The Parable of the Lost Prodigal Son: Once Lost But Now Is Found

In the parable of the Lost Prodigal Son, the younger son is found by waiting, unlike the two parables before it which displayed the lost as being found by searching.  This parable is about a lost son who is found.  His father gives his son his inheritance and the son foolishly spends it.  The son returns and confesses to the father what he did.  Instead of his father scolding him, the father accepts what his son has did and lavishes him with a robe and they feast on a fat calf.  This son is rewarded for his wrongdoing and his older brother is left jealous, angry, and perplexed.  The moral of the story is that God rewards those who rebel and return.

This parable resonates with me because sometimes as children, we rebel against our parents, just like the younger son.  As an adult, I recognize that certain things in my past were not decisions well made and that I am happy that my parents forgave me for my mistakes, no matter how big or how small.  I appreciate my parents for always teaching me right and wrong and honoring my achievements and helping me to recognize my mistakes.  However, unlike the older brother in this story, my relationship with my parents is not based on work, but love.  On another note, I relate most with the father of this parable, for the father is kind and giving.  He tells his younger son that all that he has is his: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).  I see myself playing this role daily, because everyone I meet or know “like gold.”  I always put people before myself and give to them, not because I have to, but because I want to.  My parents have raised me to always do the right thing, and that sometimes, we may want to slip up, but it is up to our faith in God to steer us in the right direction.

In this story, the father is similar to God.  God does not give up on us when we start betraying him, and doing things that he would look at as wrong.  God will always forgive us if we have truly changed and regret what we have done.  The father forgives his son fully and looks past everything he has done because he loves him and sees that he has changed.  The father is merely rejoicing because his son lives, even though he thought he had died.

While the younger son had fallen out of favor with God, he proves that he saw the wrong in what he did and changes when he asks for forgiveness by his gracious father.  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands” (15:18-19).  My parents have taught me many valuable lessons, but one in particular stands out to me in relation to this parable.  Forgiveness is difficult, but it is up to us to forgive people who truly change and want to be forgiven so that they can move past their mistake.  The father is righteous and giving, just like Our Almighty Father.  This parable has taught me to celebrate the milestones in a person’s life, actions that show growth and change, especially.  When someone is forgiven, it is up for that person to not make the same mistake twice, but rather show that they have changed.

A Contemporary Psalm: Dave Barnes’ “God Gave Me You”

Psalms are like songs, for they are generally sung out loud, have a ritual element, and have a liturgical framework.  Dave Barnes’ song, “God Gave Me You,” is a meaningful song to me.  This song is like a psalm, more specifically a psalm of praise, because this song is about Dave Barnes’ praising a special person in his life who God has given to him.  There is value to this song and the fact that he mentions God so frequently, demonstrates that he, himself, has a relationship with God.  In this song, Dave writes about how God gave him someone in his life that sticks by him during thick and thin, through his ups and downs.  “God gave me you for the ups and downs / God gave me you for the days of doubt / For when I think I’ve lost my way/ There are no words here left to say, it’s true / God gave me you.”  These words are extremely moving and powerful.  Dave Barnes’ sings about a person in his life who he has confidence in no matter what.  This person helps Dave when he feels powerless are down, and makes him feel up and lifted.  He sings about needing this person and “when I think I’ve lost my way / There are no words here left to say, it’s true / God gave me you.”  In this song, Dave is talking about his wife.  However, for the audience of this song, its’ listeners, they can interpret it however they wish.  For me, this song is about God and love.  God has given me such a great family, especially my parents, who have never turned their backs on me, but have always loved and supported me. 

I connect with this song on a deep level and can feel the emotion Dave Barnes’ sing about when I listen to the song.  Additionally, Barnes uses words like “divine,” “angel,” and “martyr.”  He sings, “There’s more here than what we’re seeing / A divine conspiracy / That you, an angel, lovely / Could somehow fall for me / You’ll always be love’s great martyr / I’ll be the flattered fool / And I need you.”   Someone who is “divine,” is someone who has godlike nature, related to God, or is connected with worship.  A “martyr” is somebody who makes sacrifices, who is in pain, or someone put to death for their beliefs.  These three words strike me every time I listen to this song, because they relate to God and the Bible.  God is regarded as a Divine Being.  An “angel,” is a heavenly being, a guardian or a guide (a messenger), a kind person.  In Genesis, Chapter 18, Abraham, welcomed three angelic guests.  As I read on, in Chapter 19, I noticed that two angels go to Sodom, where they are assumed to simply be a pair of human visitors.  I have noticed that in the Bible, angels appear incomparable to human beings, because they are more noble, greater in knowledge, and stronger.  In Psalm 103, angels are mentioned.  “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word” (Psalms 103:20).  The angels here are referred to as “mighty ones.”  In the Bible, a lot of God’s people were put to death, persecuted.  Martyrs from the Bible include Jesus Christ, Stephen, and John the Baptist.

In Walter Brueggemann’s Introduction reading for class, the line “to value fully any psalm” really struck me.  He is right!  Psalms, being like songs, should not just hold value in their beginning or end, but as a complete work.  Brueggemann also writes, that they Psalms Psalms express both sides of the conversation of faith.  He says, “they articulate the entire gamut of Israel’s speech to God, from profound praise to the utterance of unspeakable anger and doubt. On the other hand, as Luther understood so passionately, the Psalms are not only addressed to God. They are a voice of the gospel, God’s good word addressed to God’s faithful people.”  Through Psalms, Brueggemann believes, that the community of faith hears and continues to hear the completely powerful speech of God.  Dave Barnes’ song is a psalm of sorts.  I would categorize “God Gave Me You” as a psalm of “new orientation”, because it is about how “Human life consists in turns of surprise when we are overwhelmed with the new gifts of God, when joy break through despair. When there has been only darkness, there is light.”  Dave Barnes opens his song with the lyrics “I’ve been a walking heartache / I’ve made a mess of me / The person that I’ve been lately / Ain’t who I wanna be / But you stay here right beside me / Watch as the storm goes through / And I need you.”  These lyrics echo what Brueggemann expresses about “new orientation.”  When Barnes was in despair, his joy of having who God gave him, his wife, in his life, makes his troubles go away.  He sings about needing this person because God gave this person, his wife, to him, as someone who makes him complete, a whole being.  When he doubts, he always has this person to turn to.  In the midst of a storm, this person is the light.

Dave Barnes’ “God Gave Me You” is, in my opinion, a contemporary psalm.  It demonstrates a relationship to the Lord, as well as to his spouse.  Barnes understands love and praises God repeatedly, for having this person in his life.  He uses words that connect to faith and inspires his audience to love and not doubt God.  This song is meaningful to me.  Anyone can sympathize with Barnes, whose song illustrates many common themes experienced by many people at some point in a person’s life.

Mother Teresa: A Modern Day Prophet, An Angel from God

 The Book of the Prophet Amos presents a historical showing that Israel was a prosperous nation during that time, but that time was also being marked by social injustice.  Amos called for justice and morality.  Similarly, we live in a time of corporate greediness and social inequality, where businesses are controlling and people are marked by their difference in status.  Mother Teresa is a modern day prophet, for throughout her life, she was always trying to deliver a message that didn’t originate with her, but through God the Father.  Mother Teresa gracefully preached, “Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.”  Mother Teresa is a modern prophet because she gave herself fully and devoted her life to Jesus’ cause.  Determinedly, she gave her loving and committed self to the poor, with faith that love was the cure for disease, social injustice, and poverty.  “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”  Mother Teresa is the best example of a modern day prophet, for she truly demonstrated how God wanted people to follow His example.  She never judged anyone based on the color of his or her skin, gender, sexuality, or religion, but rather, was willing to help anyone in need.  Mother Teresa and Amos work hand in hand in their shared message, that there is a lack of justice, which is excessively a problem in the world.  Some wealthy people, living lives of material comforts and excess, are becoming complacent in their wealth in today’s society.  Leading this kind of life can cause one to ignore and trample on the poor.  The Lord speaks of the wealthy and unjust and how “they sell the righteous for silver, and the need for a pair of sandals—they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way” (Amos 2.6).  Amos’ speech, in Chapters’ 1 and 2 correspond with this message that the people are living in an unjust society.  Mother Teresa said, “Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God – the rest will be given. Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”  Prophets are always trying to deliver a message that does not originate with them; Mother Teresa served as a messenger of God and Amos preached his prophetic statement that the people haven’t been faithful to God.  

Mother Teresa spread her love across the world by going to poverty-stricken countries and trying to help them in any way that she could.  She graciously voiced, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”  Mother Teresa provided for those who were poor, hungry, and ill, like God, who provided for the people of Israel in the Book of Amos.  God sends plagues to Israel, who has ignored the divine warnings issued through the plagues.  In Amos 4:6, “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all of your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me”, refers to how God provided for Israel during a time where the people had no food to eat.  Similarly, Mother Teresa knew that God would not give her anything she couldn’t handle, so she lived her life teaching, preaching, sharing, and spreading God’s word through her acts of justice, humanity, and love.

A quote that resonates with me by Mother Teresa is, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”  Comparatively, while reading Amos, I remember thinking how the image of fruit had a special meaning.  In Chapter 8, God asked Amos what he saw and Amos said a “basket of summer fruit”, which represented the nation and people of Israel.  In the end of Amos, 4.13-15, God states how He will rebuild the nation of Israel and how the people “shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”  God is gracious and was willing to forgive the people of Israel for sinning, for He will make their land and people fruitful again.  If you have love, you too, have hope.  Love can be both “ripe” and “fruitful” if one is knowledgeable and experienced in his or her faith in God.  God will provide for those who live their lives in the image and likeness of Him.  “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3.7).  I believe that God works through many people, both men and women, using mankind to spread His Word, just how Mother Teresa also did.  Her inspiring actions and words truly connected with people from all parts of the world, as she motivated and inspired others to hear the Word of God and share it with others.  Mother Teresa humbly said, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”