Or something like that, anyway. As I’m reading through my Commentary notes, David Lose at Luther Seminary and WorkingPreacher.org has done it again. He’s drawn me to a different place, a new way of seeing what I’ve seen hundreds of times before.
That’s the problem with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, isn’t it? We know it too well. We’ve heard it again and again and again. The prostitutes, the pigs, the robe, ring and fatted calf. Even the surly older brother. It’s all been done. We know it. We’ve heard it. But David Lose, in his weekly “Dear Working Preacher” column, writes these words, “Parables don’t need to be explained, they need to be experienced so that they might in time be lived.”
Immediately upon reading those words, I found myself in a room on the second floor of Addison Hall, where Dr. Yieh’s Parables class met, watching as the class acted out, awkwardly and with much discomfort, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Watching one who was called to be a priest, callously walk past an injured stranger, opened that well-worn parable up to me in new and different ways. I began to wonder what it might look like to see the countenance of the Father’s change in an instant as, way off on the horizon, the silhouette of his long lost son appeared.
At the end of their weekly Sermon Brainwave Podcast, the faculty members at Luther Seminary began to do that for us. If you listen to it, it begins at about minute 21. The money quote is, “You never gave me so much as a goat, to have a party. That little lamb that I fed… I combed her wool, and you killed my lamb for that little sh*t! I’m not going in there. This son of yours wasted your money.” And the Father said, “We had to celebrate, this brother of yours came home.” The expletive was so unexpected, and yet so real. As I listened to it for the first time yesterday, I was there. I felt my heart racing as I understood the deep emotional response of the older brother. I felt his anger, his righteous indignation. And then, I felt as my legs got swept out from under me as the Father replied, “We had to celebrate, this brother of yours came home.”
Perhaps for the first time, I noticed that the Father turns is all around. This isn’t a party for “my son,” but for “your brother.” It is about restoration of relationship. It is about new life. It is about God giving and expecting us to give mercy, grace, and forgiveness. It is about my brothers, my sisters. Our brothers, our sisters. It is about those who are so close to us that their sins sting especially hard. Experiencing the parable instead of hearing it, instead of having it explained to me, made a real difference. I’m not sure how to replicate that on Sunday morning, but I certainly see the value in trying.