My hunch is that this story has become so familiar to us that it loses its pathos. Ho-hum. Yeah, yeah…I’ve already heard that story – a million times!!
“In 1986 Henri Nouwen, a Dutch theologian and writer, toured St. Petersburg, Russia, the former Leningrad. While there he visited the famous Hermitage where he saw, among other things, Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son. The painting was in a hallway and received the natural light of a nearby window. Nouwen stood for two hours, mesmerized by this remarkable painting. As he stood there the sun changed, and at every change of the light's angle he saw a different aspect of the painting revealed. He would later write: "There were as many paintings in the Prodigal Son as there were changes in the day."
It is difficult for us to see something new in the parable of the Prodigal son. We have heard the story so many times we believe that we have squeezed it dry of meaning. Not only that, but, as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. When we hear the opening words of the parable once again, "And there was a Father who had two sons," we greet the words with ho-hum. Heard it. Heard it. Heard it.
Yet, I would suggest that just as Henri Nouwen saw a half dozen different facets to Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son, so too are there many different angles to the story itself” [story from Rev. King Duncan].
What a great idea! Maybe what we need is to re-imagine this beloved, but very familiar, story. Perhaps instead of the “Prodigal Son,” the story is really about the Prodigal Father. After all, when I think of the word prodigal, I think of such attributes as extravagant, generous, abundance, lavish, liberal, and unsparing. Does that not describe the heart of a loving and compassionate father? Does that not tell us about the character of our heavenly Father? Upon the son’s return, the father threw the most lavish party upon the son’s return, decorated the house extravagantly, spared no expense, and served Prime Rib instead of hamburgers!
And yet, there is another reason why this is the story of the Prodigal Father. Despite the excruciating emotional pain, the Prodigal Father waited and waited and waited – always on the lookout for the son to return. And when the son finally returned? No condemnation, no lecturing, and welcomed with open arms. No doubt a tight embrace, an abundance of tears, and an emotional-muffled, “Welcome home, son. I love you!”
This is the same Prodigal Father who waits for us!