Luke 15

Lent 16 ~ The Song to Sing

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Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’   ~  Luke 15: 25 – 32

          Today, I finally saw what others had long before caught: that the older boy in the parable was likely jealous. And that his jealousy prevented his heart from rejoicing over his brother’s repentance.

          I’ve always felt sorry for this older boy/man. It is never an easy thing to slog at something and be contented with small rewards. It is much harder when it is left to us to pick up the slack caused by others; worse when we seem to be left out in the cold while the everyone else fêtes those who have made things difficult for us.

          Except that the parable of the prodigal son has never been about a forced and meaningless celebration. It has never been about burying the hurt and projecting a happy we don’t feel, nor about killing the fatted calf for someone who has come home the same he was before.

          Anyone who has been scarred by jealousy knows its dark power – as well as the suffering it is capable of inflicting. Jealousy has poor tolerance for good news. Its participation in joy is often short-lived and uncertain. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about a jealous heart, it is that it is extremely short-sighted, not able to see too far beyond its personal borders.

Everything I have is yours

          Jealousy will never allow the heart it rules to be convicted of that truth because a jealous heart cannot share sincerely and generously. It will keep careful accounting over anything given. What it gives today, can be demanded back the next day – because it struggles with sharing. So, even when God promises that Everything I have is yours, a jealous heart can only view it with suspicion.

But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.

          Nonetheless, God stands very firm – and fair. Even as His decree is that we open our hearts to the good news of conversion, He gives us the Light that will help us to transition from hurt and hardness to love:

Rejoice over repentance

          No matter what suffering we have endured, when the dead come back to life and the lost finally found, we must celebrate the return. Not tolerate. Not merely acknowledge. But sing the lyrics of rejoicing until its song is one with our hearts.

          Because it is that song which heals the wounded heart. And to be healed of jealousy, no one can sing that song but us.