Yesterday I took a break (or gave the people a break) from my teaching, and Kathy Mullin spoke, one of the community's elders or leaders or whatever you want to call her. I always love it when she speaks because she is a wise and articulate communicator of the essence of the gospel. She spoke on the prodigal son. Funny, because I'd been thinking about that story all week. On top of that, Lisa had just purchased Henri Nouwen's book The Prodigal Son for me just last Thursday.
I was thoroughly blown away by how clearly Kathy made the point that both sons, the prodigal and the elder, had a skewed understanding of the father's love for them and their relationship with them. The prodigal son, after he had squandered all his father's money on whores and a life of debauchery, finally ending up craving pig-slop for food, decides to return to his father and beg for a chance just to work as one of his hired hands. He is no longer worthy to be called a son, and even a servant's position with his father was better than what he presently had. But the older brother was really no different. Even though he was still with his father and all his father had was his, he still had the attitude of a servant. He worked hard all day every day, never displeasing his father but always doing even more than what was required. The result of both of the sons' attitudes is that they didn't enjoy their father. When the prodigal returned, that father was so happy that he threw a party for him. The older brother was jealous and angry that he never got a party, even though he never disappointed his father but always worked hard to keep his father's pleasure in him solid.
I left Kathy's message realizing that, as Tony Compolo once wrote, the kingdom of God IS a party! We so often believe that the primary glue to our relationship with our Heavenly Father is obedience or towing the line or never upsetting him or conforming to his will. It isn't. The glue is God's simple joy in loving us. He enjoys us. He loves proximity to us over obedience to him. I've always suspected that partying is his preferred evidence of God's presence in our lives. That is the ethos of God's love for us.
So, in light of that, I'm going to go and put on The Tragically Hip really loud, slap a fatted calf onto the grill, crack open a beer, and enjoy my Father and glorify him forever!
The fine art photograph is the creation of my friend Jorgen Klausen, and is from his Mexico series. I have no idea what that rooster is doing with all those parrots and exotic birds, but he seems to be enjoying himself. Party bird!