So the prodigal son parable. You know. The son who asks for half the inheritance and goes off as a spendthrift and wastes it all on a dissolute lifestyle. The father who rejoices when he returns. The other son, who has stayed at home, tended the farm, and is jealous of the party thrown for the prodigal.
It's a very familiar parable, maybe the most familiar (although the good samaritan gives it a run for the money). It's powerful in its familiarity. It has also sometimes been tamed by frequent attention.
Or better, we who have read it frequently think we have it tamed by our close and regular attention.
But this parable is wild, dangerous, reckless, prodigal. And maybe what is so prodigal about it is not the prodigality of the son, but the prodigality of the father, who is so recklessly extravagant in his love of the son who disowned him.
The question I'm wrestling with this week is simple. Who, by and large, are Christians who will hear a sermon on this text Sunday, to identify with? Are hearers to imagine themselves as the prodigal son, or as the jealous brother?
And who is this recklessly extravagant father in our midst?