In churches that follow along with the lectionary this week's Gospel passage is the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15. I however am not preaching this Sunday (nor am I following the lectionary during Lent anyway) but I do like to preach on parables.
There are two questions I almost always ask myself when preparing to preach on a parable. Where is God in this story? [or more properly HOW is God in this story?] and Where am/are I/we in this story?
The beautiful thing about those questions is that the answers are not always the same. The beautiful thing about parables is that there is not one meaning to them -- despite what tradition may say about them.
One of my frustrations about the lectionary is that it tends to lift bits of scripture out of context and then we lose something. This week is a good example. The assigned reading is the first couple of verses and the we jump over the first 2 stories about lost and found to get to the story of the lost son. Yes, I just changed the name. And really I think that name (or perhaps the prodigal father) fits the story better -- in or out of context.
Luke 15 is all about the God who searches for the one who has gone astray. More to the point it is about the God who finds that the one who has gone astray is as valuable (if not more) than those things which have stayed put. And so, while the son does spend his inheritance like it was going out of style the point of the story is not his frivolousness--it is that he has made himself lost. And the surprise in the story (parables pretty much always have a surprise) is the prodigal love offered by the father. So it is the story of the Lost Son and the Prodigal Father if we are searching to find "how is God in this story?".
So if God is the one who searches for the one who has gone astray, (and I have to point out that it is God who decides what "gone astray" means -- unlike many who like to sermonize on the faults of the Lost Son, or the lost of the world) where are we in this story?
ARe we the one who has been seduced into a path that led to a very different endpoint than was expected?
Are we the one who loves so freely and prodigiously that the embrace is more important than pride and decency?
Are we the one who is affronted by that same prodigious love?
OR of course are we any and all of those at various times?????
Such an easy sermon to preach. And I am on holidays. But maybe the layperson leading worship this week will see this and get some ideas?????