by Lilly Lewin
This week’s lectionary gospel passage is Luke 15: 11-32 “The Prodigal Son,” or “the Forgiving Father.” This is a meditation I wrote originally for Rembrandt’s painting “Return of the Prodigal” but I suggest you take some time to reflect on some other paintings of this famous parable. The one below is by artist Jesus Mafa from Cameroon. It’s a beautiful example of the return. I love the woman with her arms raised in celebration. Perhaps the mom of the prodigal? What was she like?
The Return of the Prodigal Son
REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn c. 1669 The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Consider the Painting. Look at it closely. Spend some time. Allow God to speak to you. Look, Consider and Listen…
READ THE TEXT …put your imagination to work…picture the story in your mind.
Smell the pigs and feel the wretchedness of the younger son. Use this painting from the National Gallery in Washington, DC to help you with this.
- Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
- French, 1824 – 1898
- The Prodigal Son
- probably c. 1879
Look at the encounter between father and son…both the encounter with the returning son and the son who stayed at home. What do you see?
When you read the story Jesus told…where do you see yourself?
Do you feel like the younger son or the older son?
Or maybe you feel like the dad in the story?
Or one of the servants surprised by the son’s return?
Take some time and consider this …
What do you notice about the younger son?
What do you notice about the father?
How about the older son and the servants?
Look at the painting.
What are you feeling like lately? Have you been running away?
Do you need to be welcomed back home? Have you squandered your inheritance or abandoned things you once loved?
Are you feeling like the younger son?
How does it feel to have a Father, God, who welcomes you back home even when you’ve thrown everything away?
How does it feel to have God embrace you? Picture God the father hugging you close.
Do you need a new robe today?
Do you need to be thrown a party and to be celebrated and honored?
What would that be like in your life right now?
Have you been feeling like the oldest son lately?
Working hard and doing all the right things but being frustrated?
What if you’ve been faithful and steady? What if you’ve stayed true to what you’re supposed to be and do? How does that feel today?
We all need a reminder of what we have, the blessing of Father God, the honor of being the “oldest” child. We all need to be reminded that God is just waiting for us to receive this honor, love, and embrace!
Is there anyone in your life that you are envious of …any prodigals that you’ve resented? Talk to God about this.
God is waiting to bestow grace, mercy and God’s forgiveness on YOU!
God longs to embrace you and throw you a party even if you haven’t gotten lost.
Take some time to day to open your heart to receive this gift. Use the art to help you receive it in the days ahead.