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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Forgiving Child: Thoughts on Trinity 3

Considering that Trinity 3 falls also on the secular observance of Fathers' Day, I wonder if LSB's alternative text of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) might be appropriate? With this in mind, I found THIS ARTICLE insightful on the relationship between fathers and children.

I can't count the times my sons question why I let the other do something or not do something, while letting the other, in their words, "get away with it." That's not how I see it, but that is how they see it nevertheless. Sometimes father does know best. Perhaps, there is a bit of this going on in this parable. The father knows how to discipline his children. He knows what will ultimately show them that they are his sons.

It seems that both sons don't see themselves as sons. The younger son who goes away and comes back didn't want to be a son. And the older son, saw himself as a hired hand instead of son. He saw himself as one who earned his relationship with his father and didn't recognize that he was a son only by the gracious will, work, and word of his father. This becomes clear when you hear one of the saddest verses in the account, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." It almost seems that this never occurred to the older son. It seems that it never occurred to him that he always had access to the father and all that he has, but he never dared to ask. With these words the father tenderly invites his son to be his son and receive all that the father has as his own.

How often do we, in our own homes, fail or even refuse to receive the love of our fathers because we act not as sons but as hired hands, as those who earn rather than those who receive because of our status as his sons? How often do we, in the house of God our Father, fail or even refuse to receive the love of God--His gracious will, work, and word to and for us--because we act, yes even see ourselves, not as sons but as hired hands? Would our families and lives in the family be different, better even, if we learned that we are sons not by duty or effort, but by grace and love, by the will, work, and word of our father?

What stands in our way? It is only us--our grumbling. Grumbling is whining. It is different than a lament. While a lament is a complaint to God to act in accordance with His promises, grumbling is a complaint against God. A lament expresses dissatisfaction for the way things are in a way that it yearns for God to heal what is broken and sick. It is a statement to God on behalf of creation. Grumbling expresses dissatisfaction for the way things are because there is a dissatisfaction for who God is and the way He is. Lament comes from faith in who God is and trusts that God will do what He promised. Grumbling comes from unbelief and a failure to see God's gracious will, work, and word despite how it may appear at that moment. It is a failure to see the bigger picture as God sees it. It is to reject that God is good and that His will, work, and word is gracious. Grumbling cuts us off from our father and all that he has. Lament opens us up to what he still desires and always desired to give.

Pay attention, then, to yourselves and how you complain.

Why don't we give our fathers the benefit of the doubt? Why do we assume the worst about them? Why do we do the same to God? Why do we grumble instead of lament? We assume something about our fathers and our relationship to him that is really not there. We, like the older son, assume we are hired hands and not sons, full-fledged members of our father's family by His gracious will, work, and word?We presume our relationship is based on what we have done in obedience instead of on who our father is and who he said we are and made us to be. Or, we, like the younger son, think that we want to be on our own, independent, from our fathers. Both ways are foolish. Both lead to separation and isolation and eventually death.

Sons need forgiving fathers. Fathers who discipline but without provoking them to anger. But it is also true that fathers need forgiving children. So, forgive your fathers. Give him the benefit of the doubt. And though I hesitate to say it this way, forgive your heavenly Father. Give Him the benefit of the doubt. Do not pass judgment so quickly because sometimes fathers really do know what is best. And though it may hurt, and though you may not understand, you are a son by the Father's will, work, and word. Everything that is His is also yours. And He will not take it away from you.