Reflection March 31, 2019
2 Corinthians 5:16-21/ Luke 15:11-32
Ready, Reset, Go!
I am sure you are all familiar with a children’s toy called Etch A Sketch. I’ve also seen some other toys like Etch A Sketch where you can draw or write, and then erase instantly. I have a confession to make, and I’m not exactly proud of myself; but when I visit a family with young children, I love playing with their Etch A Sketch, or some other toy that works like it. I am bad at drawing, so I draw something silly and bad, and then erase it right away. Actually, erasing is the most satisfying part of playing with an Etch A Sketch. You draw something silly, which doesn’t remain because it’s so easy to erase it; how cool is that? Don’t’ we all want our mistakes to magically disappear like a bad drawing on an Etch A Sketch?
Today, we read the parable usually known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is not a very good title, since the focus of this story is his loving father. We know this story very well. We have heard this story so many times, haven’t we? We all know the moral of the story. The father is God and we are the prodigal son. No matter how bad we have been and how long we wandered away from God’s ways, if we come back in repentance, God welcomes us back spectacularly like the father in our story welcomed his prodigal son. We know the story. But today, I challenge you to pay attention to the elder brother, who has served his father faithfully. Jesus told this story to the self-righteous religious leaders of his time, who were like the elder brother. Since they served God faithfully, they believed that they deserved preferential treatment from God, just like the elder brother in our story, and got angry at Jesus’ message that God’s kingdom is for the marginalized of the society. And since we are usually encouraged to read this story from the perspective of the prodigal son, it is easy for us to join in at judging the elder brother; but we may not realize that most of us are the elder brother, not the younger brother. Most of us have been a part of the Christian Church for a long time; we are the elder brother.
If we are the younger brother, the lesson we learn from this story is simple. Like in this hymn, “Come home, come home. You who are weary come home.” Of course, this is not the only anthem for the prodigal son; there is “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Anyway, if we are the elder brother, our course of action is not as clear. Did he do anything wrong? All he did was faithfully serve his father and worked hard, right? There are two things wrong with the elder brother. The first one is the arrogance of thinking his delinquent brother didn’t deserve a special banquet after what he did, which is easy to understand. The second one is that he only grimly performed his duty; he didn’t offer a loving service to his father. That is why he refuses to participate in the banquet his father orders for his brother. The Pharisees and other religious leaders were like this son; they were obsessed with obeying the law so they might have done so grudgingly and without joy. But remember that belonging to God, receiving God’s unconditional love and sharing it with one another has to be joyful. That is why Jesus talked of the heavenly banquet in which we would participate. That is why Jesus taught about the reign of God by spending time and food with his followers. Our fellowship with God and with each other is meant to be joyful. That is why we started today’s service by singing “Joyful, Joyful”.
2 Corinthians chapter 5 talks about becoming a new creation in Christ. This Lent, let us think about whether we are like the elder son or the younger son. Are we away from God and do we need to come back? Or have we never left God like the elder brother but needs to check our Christian life for spiritual arrogance or lack of joy? Whichever son we are, God offers us unconditional love and forgiveness; “forgive and forget”. This Lent, let us listen to God’s invitation to an unconditional forgiveness. We can reset our lives and start anew as faithful people of God. As we can shake the Etch A Sketch and erase the bad drawings, we can shake our past and become a new creation. Let this Season of Lent be an occasion to press the reset button of our lives. Let us turn our lives around and let God change us. Ready? Set. Go!
Rev. Sunny Kim