Brought Low

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In the parable of the prodigal son, the black sheep of the family, having squandered every last penny and lived the reckless high life (crime? exploitation? addiction?) until he had nothing left and no roof over his head, comes home to his father to say sorry and beg for forgiveness. He thinks maybe he can do some kind of low-status, menial labour for his father. Besides, he has nowhere else to go.

Brennan Manning, in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, writes: ‘The emphasis of Christ’s story is not on the sinfulness of the son but on the generosity of the father. We ought to re-read this parable periodically if only to catch the delicate nuance of the first meeting between the two. The son had his speech carefully rehearsed… but the old man didn’t let him finish… [the son] doesn’t even have a chance to say to his father “I’m sorry”.

How  many times have we judged those, both inside and outside the Church, as ‘less-than’ or not worthy enough? How many times have we ourselves been brought to the place where we recognise that we are utterly broken, sinful beyond repair? Because it’s only when you’re in the broken state, fully aware of your lowliness, that you can begin to appreciate how great is the love of God. He can’t begin to occupy your soul unless you give it up to Him. It’s not something we can achieve on our own. This I learned at Celebrate Recovery and in some ways I think I will always be learning this truth, but that’s ok.

I like to think of it as a vase, oh so very pretty on the outside – a rare and delicate Ming vase, say, but inside dark and empty. One day the vase is smashed to smithereens*. The Maker carefully glues it back together, paying little attention to the outward appearance, and then sets a lamp inside. Suddenly the jumbled-up pieces and the cracks reveal the bright, glorious light of the Creator. This is grace.

 

*It is of no consequence whether we are brought low because of our own sin and destructive nature, or from the sin and destructive nature of others (for example with abuse), or even from illness. God redeems all and treats all the same – and who are we to say that it should be done differently? As soon as I think I know better, I make myself equal to God. And that’s just daft. No, instead we rejoice because we were lost and now we are found.

In and Through Us

Jonah moves into a jealous and resentful rage when the Ninevites actually believe his message, so Yahweh says to Jonah… “Am I not free to feel sorry for Nineveh?”

The foundation is being laid for a universal compassion and not just a small superiority system which is what Jonah, the unwilling prophet, seems to want. I think the story of Jonah is the much needed journey from ministry as mere careerism to ministry as actual vocation, from doing my work for God to letting God do God’s work in and through me.

~ Richard Rohr

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

(highlighting is my own, for particular emphasis)

I do love the story of Jonah! It’s one of my all time favourite bible stories. Jonah is so very flawed. He’s so funny, like a small child, in the way he tries to first run away from God, and later, having done God’s will, gets grumpy about the fact that the people actually obeyed! A bit like the prodigal son’s brother, perhaps? You might not believe it (ahem) but I have been known to get grumpy myself… It is wonderful to know that my small-mindedness doesn’t get in the way of His grace 😉