So what do I know? unsurprisingly, I have found myself with a huge blank screen in my mind, not knowing where to go after that start.Truth is I don’t know where to start. I have already declared myself a follower of Christ, albeit usually at some distance. Will give him a wave once in a while, but never come close enough to draw the flak that he did. Or that other, closer followers do. I am an armchair Christian, a quietly disloyal citizen of another Kingdom. Or at least, I have been. The week or so since I wrote last I have spent alternately hiding from what I have exposed about my self and wondering what to say next. it is unfamiliar territory. And for one who has been travelling around the foothills of the same mountain for years it is both exciting and daunting finally to be heading upwards.
There are seasons in life for everything. A time to laugh, to cry, to work, to rest, to speak and to be silent. This is for me a season to speak. A season I have both longed for and avoided, wanting to be heard, worried that I won’t be worth hearing. But here I am with a small space carved into the blogosphere. To tell what God is like. And I cannot of course know or tell the whole, no one person could. But what I do know I tell. Here is a story Jesus told to give an insight into God. A well-known story in some circles. But worth a read.
A rich man has two sons. The youngest goes to him one day and asks for his inheritance early. His father gives both sons their share. Shortly afterwards the younger son takes off abroad with his money and uses it all up in wild living. Then famine strikes. Finding himself both poor and hungry, the son is reduced to tending pigs, wishing he could satisfy his hunger with the pig food. He wakes up to his situation one day and remembers that his father is a rich man, whose employees are better off than he is now. He feels he’s thrown away the right to be called or treated like a son, but he can at least go home and ask his dad for a job.On the way, his father sees him, and throwing off all dignity, runs to embrace his son, who has worked out his speech and makes sure he delivers it. His father doesn’t even engage with the son’s words, he’s already organising the welcome home party.
The older son is out in the fields when his brother comes home, and has to ask one of his employees about the music and dancing coming from the house. He’s not impressed when he finds out, annoyed that his father makes such a fuss of his reckless brother, yet hasn’t ever given him, the obedient and dutiful one, the means to have party with his own friends.You are always with me, his father says, and all that I have is yours. But it was right to celebrate because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!
God doesn’t think like us, nor does he have to conform to our standards, norms and sensibilities. That is a challenging, humbling (or disempowering, depending on whether you like God or not) thought. The implication is that God is like the father in this story, which is traditionally called the prodigal son, but could equally be called the prodigal father. This father doesn’t hold back from his son, even when he asks for his share of the family wealth. Nor does he stint in celebrating his return. God doesn’t do things the way we would do them, or think they should be done. There is no good son, bad son simplicity here. The contrast is not between good and bad, but life and death. Being lost and being found. No lectures from father, only from big brother. Little Brother’s return results in celebration, a lavish welcome back into relationship. It also exposes the poverty of relationship with Big brother, the one who never left. This complex and profound story ends in the middle of things, if you like. How will the brothers live in the light of what they know now about their father’s love? How do we live who believe in this same Father live with it?