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I’m thinking today about Friday the 13th, although technically it’s Thursday the 13th – it is tomorrow somewhere in the world, so I’m hijacking today as Friday the 13th. If we remember from The DaVinci Code, Friday the 13th is unlucky because this is the day the Knights Templars were betrayed and murdered, although Dan Brown was wrong about this, so do click through to see CNN’s version. I celebrate today as about being famously wrong rather than being unlucky.
We all know the story of the prodigal son.
Here is the story from Luke:
The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
- 11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command, yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”
We often read this story and are conspicuously aware that we have a theology different from a God who needs to punish Christ who stands in our place: You know the superstition, we deserve to die, but, what luck, Christ took the hit for us! By contrast, the father in the parable does not punish sins but forgives them. However, note that it’s amazing how often we read this story of the prodigal without giving attention and weight to the objections of his brother!
We see a similar often missed negative take in Mark with the satire of the ridiculously unjust release of Barabbas with Pilate sitting in as the all-powerful judge. The Jewish Yom Kippur atonement goats are shown to be the very opposite of justice if a Roman was seen doing it (satire as the absurdity of the ridiculously cruel Pilate freeing someone who to him would have been “evil” Barabbas, a known killer of Romans!). Would the Jewish God with Yom Kippur atonement not be facilitating the same miscarriage of justice?
How often we forget that one of the greatest existential threats to humanity is belief in God!
Think about it, if you believe the end is near, or that God will prevent humanity from extinguishing its own light, then how seriously are you going to take threats like climate change when going green is an inconvenience? Notice the ostrich below on the beach with its head in the sand.
God is our Beach. Focus, close your eyes, and say it with me:
God is my B _ _ _ _