This isn't the first reflection to try and understand the position that the eldest son finds himself in, but it does manage to get to the heart of the question of family dysfunction in a fresh way, I feel.
He was angry and refused to go in.
Parable Series 4 - Part Six
THE LOST SON
Luke 15:25-28a "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and refused to go in.'"
Finally, we meet the elusive oldest son. And like his younger brother, Jesus' audience would have been surprised to find out that he is not a typical oldest son. He is no Cain, or Ishmael, nor Esau... he is not a conventional older brother as far as their stories were concerned.
Largely due to hearing this story over and over again from childhood, our almost immediate reaction to the older son is disdain. We see him as a whiner and a winger. Someone who refuses to celebrate the miraculous return of his brother. But if we set aside our inherited views and preconceived ideas of the oldest son, we might find that we have empathy for him. While the father called the whole neighborhood to come and celebrate, he neglected to find his oldest son and invite him too. I wonder how many times that had happened before? The oldest son's anger is not misplaced.
Sibling rivalry and family dysfunction are not at all uncommon in Biblical stories. In fact, these notions are central to most of them.
Luke 15:28-30, "So his father came out and pleaded with him. But he replied to his father, 'Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.'"
Finally, this parable starts to emulate the first two. The first time the father goes in search of something that is missing and lost is when he goes out from the party to find his oldest son and plead with him to come in. Unlike the sheep in the first parable that can be lifted up and taken to wherever the shepherd wants, or the coin that the woman found and placed in its rightful spot, a person is not passive. Returning the lost son (the oldest son) to his rightful place by his father's side at the celebration proves much more difficult.
Perhaps the father did not know which son was truly lost until this moment. Could it be that son lost to him was sleeping just a few rooms away all these years? Once he sees what is missing, like the shepherd, and the woman, he seeks to make his family whole. And the father does what he should. He let his son express his turmoil. Human relationships, family breakdown, are more complicated to bring to completion than lost a sheep or misplaced a coin. It takes time, humility, vulnerability, and courage. And it takes great love.
Don't give the eldest son a hard time here. After all, he's right. He's not the one who was off sleeping with prostitutes and he didn't waste his father's fortune. He had been working hard all these years hoping for a fraction of the love he gave his younger brother. You guys know what it's like; when there is a child or a person with a problem or an issue or is more rebellious and wild than the others, they seem to garner the most attention. All the while, the others go less noticed, perhaps even unseen. It would be easy to feel forgotten and less loved than the child getting all the attention. And in this, the son was right to express to his father what he was feeling and perhaps reveal to him the real rift in the family.
These two brothers were at odds with each other and the father is only just beginning to see what is really happening in his household.
Well, any self-respecting Film Studies teacher simply has to go and see those films that are being acclaimed by the critics and are up for awards, if only to better inform his/her students and perhaps encourage them to see the film in question. So, off I went to see what all the fuss was about. "The King's Speech" is full of very British wry, self-deprecating humour, affectionate digs at the royal family and tremendous performances. I never got the sense that Colin Firth was playing his character's handicap to the gallery, nor was he simply baiting the Academy Awards voters with yet another Oscar-friendly performance involving physical handicap. In fact, his handicap was much more an emotional one. I felt there was a real emotional honesty and depth to his portrayal (and the swearing is hilarious!). Both Helena Bonham-Carter and Geoffrey Rush are worthy of awards too. I loved B-C's knowing humour and intelligence as Bertie's wife (who for people of my generati…
Apologies to those who are ignorant of the landmark sci-fi tv series that came to an end in the US last Friday (with us Brits having to wait until tomorrow - think Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land with the Egyptians not only hot on their tails but also infiltrated into their ranks), but this exchange between Admiral Adama (Moses figure) + crack pilot Starbuck was one of many tear-inducing moments during the 5-year long serial's finale. Tear-inducing because of the fact that these two characters (like a father + daughter) have had this same exchange at key moments since the first series and it has acted as a pointer to the complicity, mutual trust and deep affection they hold for each other, and because of the context in which it happens (can say no more for now!).
I will say little more for now until the British showing has aired tomorrow. How do I know what's in it? I have to confess that I downloaded it Saturday and watched it last ni…
I've often wondered how it must feel to be a successful Christian recording and touring artist whilst having to deal with the worldly aspects of that life such as marketing, profit margins, contracts, image, media communications, etc... It must be a really delicate balancing act to not let success go to your head when it comes, to keep the focus on the Lord and yet do your best to get your material out there because you believe that God wants you to touch people's hearts and souls through your songs and performances/recordings.
I know that one of my all-time favourite bands, Switchfoot, constantly struggle with this tension. Just listen to their last 3 or 4 albums for numerous examples. Jon Foreman's - and the other band members' - lyrics seem to be a way of working through for themselves the tensions inherent in their career/ministry, calling on themselves to keep the focus on what is right and true, above all on love... love of God, love of their fellow human beings.…