Parables #3 The Lost Son
The Lost Son is the third in the Lost Parables series, Jesus is telling the three stories together, each ‘thing’ lost growing in significance – the sheep, the coin and now, the son.
We need to first understand that the Jewish culture is a shame/honor-driven society. The primary motivation for what and how things are done is based on seeking honor for oneself and avoiding shame.
So we can see the importance of finding the lost item, whether sheep or coin or son.
Most people refer to this story as the Prodigal Son. And that makes an assumption before we even hear the story, doesn’t it? We are already being told that the son is” a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance”. The poor guy isn’t given a chance from the start!
And the story begins “a man had two sons…” which leads us to believe right off that there is tension between the two. We have seen many instances where there is tension between brothers throughout the Bible…Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, Joseph & his brothers.
Jesus uses this tension to capture the attention of his listeners.
Here’s the parable according to Luke 15:11-32. It’s a bit long, but listen to it and see if there is any place where you feel something about one of the players.
Luke would have us think that these parables are about those of us who have missed the mark and are repenting and God welcomes and even celebrates the return of the ‘LOST’. And that is fine. And a common allegory for the older son is he is the representation of the Jews who slavishly serve God in order to earn a reward. Surface assumptions.
Let’s look at this parable a little closer. Keep in mind there are three main characters in this story, the younger son, the father, and the older son. As you listened to the story, which one did you identify with?
The two sons metaphysically are the two departments of the soul or consciousness. The son who stayed at home is the religious or moral nature; the son who went into the far country is the human phase of the soul, in which are the appetites and passions.
So we have a Father who is a little lenient with his younger son and allows him to have his share of the family wealth to go off and find his own way. We have free will, don’t we? We all have gone ‘to the far country’ once and again. The ‘far country’ is our ‘sense’ consciousness…. worldly affairs.
Curiosity is the real motive behind so much of our non-spiritual thinking and living – not badness, not wickedness, not stupidity, just curiosity. What is it like to be an individual person? What is it like to be a separate identity on your own? It is not a matter of is it bad or good, but what is it like, because we are curious about all the possibilities of experience in living, spiritual and non-spiritual. Aren’t you at least curious about some of the non-spiritual experiences?
The father gives the younger son freedom to indulge his restlessness and to satisfy his curiosity, and whose father gives us exactly that same freedom? Divine Spirit, of course.
What happens to the younger son symbolizes all of the typical life experiences and impressions and reactions which result from our trying to live our life off the basis of our central awareness of our self as a spiritual being.
The young man spent all his money having fun! But then there’s a famine which symbolizes any person who is not able to receive any real soul nourishment from things in his outer world. Most persons sooner or later come to this type of dead end in their existence if they have no spiritual interests or spiritual commitments.
He ends up working for a pig farmer of all things. The Jewish people do not eat pork, they consider pigs unclean. Yet here the son must feed and tend the pigs while he is starving.
Poor choices caused him to hit bottom—a reality that many of us may confront at some point in our lives. Yet the pain that comes with bad choices often acts as a catalyst for change, and in this story the son chooses to return home and admit his failings.
The true power of every parable lies in consciousness. The consciousness of the younger son as he works in the pigsty turns to one of total surrender. The word younger is significant. It means a portion of our self which still has some catching up to do.
Beyond the physical challenges, he feels spiritually bankrupt, then “he came to himself”. He knows that he, of himself, cannot solve his problems. He returns to his father, not for a handout, but as a way of moving forward. ‘I no longer deserve to be your son,’ he says. ‘Just let me be a field hand on your farm; that will be far better than what I’ve managed on my own.’
And here, of course, comes the moment of grace. The father faced a choice when he saw his son approaching. He could have turned him away with an “I told you so!” Instead, he rushed out to greet his son with a kiss and warm embrace. The father’s choice demonstrated love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and understanding
He orders that he be robed and jeweled and shod and declares a celebration to honor his son, who “was lost and is found.”
The best robe represents a new consciousness; the ring represents divine love, unending power; the shoes represent strengthening understanding, the fatted calf represents the richness of strength always awaiting the needy soul.
Our new consciousness is strengthened with divine love and understanding and celebrated with rich strength for our soul if we only let it.
God’s grace is not something that we must earn or plead for. It is an infinite energy of love that is never absent, even when we feel most separate from it. It is God’s good pleasure that we move through this human experience, learning valuable lessons so that we return to our Source with a deeper appreciation for the love and abundance available there.
And what of the older brother? Certainly his sense of injustice seems understandable from a human perspective. But it is based on assumptions of limitation, lack and duality. “You love him more than me.” “If you give to him, there won’t be enough (or as much) for me.”
Divine Mind knows nothing of equality, because the very concept of equality implies duality, which is simply not a spiritual truth. Divine Love is infinite; it cannot be limited. Some of us receive it as we follow proscribed paths, stay home and perform the work that is ours to do. Others of us can only achieve our spiritual purpose by wandering freely, learning painful lessons and putting those lessons to positive, loving use. It’s all good! It’s all God!
The older son stands for that part of our nature which has not succumbed to the lure of experimenting with life. He stands for that part or aspect of us which always has stayed close to home base, so to speak. It would contain our sense of satisfaction from our good behavior, all of our good and safe opinions about ourselves and other things, our exercising of very cautious judgment, distrust of experiment and of risk-taking, and symbolizes that part of us which remains obedient to the voice of conscience; but all that he stands for can very quickly turn into a very touchy thing called self-righteousness until it is illumined by Truth.
He could also stand for hidden guilt and resentment. There is a bit of this in everybody, and it needs to be understood as well as overcome. The father does not scold or blame the resentful brother, he only tells him that he has the same rights as the younger son and that they are still all one family. So it is that God’s love responds to every part of our human nature.
The Father’s house would stand for the very center of our being, where we are one with His presence. It is the place in your mind, in your heart, where you know and where you know that you know, where you know God, and you know that you know God. It is that point where in your awareness from which you are able to understand what you really mean when you say “I am and, I and the Father are one.”
When a person is metaphysically living in their Father’s house, it means that we are living consciously. This means we are able to think only the thoughts we want to think, we choose to think, feel only those feelings we choose to feel, want to feel, and act only as we truly choose to act in our life. Such a person is, in that state, in control of themselves and therefore is in charge of their life. They are living from the center of their self and express toward the circumference of their life, all as matters of choice.
This conscious living, we do it sporadically. We are living in and out, in and out of consciousness; but when we are in that state of conscious living, centered and based in the Father’s house, then our life expresses and manifests the Truth of God.
The point Jesus is making comes to its climax in the decision of the son when he realizes the futility of his predicament in his environment, and then the fact that the father totally rejoices when the son, the one who had wandered away, was now returned. Remember that the father’s rejoicing begins even before the son actually completes his return. It says, “While he was yet far off.” Far off base, but now heading in the right direction. In other words, God, does not start the rejoicing after you and I have got it all figured out but when we are turned in the right direction.
This means something to us; God does not celebrate because of our successes but because of our right direction, our right effort. This is called repentance, and repentance does not consist of achieving your goal. It consists of making the effort to change your direction. Change your thoughts. That is what brings the big celebration
The father in the story talks to the elder son, meaning God will instruct and illuminate us, if we willing to listen. We will learn the Truth and be free from that kind of painful predicament that the older brother felt. This part of our human nature can and will be illumined when it is helped to understand that it, too, is part of the whole and that all that the Father has is ours “all that is mine is thine”, says the Father. “Thou art with me always”, says the Father. Every part of our human nature is always included in the workings of the principle of good, under all circumstances.
This parable tells us that we are all free to claim our divine inheritance from our Father and use it any way that we choose. Our divine inheritance consists of all the divine ideas in the Mind of God that pertain to us. Basically, they are our twelve spiritual faculties, which originate as divine ideas.
The reason this story is so familiar is that we can identify with the prodigal son. We-sons and daughters-have done things that we think have alienated us from God. We need forgiveness, or so we think. But here in this story, Jesus seems to be saying that no matter how short of the mark we think we have fallen, God still loves us.
In truth, there is nothing so terrible we could ever do that would cause God to love us any less than God loves us already. Also, there is nothing so wonderful we could ever do that would cause God to love us more than God loves us now. God’s love for us is unconditional and constant, no matter what we do or fail to do. Divine forgiveness does not enter the picture, because with God, the universal Presence and Power of love, there is never criticism or condemnation, so no need for forgiveness.
This parable also helps us to be lenient and tolerant toward all the undeveloped and be-coming aspects of our own human nature, rather than as we usually do, judge and condemn, etc.
Then, if we are able to take that kind of an attitude upon our own struggling human nature, we are that much more apt to grant that same kind of acceptance to other people, in whom we can see this kind of thing being re-enacted. Then we will begin to admire more and more and more the character of the Father, and we will seek to emulate God more. We always seek to emulate those whom we admire most.
Which son is lost?
Good Morning Beloved!
Before we start today’s Lesson, let’s take a moment to send thoughts of Peace to the Universe. Peace in our hearts, peace in the minds of our fellow world citizens, peace in every thought, word and deed. It is only by our measure that peace will be found. Thank you.
One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, ”Mommy, will you stay with me all night?”
Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, ”I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.”
A long silence followed. Finally, a shaky child’s voice muttered, ”The big sissy!”
Poor Fathers, they get no respect. They didn’t even have a national celebration until 1972! Would you believe, even though there was interest not long after Mother’s Day was started, Congress and former Presidents couldn’t take that political chance to declare Father’s Day. It took until Richard Nixon to finally honor our Fathers with a national observance. It’s amazing, sometimes, how our political process works.
If you were here on Mother’s Day, you heard a little about the relationship I have with my Mother. It’s one that has taken much work over many years.
Bear with me as I talk about my Dad a bit. It’s my hope that you will find a message here for yourself as I need to say these words.
The relationship with my Father is different from that with my Mother, in part because he transitioned over 20 years ago. So, all the time and effort I’ve had with my Mother, I haven’t had with my Father. No time to mend fences, so to speak, but plenty of time to wonder about that relationship, to delve into it, analyze it.
My Father was a quiet man, until he had too many beers. He was considered a fun guy by his pals. My Mother tells me I am like him; she thinks I can talk easily to others. I made sure that the other trait never had a chance with me.
I can recall trying to get his attention as I grew up, but I could never seem to break through. I wanted to be my brothers because they seemed to get what little attention any of us got from him when not drinking.
I was a tom-boy, I wanted to mow the grass, be outside, wasn’t allowed to mow-he said I had skippers, I was the athlete, even with four brothers, didn’t matter. Got myself a boyfriend, thought that would do it. No. Took myself to college and I think I may have cracked that ceiling a little. That is until I came home after graduation and acknowledged that I was gay.
They say you marry your parents…I have experienced both my parents in former partners! Quite a learning experience!
And maybe that is how we get to know our parents better so we can move through the forgiveness that has to come. And it HAS to come!
Our domestication tends to lead us in the direction of always trying to fill some kind of perfect vision.
There’s the perfect parent, the perfect child, the perfect me and the perfect you.
And we all will do anything to be loved, to be accepted. Until we learn that we need to love and accept ourselves first.
My Father was a big man, over 6 foot. Mom was barely 5 and that’s shrinking now.
I believe he was a frustrated man, intelligent but with a 10th grade education and a taste for beer, let’s say he had a varied work record for the first part of his life. So, my childhood was poor by any standard.
The lessons a child learns in a household like that are varied…. lack, insecurity, fear, they stay with you until you start ‘working on yourself’.
I don’t think my Dad got the “’working on yourself’ thing until late in his life, and I don’t think he resolved much. I don’t think he could face himself even though he did change some. He was a Father for my sister and youngest brother, his violent drinking ended by the time they were youngsters. I was jealous of them.
I use to be jealous of other people too, when they talk about their Fathers and the relationships they have with them. I’ve come to realize that what I have with my Father were some fond memories of family gatherings, of times when we were just like any other family going for a Sunday drive and getting ice cream on the way home.
I can see times when he tried to be better. Especially with my sister and youngest brother. Even with me, there were some special times.
My Dad loved Christmas and so do I. We went to Phillies games together and Eagles games too. That was the one thing that I had with my Dad. I think it was special for him too. I think that’s part of the reason I still follow those teams.
I think we all have things to learn from our relationships with others. We learn how we want to be and how we don’t want to be. We see traits we like and some we don’t like.
And as we grow we learn that our parents really did do the best they could with what they knew at the time. If we would look at them from the time they grew up and not by our standards of when we grew up, we would see completely different people. We would understand them a little better because we can see from where they came. We can forgive and accept them for who they were.
My Father’s Father died when Dad was a teenager. I’ve often wondered what affect that had on him. I’ll never know because he never talked about his life much except the fun times he had with his friends and brothers and sister.
And of course the “stories” of walking to school in 5 feet of snow uphill both ways…you get the picture.
So, looking at all that, I can see where some of my Dad is in me and there’s some good stuff. I thank him for doing his best.
I thank him for that handful of change and a golf tee that he gave me as he and Mom were dropping me off for my first year of college. I still have that golf tee.
And later that first year, I thank him for coming to pick me up at the drop of a hat when I found out my boyfriend, Fred was killed in a motorcycle accident.
I thank him for rescuing me and two others when the car died on the way home for Christmas break.
I thank him for being there when I had my first car accident.
I thank him when he finally came to see me coach.
I thank him for eventually accepting me as best he could.
He did the best he could—–and I love him for that.
I’m at peace and I know he is too.
This is from a poem written by James Dillet Freeman, our poet laureate at Unity a long time ago. Please receive this blessing as your own:
‘You are our Father’s child. Beneath, around, above, within you Is God’s Presence
And in your heart, God’s love. God’s life is in your body.
God’s thoughts are in your mind. In your world God’s blessings on every hand you find.’
Good Morning Beloved! Let me look at you….I missed you.
On the first day at the new seniors complex the manager addressed all the new
residents, pointing out some of the rules:
“The female sleeping quarters will be out-of-bounds for all males, and the male dormitory for the females. Anybody caught breaking this rule will be fined $20 the first time.” He continued, “Anybody caught breaking this rule the second time will be fined $60. Being caught a third time will get you a fine of$180. Are there any questions?”
At this point an older gentleman stood up in the crowd and inquired: “How much for a season pass?”
It’s All Good!
When I mentioned to one of our members that I wanted to do a Lesson titled Gay is Good, I received a skeptical look. Not a good idea, I asked. A bit too strong was the response.
So, I changed it to “It’s All Good.”
Better…., though I will still be saying Gay is Good too.
What brought this on. Not sure. Sometimes things just come to me and I say, yeah, I could make that into a lesson…I think.
Of course many of you may be thinking, how could everything be good? I mean, there’s all kinds of things going on in the world today, and at least some of it is not good.
But see, there’s part of the issue. We make a judgment about what is good and what is not good.
Good to me is probably a lot different than good to you. We all have our likes and dislikes. Just look at the different sport teams there are…I follow the Phillies and the Eagles. What teams do you follow?
See, likes and dislikes. My teams are good to me, but not to you…. well…if you are a true fan you stick with them through thick and thin….right?
And how about tastes in food? Another biggie. You coffee drinkers consider it a very big GOOD, while I insist that it taste terrible.
SO, see how judgment comes into play; ‘good’ implies a judgment of desirability and moral righteousness.
Plato defined ‘good’ as something metaphysical: ‘good’ is life, it is a higher power, it is the universe. And if it is the universe, then everything is good because everything is in the universe and the universe is in everything.
We apply meaning to whatever happens in our lives. We add a story to fit what it means to us.
When I said earlier the Gay is good, some of you may think NO. How can being gay be good when many of us have suffered through discrimination from all parts of our lives, some even have experienced violence and death.
Yet I can look at the process of discovering that I am gay as a great learning experience. Oh yes, I felt pain and unexceptence. My Father even made me leave the home that I was a part of for 21 years.
But I also experienced the first steps in my learning about who I truly was. I learned to accept myself after trying and trying to be the daughter he wished me to be. I learned to be me, to be strong, to do what I felt I needed to do. Accept who I was or die inside being something I was not.
And so I went on to teach and coach and made a life for myself away from my family of blood.
Eventually, Dad came around, a little. But I was never accepted completely in my family, and I have learned to accept that too.
You learn to find a family of choice. You learn to look at the good, the lessons learned.
We all have events in our lives. Things that happen and we can either look at them with ‘old eyes’, as we always have and maybe fall into the role of a victim.
Or we can bring ‘new eyes’ to the situation. Buddhist refer to this as adopting the practice of “beginner’s mind”, knowing that wherever we are on our spiritual path, whatever is going in our lives, we can bring “new eyes”, a fresh perspective to things and see a deeper meaning, the lesson, the gift, the opportunity that is before us.
Fr. Richard Rohr talks about contemplation as a means to see with new eyes. He says, “In contemplation, we become aware of God’s movement and surrender to it. We begin with “yes,” ready to receive reality just as it is and ready to let it teach us. Contemplation teaches us how to say “yes”–yes to the moment, yes to the event, yes to the relationship. It is what it is before you analyze it, compare it to something else, or prefer it to something else. It takes much of your life to learn how to always begin with yes. I warn you that if you begin with no–which culture by and large trains us to do because the ego prefers the negative–it’s very hard to get back to yes.
Saying “yes” to the moment allows space for the real question, which is “What does this have to say to me?” Come to every experience and ask not whether you like it, but what does it have to teach you. “What’s the message or gift in this for me? How is God in this event? Where is Divine Spirit in this suffering? What is Spirit calling me to do?”
Romans 8:28 tells us, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”.
We are spiritual beings in human form, here by divine appointment to accomplish a spiritual purpose: to be the channels through which the Power of God creates the new consciousness that Jesus describes as “the kingdom of heaven.” So long as we remain focused on that spiritual purpose, then all the many aspects of our lives will “work together for good.”
Having trouble finding the good? Remember, the ego prefers the negative. If it’s the will of God to be “working together for good” in our lives, either we are failing to see the good that is present, or we have allowed ourselves to become distracted from our spiritual purpose, to show up as God through me, through you.
There is always a choice, and it is always the same choice, no matter what situation or growth opportunity we may face. Do we stand by our integrity? Do we live off our card?
The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom. 12:2). Jesus said it this way, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt. 4:17). Repent, from the Latin, literally means “to think again.”
To ‘see with new eyes.’
SO what do we do when things seemingly go wrong? We focus on making them right ourselves rather than looking to others to do it.
How can I fix this? Or if it’s not possible to fix the situation, ask yourself How can I move on? Admit that we learn the most from our most painful experiences. We grow the most from them because we’re forced to re-examine the world and ourselves. We’re forced to question all that we’ve been taught, believe, need, want, and have done.
If we have been hurt by someone else’s actions, it’s OK to acknowledge it as long as it’s true. We’re allowed to say something sucks. This is not negativity; it’s validation. But once we’ve validated that something sucks, we can settle down to feeling the flow of the Universe again. To pack up the camper and move through the Valley of the Shadow and back into the Light. It may feel like it’s slow as molasses or it’s in fits and starts, but that has more to do with our expectations and wishes than with what’s really happening.
And remember, they’re just events. The Universe is neutral. The Universe flows but we can control whether it flows easily or with difficulty based on our choices.
Our very first Principle states that God is the One Power and Presence in the universe, that God is all good. God is in all making everything Divine, good.
So, it’s All God and All Good.