Sundays are not counted in the forty days of Lent, so the count marks time, hence today is Day 5S (S for Sunday).
Now that we got that out of the way, today we began our Sunday morning Adult Lenten study using the book The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller. It is a short book, perfect for Lent, only seven chapters, but I have been socked right between the eyes by the content.
The foundation of the book is the parable of the “Prodigal Son” which the author argues is mistitled. Two things matter here:
- Prodigal is not used anywhere in the text. The term is a popularization by commentators on the parable.
- Prodigal didn’t mean what I thought it did and dealing with the meaning in context is the reason for the title of the book.
Keller successfully argues (in my opinion) that the parable is so titled because the other main character, the eldest son, represents all those who have been assigning the title and they want to focus on the profligate brother rather than their representative, which would be too upsetting. I will develop the reasons for that as these meditations continue, but I will say right now that I was surprised how he tied so many loose ends in my thinking together using his framework for understanding the parable.
Let’s first look at the definition.
Prodigal: adj. 1. Rashly or wastefully extravagant: prodigal expenditures; a prodigal life. 2. Giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse: prodigal praise.
For some reason the image I always had was of sin, that it described a person abandoning their life to sin and when I first saw the title of the book we were going to use it brought me up short. It still does a little, but when you think about it, it is appropriate, when you use #2. God is and always has been abundant, lavish, and profuse with his grace and sacrificial love and yes, even extravagant, but never wasteful. God never wastes anything. Everything has a purpose in his economy.
When you look at it that way, we do have a prodigal God. He spent the life of his only son to redeem us. If that isn’t extravagant, I don’t know what is.
I am excited about this book, this study, this new perspective. It has already begun to turn some things on their head, which I will discuss in the days ahead.
If you feel up to it, I suggest you get the book and join in the experience. You can find it here on Amazon.
Grace and peace to your day and I pray you have your own Lenten epiphany.