Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lenten lessons from prodigal sons

Younger brother

This surely is also what the Book of Revelation means when it speaks of the "first love." The charm of this first love is that it has not yet become habit and second nature, but comes into our life as an amazing surprise. That there should be someone like Jesus, that he should gain the Father's heart for us, that he should rescue us from the frustration of our personal lives and snatch us away from this horrible vegetating on the edge of the void -- all this is indeed a tremendous surprise. But one must have cried out from the depths, one must have been at the end of the tether, one must have realized the fragility of all human consolations to comprehend what it is when it comes.

For how many a soldier in a concentration camp, weak with hunger and smarting under the knot of the torturers; for how many a person huddling in the last extremity of ghastly dread in a bomb shelter; for how many on the endless gray road of a refugee trek was it not the great experience suddenly to know: I am not in the hands of men, despite everything to the contrary; another hand, a higher hand is governing in the midst of all man's madness and canceling all the logic of my calculations and all the images of my anxious sick imagination? I am being led to the undreamed-of shore, the harbor, the Father's house. And always when things grow dark, suddenly that marvelous helping hand is there. If there is anything that is really bombproof, then it is this, that God is there, on the spot, punctually and with the most amazing precision!

Elder brother

What a wretched thing it is to call oneself a Christian and yet be a stranger and a grumbling servant in the Father's house. And what a glorious thing it is to become aware every day anew of the miracle that there is Someone who hears us. Someone who is waiting for us. Someone who wonderfully sets everything to rights and finds a way out for us when all we can do is to wear ourselves out with worry. Someone who one day, when our last hour comes and we go back home from the far country and the hectic adventure of life, will be waiting for us on the steps of the eternal home of the Father and will lead us to the place where we may speak with Jesus forever and ever and where we shall be surrounded by that joy which here we have only begun to taste.


Helmut Thielicke, "The Prodigal Son, Part 2," The Waiting Father: Sermons on the Parables of Jesus, translated by John W. Doberstein (Harper & Row: 1957)

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