Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Ordinary

The Ordinary
Psalm 19:14, Luke 15:11-30, Colossians 3:12-17

We've come to the second half of "Ordinary Time" on the church calendar. We will remain in Ordinary Time until the last week of the year: Christ the King Sunday.

Some people struggle with the idea of Ordinary time, after all, shouldn't each day be special and all of life celebrated? But much of life is ordinary, and the calendar speaks to us about faithfulness in the midst of common life. In fact, our spiritual pulse might best be reflected in how we live the ordinary stuff of life, rather than how great we feel when things are well or how down we are when things are struggling.

Today, we read the classic story of the Prodigal Son. In the parable: we are all three characters at different points in our lives. We identify with the Father whenever we are looking out for someone else. We identify with the younger son in the moments when we feel our sinfulness.
Let’s look at the elder son--is He the one most of us identify with in our ordinary lives?

What does the parable say about the behavior of the son?

  • Anger immediately limited the elder son’s ability to see and empathize.
  • The elder sons anger keeps him out of the celebration.
  • The older son distracted the father from the celebration.
  • The older son was faithful, obedient and reliable in his work and ethic.
  • The older son was wrong to be jealous of the younger son’s waywardness. The younger son who squandered his life, his story ended well, but he did not live well.
  • The older son was always in the presence and heart of the father.
  • Everything that belonged to the Father belonged to the older son.
  • The Father had to celebrate the return from death and lost-ness of the younger son.

What does the older son model to us about ordinary life?

  • It is better to be faithful and content than faithful and angry.
  • It is good to be faithful and do what is required of us, better than going off to squander life.
  • The entire human spectrum, from wayward to righteous, is in our lives.
  • The ordinary is a gift to us. Most of life is the ordinary. (life is not one big party)
  • The ordinary is in close proximity to the extraordinary (surprise and celebration are not far away when we live faithfully and well.)
  • Before we think too highly of ourselves, the teaching is directed entirely to the older son.
  • Don’t shut yourself out of the celebration.

Offering ourselves to God

Instead of shutting ourselves out of the celebration of God's reign, we should offer ourselves to God.

Psalm 19:14 teaches us to offer our words and thoughts.

Colossians 3 teaches us to offer our words and deeds to the glory of God.

Colossians 3 in light of the Parable:

How does Paul teach his readers to behave?
Peace of Christ
God’s word dwelling in you
Sing praise to God

Did the older son display these attributes? He hadn't seen his brother in years, and didn't even go to greet him. He speaks ill of his brother, even though the Father already knows the things the older son says. He was proud and insecure, styfling celebration.

One commentary I read identified a profound thought:
We all need the third son in the parable, the teacher, the Son of God.

Jesus displayed the perfect moral life, unlike the younger son. Jesus displayed perfect grace, unlike the elder son. Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth.

When we follow Jesus, we have all the adventure that the younger son was seeking, and all the stability the elder son lived.

Jesus allows us to live extraordinary lives in ordinary time.

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