Saturday, November 28, 2015

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“Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” - St. Luke 15:31

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“Christianity as Jesus taught it was not a creed, 

nor a system of ceremonies, 

nor a special gift from a ritualistic Jehovah; 

but it was the demonstration of divine Love 

casting out error and healing the sick, 

not merely in the 

name of Christ, or Truth, 

but in demonstration of Truth.”

- Mary Baker Eddy

"Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p.135


My absolute favorite chapter in the Bible is St. Luke 15 - where Jesus describes, to an eager audience, through vivid and compelling parables, the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven.


The central parable is that of the so-called, “Lost Son.” Jesus tells the parable as a way of “casting out error,” or dispelling misbeliefs about the reality of God’s unconditional love.


As an Evangelical, and even as an Orthodox Christian I had been taught that this parable revealed the need for repentance, as the son returns to the loving father to be forgiven and restored to his rightful heritage in the household of the Father (which I’d understood to be the representation of heaven under God’s dominion. )


But, as a result of taking the advice of Alan Watts, and putting the Bible aside for awhile, and more importantly, casting aside the layers upon layers of “commentary" that had served to restrict my perspective and limit my understanding. I read the parable again, as if for the first time, in a fresh, unencumbered light, I can see that the traditional interpretation is not only very limited - but presents a very different picture of reality than that which is obvious from its straightforward read and interpretation.


Here is the entire parable for the sake of context:


St. Luke, Chapter 15, verses 11-32


11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 

12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 

13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 

14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 

15And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 

16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 

17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 

18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 

19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 

20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 

21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 

22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 

23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 

24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 

25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 

26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 

27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 

28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 

29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 

30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 

31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 

32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. 



THE DEMONSTRATION OF TRUTH

Here’s what I saw, and continually remind myself to see - as, I believe it reveals a totally different “image” of God than that which has been passed down by the traditional church for over 1800 years!!!

I’ll repeat the parable - but with my comments underlined:


11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 

12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

The parable does not share the background motive for the younger son’s demands – could it be the drive for fulfillment, or happiness – that he thought was elsewhere?


13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 

His seeking of fulfillment elsewhere turned into the experience of greater lack – he did not find what he was looking for – only more dissatisfaction.

17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 

“when he came to himself” – in other words, he became aware of reality and accepted that happiness was not elsewhere – the fulfillment that he sought was where he had started. What he sought was what he already had, in the presence of the Father.

20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Religion focuses on the journey of repentance – the path of earning back, or restoring the Father’s approval. However, consider the significance of the well-chosen words of this passage:

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. (vs. 20)

In other words, the father had no expectations of behavior on the part of the prodigal son, … his return home was enough.

21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Once again, the son tries to repent of his behavior – and again the Father’s UNCONDITIONAL love is revealed: 

"... But the father said….(vs.22)

The Father does not respond to his son - he does not admonish him or even express forgiveness - he open-heartedly accepts and restores him without conditions!

25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. 

These last few verses speak the most to me and are perhaps the most revealing and meaningful of the entire parable – we are never separated from love, the source of our lives – all the love and acceptance that we could ever hope for is already here. The fulfillment that we seek in life is in the realization that what we seek is already the case. It is the very act of seeking for it that causes the dissatisfaction! The younger son was lost only in his own delusion – the end of his seeking outside of himself was his finding. 

I see myself in the older son, my first reaction is anger and frustration at life, because it seems so unfair that my diligent seeking was a distraction from the reality of an ever-present abiding love - but my discovery should be a reason for celebration, there is no reason to seek elsewhere for peace and fulfillment - I am already home.


THE END OF RELIGION

In this parable of the “Lost Son” I see that Jesus Christ, the One historically identified as the founder of the religion of Christianity, in fact, did not see "getting to God, or Truth" as a matter for religion, but more a matter of accepting that which was already the case, the complete divine reality, already present within and around us. He taught and demonstrated this in real, visible ways through His life, death and resurrection.


"He (Jesus Christ) has inaugurated a new life, not a new religion.” 

“..in Him (Jesus Christ) was the end of “religion” because He himself 
was the Answer to all religion, to all human hunger for God, 
because in Him the life that was lost by man - and which could only be 
symbolized, signified, asked for in religion - was restored to man.”

- Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “For The Life of The World” p.20



“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."
- Lao Tzu

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