Reflections on the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent
Amy-Jill Levine has a nice Youtube presentation on Jesus’ parables of the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son (the Gospel for this Sunday in Luke 15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIxpPZvqGdI&t=6s
Levine would rather call them the parables of the Frantic Woman, the Frantic Shepherd, and the Frantic Father – all looking for the lost. But she also, wisely, ties these together and points out that Jesus is setting us up for a twist. God is like these people who cherish and will leave no stone unturned in search of the lost coin, the lost lamb, and the lost son. But the whole thing with the son is complicated by the fact that there is another son who seems lost in the shuffle.
Levine points out that upon the return of the prodigal, there is a great banquet given, and the dutiful, stay-at-home son is left in the fields unknowing. He is so forgotten that it is only a household slave who sort of accidentally goes out to inform him that the table is set.
Levine goes on to wisely connect this story with the biblical stories that have other unblessed sons: Cain, Ishmael, and Esau. And this parable of Jesus opens a window for us to see them and to ask, what about them. Are we to think that God forgets those other sons – has God forgotten to count them?
No! No! It cannot be. The father in Jesus’ story says, “All I have is yours.” The banquet is for all these unblessed.
Yes, we must remember the unblessed. And we must lift up this coming banquet that is in all of our futures. A banquet for the scattered lost sons and daughters—the whole creation is aching and groaning and waiting for the revealing of those lost children of God, and for their gathering, and for the Great Banquet that God has promised.
And while creation waits, we who are ambassadors of the good news, have a responsibility to be part of the party of reconciliation and gathering. So says our second reading for this coming Sunday of Lent, 2 Corinthians 5.16-21:
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
In other words, we are to go out into the fields and find those unblessed of every size and shape, and to tell them the banquet is for them and for all of us.