Some stories are so familiar that it is easy to miss the details right in front of us. Cultural studies of the Prodigal Son narrative from Luke 15 have shown that different people notice different details of the story. In places that are well acquainted with hunger, the note about the famine in the far country stands out clearly. For societies oriented around fatherly leadership, the honor or dishonor of the patriarch is a major detail of the story.
Many small moments are tucked away in this story: the description of what the pigs are fed, the younger son rehearsing what to say to his father, the father spotting the son while he is still a long way off, the enslaved person’s report to the elder brother, and the elder brother’s mention of a goat for a party with his friends.
Together, they become more than the sum of their parts. We even have details about ourselves that we put on the story. We can reflect on when we have waited for someone’s return, felt someone else was unjustly celebrated, or struck out on our own with an adventure in mind. The broad strokes and the small details of this familiar Bible story mean that everyone can relate to these characters.
The phrase “God is in the details” is used to emphasize the importance of attention and precision. Today’s story shows us God’s presence in details on a grand scale. The God who receives all prodigals with love knows all the little notes and nuances of our lives. Nothing is beyond God’s notice—not the pigs, the prodigal, or the patriarch. Remembering God’s presence in and awareness of the details of our lives consoles our spirits. This comfort is how we are equipped by grace to live each day.
God of all details, strengthen my awareness of your presence in all things. May that presence bring consolation and courage for all my days. Amen.
Lent is a time for focusing on our need for God and for remembering God’s abundant resources for filling that need. When the Israelites finally pass into Canaan, they observe the Passover as a reminder of God’s deliverance of them from Egypt. The psalmist, traditionally David, rejoices in the fact that God does not count his sins against him. Paul declares that through Christ, God has made everything new. God no longer holds our sins against us, and we in turn appeal to others to accept this free gift. Jesus eats with sinners and tells the story of the prodigal son to demonstrate that no matter how far we stray, God will always welcome us home with open arms. God never stops pursuing us, even if we feel unloved or unworthy.
Read Joshua 5:9-12. What stories do you tell about your faith? What do these stories help you remember?
Read Psalm 32. When have you hidden from God? When has God been your hiding place?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. We are ambassadors for Christ. How does your life display for others that life in Christ eliminates worldly identity labels?
Read Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. Do you identify with the prodigal son, the elder son, or the father in the parable? Are you ready to rejoin God’s household on God’s terms? Are you ready to welcome everyone home?
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