The prodigal son

Lent 4C

Joshua 4:19-24; 5:9-12

Psalm 34:1-8

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Luke 15:11-32

In my research, I have noticed with interest how often stories of water crossing are linked with stories of meals. Here in a covenant renewal ceremony narrated in Joshua, we have the crossing of the Jordan linked with the first celebration of the Passover in the new land. It is perhaps a little surprising that the body of water crossed is the Jordan and not the Red Sea, but the haggadic nature of the tale is unmistakable: when your children ask in times to come “What is the meaning of these twelve stones?” you will tell them. . . I wonder if baptism in the Jordan (cum John the Baptist) signaled the arrival of the eschatological feast (they ate the produce of the land and the manna ceased)?

In Luke, we have our favorite story, but I suspect more people identify with the older brother than with the younger. When he comes in from the fields, he hears symphonies and choruses, music of Greek comedies and tragedies (worship). Gentile Christians are enjoying a party with the father. He refuses to enter. Luke leaves the story unresolved: does he at last come to the feast, or not? The only way to miss the party is our own refusal to enter.

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