Starting “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”

I’m starting a new thing — not John the Baptist, which led to Elijah, not Acts 2:22-36 — I’m turning to a very familiar and easy parable. Or, it turns out, not so familiar and easy after all. I’ve read Kenneth Bailey’s Jacob & The Prodigal and was gifted by a friend with Short Stories by Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine plus chapters in books by Rob Bell and N.T. Wright. I’ve heard this story and read this parable many times. I almost have it by heart. Sermons, discussions, etc. — right now my head is swimming with all the interconnections and possibilities. This isn’t going to be easy to sort out! But this will be joyful. I have been told that (in the past? present? made-up?) to encourage children to study the Torah, smears of honey were put on the pages so that licking up the sweetness would connect sweetness with learning. I sort of feel as if I’ve fallen into a honey-pot. So much to learn, discuss, sort.

Let’s start with the personal — I lost my father in January. He’d been very sick and suffering for many years and yet…. he was my father and now he isn’t here. He was not the best or the worst father. But it is a little ironic or strange perhaps that I am drawn to studying this parable about a father and children at this time? What sort of information or healing is my heart searching for? What sort of interpretations would I likely not even see now? Or is now when I am finally free to see this parable?

Then let’s start with the name — we call this The Parable of the Prodigal Son. How about The Parable of the Father with Two Sons? Or The Parable of the Missing Mother? Or The Parable of the Two Sons? Or The Parable of the Lost Son? The son is missing, like the coin and the sheep just preceding this parable and prompted by the same question (we’ll get to that). And do we know which son is missing?

What we name something is important. Naming is power. Naming can feature one aspect and hide another. One reason there are so many images and names of God is because no one name can “capture” or explain or describe or even delineate the edges of God. He is Rock. He is Water. He is Bread. He is all. He is specific and unique and above and inside and — He is — pure verb. So — let’s start with ignoring the name of this parable. Let’s be nameless and enter into mystery.

Then Jesus said, “There was a father who had two sons.”

Let us pray that in studying and blogging this parable I do so for the Glory of God, to find Him and be found by Him.


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