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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Families, Prodigals and Turkeys [3]


One of the reasons I enjoy doing this blog, in addition to shed a little light into these stories for people, is to have an opportunity to look at some fantastic artwork. Most of us don't spend a lot of time with these pieces, and my hope is that you will be motivated to actually explore what the artist is trying to show.

It is the same with music, and the same with these scriptures. If you put the time in, there is so much more in terms of depth and nuance that we cannot see with a surface glance. There are stories in there...

The most famous piece of artwork depicting this parable is the one I used the first day of this series, painted by Rembrandt. Today's is by Bartolome  Murillo.

In most of these pictures, you can immediately identify the father and the prodigal son, but it’s the little details that I love. The prodigal son is usually gaunt and filthy, especially compared to the people around him. His clothes are in tatters. Murillo's painting even shows a tiny puppy, wagging his tail, obviously happy to see this boy.

The father is usually leaning forward and embracing the son, oblivious to his surroundings, oblivious to the dirt and smell.

Have you ever hugged someone who did not lean into the embrace, gave you a couple of short pats on the back and moved on? That is not this embrace. And, I hope that's not how you embrace any of the people you care about. (just a thought)

This father is leaning in, hovering over, pulling his long lost son into him, back into his heart, back into his home and back into his protection.

It most of the pictures it is a joyous scene–except for one face. If we look into the shadows, we can see the older brother. There is an unmistakable resemblance between the two sons. In his eyes and on his lips you can see the resentment and sarcasm.

The younger son is on his knees looking up at the father, but the older brother is the highest head in the painting, looking down on the whole scene with indignation and anger, and as an outsider.

Let's try to simplify a bit and give these men names. Let's make the father, Dave. The sons will be Dave, Jr. and Philip.

Dave, Jr. is going to end up being our turkey if you haven't figured that out yet. And, although he never physically left his home, it is pretty clear that he has some kind of issue, some sort of dysfunctional relationship with his father and with his little brother.

Keeping in mind that this is a parable, a story meant to teach, Dave Jr represents many people who have never sinned against God, they have been the "good sons". They have never shirked or run away from their responsibilities. They didn't waste their time, youth and wealth on the good life. In fact, they stayed home. And, they have remained loyal. 

But when it comes to being happy for other people and for what good and glorious things happening in the lives of other people, these "good sons" do not rejoice. Hmmm!

I honestly think that many more of us fall into the category of having the “older brother syndrome, ” than are guilty of the younger son’s sin.

Today's challenge question:

Are you Dave Jr.?

Let’s examine look deeper...


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