well, if you think about it, in God's way of doing things, it is not so daft. The younger son must have realised how hurtful he was in asking his Father for his inheritance now - wishing the old man was dead. But his selfishness moved him on to do this. And the father complied. You see, God has given us rules to live by - "Love God, Love your neighbour". And he has given us the unprecedented gift of life to enjoy, yet we do daft things, and like the prodigal son, we end up in a very bad place. And God lets us make this choice, to follow his rules or to ruin our lives. But yet even when we are in that very bad place, if, like the prodigal son, we "come to our senses" and repent of our sin, we can go back to God and be forgiven, and be accepted back into God's fellowship.

Now we come to the older son. He was out in the fields when he heard the sound of rejoicing and when the servants told him the reason, he was a bit miffed (to put it mildly!) You can hear the hurt in his voice as he cries, "Look Father, all these years I've been slaving for you, and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never threw a party like this for me and my friends. But when this son of yours (note he didn't say, 'this brother of mine') comes home you give him the mother and father of all parties." He just couldn't get his head around the idea that his father actually still loved the prodigal to this extent. The elder son actually had all he wanted from the father, but didn't realise it, and was jealous that his wee brother - the reprobate - was being received back into the family. Jesus doesn't tell us whether he came to accept this or not.

The younger son typifies the "tax collectors and 'sinners' " - those considered by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to be "beyond the pale" of God's covenant, while the older son typifies the Pharisees and teachers. They just could not understand that this Jesus (who might - just might - be the Messiah?) not only spent time with these people, but actually went out of his way to spend time with them and to let than know that they were as much loved by God as the "Holy Joes". And because Jesus threatened their hegemony of religiosity, they failed to recognise him for who he was and made him their enemy. Oh what they lost in doing so!

Dear Reader, where are you in this great tapestry of life? A reforming sinner who is being saved by the undeserved grace of God, or a religious person who despises those who are nowhere nearly as good as you? [If you are an atheist but have read this far, then know this - I believe that God loves you and wants you to come back to his family.]

Keep going folks. Lent will soon be over, and ready or not, we SHALL be celebrating Easter!


6 March -  2010


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