The only stories we can tell truthfully are our own. Our stories look different to others than they do to us. Perspectives, experiences, and hopes shape the way we tell our own story. One of the most important things we can do for others is to listen to their stories and to let our truths live next to one another.
The characters in the story of the prodigal are not fully aware of each other’s truths. Even as readers of the story, we are not fully aware of each character’s truth. The younger son must have his reasons for asking for his inheritance before his father’s death. Then, when things don’t work out, he tells himself a story about what will happen when he returns to his father’s house.
We do not have as much insight into the story the father tells himself. He chooses to grant his younger son’s request. We do not know how easy or difficult that was to do. Reading into the father’s joy at the younger son’s return, we can guess at the grief or loss he experienced in his child’s absence.
The elder brother tells some of his own story. He has been diligent in his work and in his dedication to his father. He had never asked for anything, but he is resentful of what is lavished on his brother. Without putting too many words in his mouth, we can safely assume that anyone who has worked diligently and consistently without recognition can understand the elder brother’s resentment.
All these stories contain truth, the truth that each man told himself. Every person has a truth, rooted in their perceptions, experiences, and hopes. It is only when, equipped by grace, we listen to one another that our truths can be reconciled in love and become a new story of hope and restoration.
O Holy Spirit, source of all wisdom and truth, guide me in telling and hearing stories to be open to where you are at work in others and in the world. 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?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.