Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reflections on the Prodigal

The Spire
From Luke 15

We learn from the experience of the Prodigal the power of the desire to explore the new, the distant, the exotic. We learn as well that the exotic may be less than we expect, the new far from satisfying. We learn from the older brother the tragedy of a dream deferred, of hope unshared. And the father remains always waiting. There is Desmond Tutu’s sermon again: God loves us and desires us to be drawn to him.

Tutu tells a story near the end of his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, that we all need to hear. He recounts the first time he flew in a plane piloted by men like himself. They were Nigerians and he was delighted to see them and felt a shared pride in their professionalism and then the plane encountered weather that caused it to jump and buck and he was terrified. He thought to himself: "I wonder if they can manage the plane." and then he was horrified by his thought: “I could never have believed I was so radically brainwashed…I would have denied it vigorously…I had accepted a white definition of existence, that whites were somehow superior to and more competent than blacks.”

He goes on:

“We should never underestimate the power of conditioning. That is why I hold the view that we should be a little more generous in judging perpetrators of human rights violations… And it might make us say to ourselves a we sit in judgment “there but for the grace of God go I.”

“All of this says that there is hope. There is hope because (people) are revealed as human beings, frail but with the capacity to do better if they (we) get out of the self-justifying mode, the denial mode, and are able to say quietly, humbly, ‘I am sorry, forgive me/us'.”

God waited for Israel. God came near in Jesus and made things new. God waited for the Prodigal and the brother. As we move toward Easter are we open to the offer of God to be reconciled? I think we are.