As I kid, I was scared of monsters. Specifically, the Star Trek Salt-Vampire and Hans Christian Anderson’s Death, sitting on the Emperor’s chest. (I slept on my side for years after reading “The Nightingale.” Death couldn’t get you, I reasoned, if you declined him a seat.) But I was never afraid of the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are, the best-known book by Maurice Sendak, who diedonTuesday.
I can't stand the word "entitlement." I
use it sometimes, when people annoy me with their belief that the world owes
them something or that their needs are more important than those of others. But
when I do this, I'm guilty of the same thing they are: dismissing the
importance of someone else's desires and asserting the importance of my own. I
get caught in an entitlement trap.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is often used to illustrate the gracious and steadfast nature of God’s love. Most of us can recognize and even identify with the characters—the younger son who strikes out on his own and makes costly mistakes, the responsible elder son who always does what is expected of him, and the long-suffering father, who shows love and constancy.
In my (southern) Baptist tradition, preachers don’t generally use the lectionary. If we come up with a decent reflection that’s somewhat related to one recognizable biblical passage, it’s been a good week. But these three passages together pack a powerful punch.
The parable of the prodigal son came to have new meaning for me after I preached on the passage in a small Christian church in Turkey. My congregants could read meaning, for example, into the famine that the younger son experienced because our city is in the throes of a serious water shortage. We have gone without running water for days at a time. The reaction of the Turkish mayor was to call for public prayers for rain in the traditional Muslim fashion, and Turkish churches followed suit by praying for rain. It was a similar shortage that drove the prodigal son to desperation and created an occasion for repentance.
As we move deeper into Lent and its emphasis on repentance, spiritual introspection, self-examination and self-denial, many of us choose to practice Lenten disciplines. If we have become involved in the season’s imagery and expectations, we may find ourselves reading biblical texts from a spare and minimalist perspective.
"A man had two sons . . .” was a common way to begin a parable, especially one comparing good and bad sons. Matthew uses it to contrast one son, who promises to work in the vineyard but never shows up, with another, who at first adamantly refuses to go to the vineyard but later repents and goes (21:28-32). Which one did the will of his father, asks Jesus? Not the one who talked a good game, but the one who actually followed through with obedient actions.