Friday, May 1

Slopping for the pigs......

"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father." (Luke 15:17-20a ESV)

There is no time frame given in which the prodigal son is slopping the pigs, wishing for food that is only fit for them and their substance. This story is often used to help understand the process of salvation; we realized that we have sinned and are absent from the relationship with our Father, The repenting sinner turns with firmness and resolution from the bondage of Satan and his worldly lusts and returns to God through prayer...."notwithstanding fears and discouragements," Matthew Henry says. He returns to take the servant's role, to the Father's rejoicement and restoration to his place in the home.

But, as I have travelled this journey, slopping for the pigs who are placed so much more highly than myself in this world (who are of the world) I wonder if God didn't intend for the message contained there to stop with the repentant sinner and the joyful celebration of his return home. There is so much more contained within the story of his conversion. Pastor Jim Combs, of the River of Faith, brought another context a few Sundays ago, about the elder son and the prodigal and how that should be reflected between mature and newborn Christians (I'd recommend listening to it But, even there I think lies a true message, but not the only one......

The world will, as the lesson clearly teaches, fool you into its embrace and promise wealth, glory, and relationship....until what you have to sustain the illusions is gone and then it will cast you upon the rocks of despair, leaving you valued less than the pigs, who are quite content to wallow around in fith and muck. Even those who have 'backsliden' from what they know is true.

What kind of home did he leave? Apparently a wealthy and prosperous one where he had experience with independence and authority, for he demanded his inheritance and was not stopped from leaving. Maybe there was a disagreement he had with his elder brother, the mother, or even the father...whatever the reason, he rejected the 'nature' of his home and went into voluntary exile. Steeped in selfish gratification, he held to a 'bondage and gloom' image of what home was like instead of its truest picture until even the illusion of such denial came to break under the Truth of reality; the world didn't want him unless he had wealth to give and in the 'empty, desolate, withered, perishing' (Jamieson, Faussett and Brown) situation he found himself in, the Truth found him once again and reminded him that even the lowest in the household were treated better than what the world offered him when nothing else was left that he had to give.

He came to 'himself', not as if he had gone mad but back to the person, I think, he was when he lived in his father's house. A house filled with peace, wealth, freedom, authority and dignity even for the servants of the family. A warm and living reality that breaks the bonds of his disillusionment and gives him the resolve to journey home.....he envisions the initial meeting and what he would say....and goes home, expecting only enough grace to become a servant under that remembered roof.

So heartening is even that lowly status, to serve those he once called family, is enough to make him journey non-stop back to the country of his birth, back to the home he had rejected. Hungry growled within his stomach, his feet were sore and dirty from the walking, and his heart was tired of the deceptions with which he had lived with for so long.

He was broken, yet he journeyed to become nothing more than a servant in his father's house.

Even when life doesn't work, our efforts are nothing more than dirt thrown into the fierceness of the wind to come back and cover us once more and the remembered grace of our Father's house becomes the only sustaining hope that we have left to push us back to our feet, back to our senses, and back home to be nothing more than servants placed in our own home to be the laborers for those who enjoy what we once did...even then, that hope remains.

There is no flipping back and forth for the prodigal; no question in his mind that his father will accept his request, either through pity or compassion. There is that assurance that, even with what he had done, squandering his inheritance, rejecting his home, and now coming back to his father smelling of filth and stained with the dust of his journey. He expects nothing more than his rightful due; to be a servant, nothing more.

As I got home last night from work, being touched once more by the grace of God and His love....oh my God....His love for even the lowest in His house....being broken again and lifting my hands high even in that humbling, that pain, and realizing how far I have come....servanthood is a dream to what I have come from....I came back to that "Amazing Grace" lyric...."I once was dead but now I my life, to You I give.", I looked at the mail; the packet from Reverend Doctor John Gotberg arrived. As I read the commission that appointed and annointed me as an Ordained Community Chaplain, I felt that assurance that even in my Father's house....servants are fed and well-treated. In my Father's house.

In my Father's house, even the suffering is preferable to the illusionary happiness of the world. In my Father's house, even the hired servants are cared for and treated well. In my Father's house, once I had rejected and walked away from, there is an assurance I will be given an opportunity to be whatever capacity...but I will be in my Father's house!
Even if I spend my life toiling away, indentured not as a son to a Father but as a servant to the family, I will be better off in my Father's house than what the world, absent from that home, would allow me to do.

In the group I've never felt I belonged to, unworthy and unqualified for the task and the scope of the mission God has complied these mighty giants to do in and for the Kingdom, it is far far better to be the lowly servant than to be absent from their presense. If I can do nothing more than perform the mudane task of a servant, in my Father's house, I will be far better treated than what the world could give me.

I don't know if I'll ever reach home; I'm faminished, tired, bruised and filthy with the illusionary stain that seems to never wash off a rape victim, I can't shower enough or be clean enough to seem to remove the stain, the filth of what the world has done to me.....but even if I don't make it home, the vision of what it will be like shall sustain me till that point I cannot go on.

And when I lie collasped in the sand, I'll try once again to get back up and that I can be a servant in my Father's house...........for they are treated better than the world offers, this lies within my heart to move me to move, get up when I want to stay down, and sustains me in my hunger...such small hope, such a small faith......

Even faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.....

And I think I can see my father's house just over where the valley floor ends.....

A few more steps, and I'll be home.

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