Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Prodigal People of God

During our Lenten journey I have been introducing to our congregations various ways in which we can be more open to God’s presence in our lives. We have now explored three different methods.  The first two were the Lectio Divina and the Labyrinth.  Yesterday we explored dreams as a way in which God speaks to us.  I have attached my sermon for your consideration.
 There are positive and negative images or archetypes in dreams in Carl Jung’s theory of dream work.  This is true of most, if not all things, in life.  This is also true for doing a sermon series such as we are doing during Lent.  The positive is that we can explore one subject in more depth than is often possible following the lectionary of appointed scripture in preaching.  This is true of our theme of Spiritual renewal which we are exploring during Lent.  The negative aspect of this is that we can miss opportunities to explore the scripture passages which are provided in the lectionary.  This is particularly true of the Gospel yesterday which is the parable of the prodigal son.  This parable is one that provides many possibilities of exploration in sermons and in bible study.
I want to take this opportunity to explore briefly this parable in my reflection today.  One of the best explorations of the prodigal son teaching of Jesus is by Henri Nouwen.  His book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, is a wonderful resource for this.  He uses the painting of this event by exploring the classic painting by Rembrandt.  Here are two quotes from the book which I hope will give you a sense of where Nouwen is going with his exploration.
“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
Nouwen’s genius, in my view, is to get to move beyond the obvious understanding of the parable which is coming home to God the Father who is waiting to welcome us to the banquet.  He asks how are we to let God into our lives?  God is there waiting for us to return.  Can I put aside my egocentric position and allow myself to be loved by God.  This is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  We will fail many times as Nouwen confesses he has but we can forgive ourselves as God forgives us and try and try again seventy times seven times.  God will still be waiting no matter how long it takes.   

May your Lenten journey be blessed. 

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