(Lent 4, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)
If you’ve ever been lost—scared out of your mind lost,
so lost you despair coming out alive, maybe unsure if you are really you—
you know how good it feels to find your way or to be found,
almost as good as, maybe better than, arriving in the Promised Land
or the welcome given the wastrel son embraced by his father,
robed, feted, made whole again.
Most equate ourselves with the virtues of the non-prodigal son number one,
loyal responsible no blame no shame, but the real center of Jesus’ story
is the father who loves both sons, perhaps seeing himself in each of them.
Are we not both/and rather than either/or?
Yet Pharisees among us delight in judging who can be found
or invited to a celebration of the finding.
Think what they would do if we held parties to welcome immigrants
escaping from tyranny, violence, abuse in their native lands–but why not
celebrate their finding new homes with us?
They say sinners need not apply except who would be left if we are excluded?
It is so easy to get caught up in blame, judgment, setting rules for who will
get into heaven, who will not, a game we play often, amusing
God who long ago decided on one gate only, unless there
is a crowd then two gates open, same rules apply: all are welcome
to this place that is not somewhere else but right here and now
up to us to live whole, faithful, hopeful, eager to open the gates of our hearts
as wide as God’s, grateful when loved ones find their way back and more so
when we don’t have to climb the fence because the gate again
again and again swings open
wrapping our bodies, spirits in everlasting
embraces of love and welcome.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form
About this poem . . . This parable is so well-known, but it can yield nuggets each time we ponder it. Henri Nouwen and others have helped us see it is really the parable of the generous father more than the prodigal son (as many of us were told when growing up). We still see so many “fathers” who seem ungenerous, stingy even, no matter who the lost may be (and if you are like me, you have been lost in a big way at least once). Jesus never turned any of the lost away, just as God does not, in fact, we are welcomed.