Offertory Prayer

Invitation to the Offering
The offering you made last week empowered ministry within our congregation and in response to the needs of our community. It also helped support the work of ministries beyond the local church that reach people who are in desperate need to feel the touch of love and reconciliation. Through the Episcopal Fund, your church not only supports the Bishop who serves your conference, but the global work of our United Methodist episcopal leaders. Your giving makes possible their witness for the whole church in many areas including evangelism, justice ministries, global health and working with the world’s poor. This ministry happens thanks to the generous support of United Methodists like you. I invite you once again to give generously as we worship God through the sharing of our gifts, tithes and offerings.

August 31, 2014 -- Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost/in Kingdomtide

Learn more about the work of the Council of Bishops of the UMC at: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/council-of-bishops

Holy God, we bring our gifts to your altar this morning, remembering that Jesus told us that if we were truly to be his disciples we would need to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow.” It’s tempting to try to follow, without taking the cross; or to try to follow, without denying ourselves. More often, we seek to simply take the name of “Christian” without the denying, the taking of the cross, or the following. Guide us, Lord, on this journey of discipleship. Use these gifts, and use us. In our Savior’s holy name, we pray. Amen. (Matthew 16:21-28)

"Prayers by Ken Sloan. Copyright General Board of Discipleship. www.GBOD.org Used by permission."

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Prodigal, a Reflection on Luke 15:1-3, 11b-19

The respectable people sure didn't like it that Jesus was willing to associate with people who weren't so respectable. And they said so out loud. And Jesus answered them out loud.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (or, as some put it, the Parable of the Two Sons, or, as others put it, the Parable of the Waiting Father) is part of his response.

Something like what was upsetting the religious leaders keeps on happening. People who don't behave the way we want our children to grow up should be welcomed into our fellowship? Join our local church? Speak at the Annual Conference? Who makes the rules? Who gets to decide who is following them? Have they read the Bible? Don't they care?

These are questions that the respectable church members can ask. Jesus is talking to the respectable people of his time. But, before we address their attitude, let's look at an example of someone who inarguably does not behave the way he should have.

In the parable, the younger son does behave in an unquestionably poor way. He demands his inheritance before his father dies. He squanders it in dissolute living. Then the economy turns against him. Just as he runs out of money, so does the whole country. He finds an unpleasant job that doesn't even pay well.

So hungry that he's eating pig food, he starts comparing his situation with the one his father provides for his employees.

Whether he would have repented even if his circumstances had been different, we don't know.

What we are told is that even though he no longer feels that he deserves to have the status of a son, he wants to return to his father--because his father treats non-sons well.

3 comments:

bthomas said...

Such stories are always problematic for those who mistake merit as the method of God. Grace is always a problem for those who strain to see God through such a poor lens.

The focus of the parable is not so much about the prodigal son or the angry son but the misunderstood father. For Jesus is dealing with people who misunderstood the Father. He uses the parable teach them what they have missed. This father is a unknown mystery to his sons, but by long experience he knows them both very well and never lets them forget who they are. Neither son can go so far away that they cease to be His son. And regardless of how deep might be the consequences of sin, neither makes the rules of the house. That is the Father's prerogative. The father invites both to enter into the house for it is theirs both by birth and by his will. Only one enters. From the narrative it sounds like he decides that to enter the house on the Father's terms is better than any other alternative. The story closes with one son standing, struggling with deciding if he is willing to enter the house on his Father's terms. Recon what he decided?

Sue Whitt said...

Do you think the Pharisees and scribes thought that he was talking about them?

bthomas said...

First they would have to listen. One can only hope that they did listen. There are instances mentioned in which some of the most unlikely of people listened to Jesus. I've often wondered where a sharp up and coming young Pharisee like Saul would have been found when Jesus was out and about teaching. Herod longed to see him, but not enough to actually seek him out. Perhaps the future Apostle of grace found time to stand among the crowd and listen to this rustic rabbi from Galilee.

Now what they thought of what Jesus said is entombed in silence. But these were men of intelligence and ability. It is not reasonable to think that they would fail to "connect the dots" and come even unwillingly to what Jesus was saying. They might have refused to accept it, but they could not possibly have failed to grasp it.