Monday, March 7, 2016

The Older Brother of Luke 15 and the Ministry of Reconciliation

It's most interesting to me that in the lectionary, the story of Luke 15 is pared with Paul's letter to the 1 Corinthians... chapter 5:11-21 on the ministry of reconciliation.  It makes sense as one of the roles given to the people of God was to bring the light of God to the rest of the world.  It was also a common role for an elder brother loyal to his father's household.  This is, of course why Jesus is telling the story of the loving father and the two lost sons.  It's clear from our former discussions of the father, that the kind of God that Jesus reveals is one who graciously awaits the return of his younger son who has wandered away.  He returns home with the idea that it is better to be a slave in his fathers house than hungry in a far country.  The older brother also considers himself a slave... reminding the father that while his younger brother has been squandering his inheritance, he has been slaving away on the family farm.  But the God Jesus is revealing responds by offering each one son ship.  While the younger has been given the ring and robe and sandals and a joyous celebration has begun, the older angrily challengers his father.  But his father does not disinherit him.  He reminds him that all the Father has belongs to him.

We see in the actions of a loving father the ministry of reconciliation at work.  And the implication for the elder brother is that he too is invited into this ministry that welcomes home the ones who have been lost.

This parable's point is not only that sinners find salvation.  This parable's point is an invitation for God's people to join him in becoming ministers of reconciliation.  You see, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  Let me say that one more time GOD WAS IN CHRIST, RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF.

So... "from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view."  Stop right there... what is a worldly point of view?  According to the Bible it is judging who is worthy and who is unworthy, which groups are clean and which ones are unclean, which groups have God's favor and which ones do not.  We make ourselves judges.  But it is in God's heart that all find life in his kingdom.  And he is asking the church to be ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation letting the world know that God loves and wants them in his family too.

Curious is the idea of being an ambassador.  To be an ambassador is to represent a particular country or nation in the midst of another country or nation.  The ambassador uses diplomacy and persuasion to broker peaceful resolutions and bring that kingdom's perspective to bear on a given situation.  How are we doing at that?

Our world uses contempt and sarcasm rigidly standing it's ground to prove it's points.  Violence of words and actions dominate and accuse and scapegoat.  These are hardly the actions of an ambassador.  Without a winsome vision of the reign of Christ, why would anyone even consider following Jesus or getting to know the God, we speak of?

The same invitation given to the elder brother is also for us today.  Will we take up our role as ministers of reconciliation as modeled by the father?  Or will re continue to rage in bitterness and anger at those those who are lost?  Will we become ambassadors... Will we become ministers of reconciliation bridging peoples and helping them reunite with God?

We must stop the hostility, the demonizations, the sarcasm and contempt and find a way to see as the father sees and reach out in compassion and honor toward our fellow human beings.

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