Preposterous Grace

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Grace is the word that sums up the heart-grabbing essence of the gospel. And the illustration that stands head and shoulders above the rest is found in Jesus’ prodigal parable.

The rascal who did everything possible to break the heart of his father deserves flogging—but the red carpet is rolled out for him. Extravagant privileges are heaped upon him in what looks like a lottery win. The father can’t find enough gifts to shower on the boy.

Admittedly, it’s unwarranted. It’s ludicrous.

The kid is clobbered by kindness. It’s the scandalous peripety of grace.

Grace is divine prodigality gone wild. It is ridiculous generosity, reckless open-handedness, audacious extravagance. It is goodness on steroids.

Grace shows flagrant disregard for moderation, fairness, or bookkeeping. It dishes out in outrageous excess to those who don’t have it together and have nothing to give in return.

Michael Spencer put it like this: “Real grace is simply inexplicable, inappropriate, out of the box, out of bounds, offensive, excessive, too much, given to the wrong people and all those things.”

Grace completely abolishes any idea of merit. It floods the undeserving with blessing. Grace is love shown to the unlovely, favor bestowed upon the unworthy. It is indiscriminating, uncoerced, and delightfully gratuitous.

It doesn’t keep score.

–Jurgen Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

 

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Sons or servants?

Prod son 3We forget the gospel when we neglect our adoption and think that we’re still just a hired servant. The Father doesn’t let us come to him on those terms.

We will either
come as sons
or we will stay
with the pigs.

He won’t let us earn anything from him because there will be no boasting in his sight. It will either be that Jesus and his glorious gospel has the preeminence or we will go it on our own.

–Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

Image: Bartolomé E. Murillo

Generous omnipotence

rembrandt-the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-the-hermitage-st-petersburg-prodig26-1In the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad is one of the finest collections of art masterpieces in the world. Most impressive of all are the Rembrandts that have been brought together in that one museum. Rembrandt’s last painting, found in his apartment at the time of his death in 1669, is there. Still unfinished, but totally compelling and powerful, this is his interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, entitled Return of the Prodigal. Rembrandt has shown the father with his hands upon the shoulders of his son who has come home. The face and hands of the father totally command the attention of all who experience this profound theological interpretation of Jesus’ parable. The hands are not the clutching hands of oppression, but the generous hands of salvation and freedom.

hands 2They are able to reach down to this son and to reach out to the severe, elder son as well. They are kingly hands—but rugged, suffering hands, too. This is a painting of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I thought when I saw it in the vast Leningrad museum that it is a dangerous painting to have in any country because it calls into question all of our values and the oppressive handholds we place upon people around us. The painting tells a dangerous story of the God of omnipotence who is Lord of all and who proves his omnipotence, not by terror but by his love.

–Earl F. Palmer
Laughter in Heaven

When God rejoices

prodigal_son 3

God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, nor because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost has been found. What I am called to is to enter into that joy. It is God’s joy, not the joy that the world offers. It is the joy that comes from seeing a child walk home amid all the destruction, devastation, and anguish of the world…

Surely I will be called naive, unrealistic, and sentimental, and I will be accused of ignoring the “real” problems, the structural evils that underlie much of human misery.

But God rejoices when
one repentant sinner returns.
Statistically that is not very interesting.
But for God, numbers
never seem to matter.

Who knows whether the world is kept from destruction because of one, two, or three people who have continued to pray when the rest of humanity has lost hope and dissipated itself?

From God’s perspective, one hidden act of repentance, one little gesture of selfless love, one moment of true forgiveness is all that is needed to bring God from his throne to run to his returning son and to fill the heavens with sounds of divine joy.

–Henry Nouwen
The Return of the Prodigal
(emphasis added)

 

The Return of the Prodigal Son

One of the oldest human needs
is having someone to wonder
where you are when you don’t
come home at night.

–Margaret Mead

Image: The Return Of The Prodigal Son 1670-74
by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

 

Return of the Prodigal

Rembrandt’s embrace remained imprinted on my soul far more profoundly than an temporal expression of emotional support. It has brought me into touch with something within me that lies far beyond the ups and downs of life, something that represents the ongoing yearning of the human spirit, the yearning for a final return, an unambiguous sense of safety, a lasting home.

–Henri Nouwen

It’s not about bookkeeping

You’re worried about permissiveness—about the way the preaching of grace seems to say it’s okay to do all kinds of terrible things as long as you just walk in afterward and take the free gift of God’s forgiveness… While you and I may be worried about seeming to give permission, Jesus apparently wasn’t. He wasn’t afraid of giving the prodigal son a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation; and he proved that by bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise pretty much the same objections you do. He’s angry about the party. He complains that his father is lowering standards and ignoring virtue—that music, dancing, and a fattened calf are, in effect, just so many permissions to break the law. And to that, Jesus has the father say only one thing: “Cut that out! We’re not playing good boys and bad boys anymore. Your brother was dead and he’s alive again. The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.

–Robert F. Capon

Published in: on 01/06/2011 at 13:39  Leave a Comment  
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Melody in “F”

(The Prodigal Son)
Feeling footloose and frisky, a feather-brained fellow forced his fond father to fork over the farthings, and flew far to foreign fields and fabulously frittered his fortune with faithless friends. Fleeced by his fellows in folly, and facing famine, he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy farmyard. Farily famishing, he faine would’ve filled his frame with foraged food from fodder fragments. “Fooey, my father’s flunkies fare far finer, “The frazzled fugitive forlornly fumbled, frankly facing facts. Frustrated by failure, and filled with foreboding, he fled forthwith to his family. Falling at his father’s feet, he forlornly fumbled, “Father, I’ve flunked, and fruitlessly forfeited family fellowship favor. “The far-sighted father, forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged the flunkies. “Fetch a fatling from the flock and fix a feast. “The fugitive’s fault-finding brother frowned on fickle forgiveness of former folderol. But the faithful father figured, “Filial fidelity is fine, but the fugitive is found! What forbids fervent festivity? Let flags be unfurled! Let fanfares flare!” Father’s forgiveness formed the foundation for the former fugitive’s future fortitude!

-Autor unknown

Published in: on 10/14/2010 at 18:17  Leave a Comment  
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