The Parable of the Prodigal Son-Part 1

Midweek Faith Lift

October 19, 2022

“The Parable of the Prodigal Son-Part 1”

Rev. Deb Hill-Davis


Daily Reflection

October 10, 2022

           “Conflict is inevitable, but resentment is optional. Suffering is optional. Violence, belittling, self-sabotage, rejection, hatred, and unhappiness are all optional. We have the spiritual wherewithal to claim more magnificent and life-affirming options for ourselves and for the community of humankind.”

                         – Roger Teel, This Life is Joy


           Affirmative prayer: Infinite Presence, today I claim life-affirming    thoughts, prayers, and actions for my life. Where there is a sense of separation, I embrace unity. Where there is discord, I claim love. Where there is the appearance of lack, ill health, or strife, I affirm that the fullness of pure Spirit is revealed. My life is restored. I cruise through this day on the currents of Infinite Love. Thank you, God, forever. Amen.


This opening fits our story of the Prodigal Son very well.  It is a story many of us are familiar with; it is a story many of us have lived.  This is a complex story with a lot of plot, drama and moving parts, so we are going to explore it over two Sundays. Let’s remember that we are exploring the energy of “being lost” which has involved sheep, coins and now people.  Dr. Michael, in his book, The Hidden Parables of Jesus, also calls it the Law of Entanglement, which adds an interesting twist.  Let’s explore the parable first. 


          Luke 15:11-32

          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.’ “(NRSV Updated Edition)


The first and most powerful pause to take as we reflect on this story is that we are all the characters in it!  We are the younger son who went away and engaged in “riotous” living, or as this so politely says, “dissolute” living.  We have been stuck in a consciousness that truly “dissolves” our connection to others, to God and to our higher self.  It may not have been as pleasurable as the younger son’s experience, but we have all been there in some form or other!  If only in our imagination, believing that other people’s circumstances and lives are sooo much better than ours!  And indulging to excess in physical pleasures, fantasies and addictions of any kind, even if to negativity ALL take us away from our Higher Self, the Greater Good, for however long it takes us to wake up!


The younger son finally “came to his senses” and woke up to a greater reality, a greater field of possibility.  He was a good Jewish kid, and he found himself hitting bottom, where he was feeding the pigs!  Good, faithful Jewish boys of that time should not be feeding pigs, so this is a pretty spectacular version of hitting bottom for Jesus to use with his listeners.  And then, when he came to his senses, his first thought was “I will arise and go to my father and own up to all I have done!”  The message to us is that when we are really stuck in our own willfulness, it is possible to shift our consciousness pretty quickly from that place to humility.  My lived experience of this has been that that kind of quick pivot only happens with time and practice.  The prerequisite is humility which means “owning your own sh*t” which is very challenging the first time you do it!


To cultivate the “observer self” that is able to witness our own thoughts and behaviors takes powerful discipline, self-awareness, spiritual maturity and humility.  Getting back to our center, coming home to our true self, finding our Christ consciousness are all descriptions of the journey of the Prodigal son.  How, where, and when we do that is a personal journey.  Dr. Michael describes the process/journey this way on p. 194 of The Hidden Parables of Jesus.  He writes:


The elevation of consciousness will be proportional to the degree of our humility in accepting the fact that we have fallen off the mark, and proportional to our degree of sincerity in seeking a higher state of mind in the midst of things.


Meditation and prayer are the key tools for bringing us back to center.  I would also note that 12-step programs and therapy and spiritual direction are also very useful tools to bring us home from our ego trip when we run amuck, as we so often do!  Over time, with the regular practice of meditation, we can remain focused on the higher perspective, the higher consciousness even when we are caught up in the emotions of any given situation.  Why is that?  Well, the regular practice of meditation asks us to drop below the level of chatter in our mind to a place of stillness.  It requires concentration and a disciplined focus; the wandering, chatterbox mind comes back to the breath, the place of connection and peace.


In that practice, cultivating space for Observer self, we are then like the father in this story.  He has been watching and waiting patiently for many years, wondering and feeling that concern about his lost son.  He has been cultivating the Observer self that can watch and wait without becoming overly anxious, hysterical or obsessive about it.  If he has feelings of anger and resentment toward his younger son, Jesus does not mention that at all.  This father, who has been watching, waiting and no doubt praying is just ecstatic when his younger son comes home!  No recriminations, no guilt trips, no, “I told you so!”  And that is truly remarkable, but a pattern Jesus wants to illustrate for his listeners to hear and learn.  Would that we could, right?


We have all been the “Father,” watching and waiting for someone we love to come around, to “come home” to come to their senses and wake up, for God’s sake!  Right? Whether our loved one “went to a far country” of addiction to drugs, alcohol, work, a relationship, money, gaming and on and on, we pray for them to hit whatever bottom will wake them up and send them “home.”  The message in this story is not about how the Father forgives his son, it is about how the son cultivates enough humility to honestly admit how far down the hole he had gone.  This is about how gut wrenching honesty, making amends and asking forgiveness with deep humility is the only path for true healing and reconciliation.  Even in the midst of the “worst” expression of our humanness, God is never gone from us; God is always there.  It is our choice to become really “lost” and our choice to find our way home. 


And when we do, there is great celebration and rejoicing, a big party and lots of new clothes representing the out-picturing of the “new” consciousness of the lost but now found younger son.  Kill the fatted calf, get together the band and invite everyone to celebrate with us!  What a party! 


But wait, we still have the problem of the older brother….our third character in this story.  He went away, too, and we will explore that conundrum in the second part of the Prodigal Son Parable on Oct. 30.  That is the Law of Entanglement!  Stay tuned!


Blessings on the Path,

Rev. Deb