by Art Greco
Lead Pastor: Outreach
Let’s do a bit of a different “encounter” exercise this week. You’ll need to be on your computer vs. working from a printed version of the devotional. Once that's settled, CLICK HERE and browse through the different renditions and studies of the return of the prodigal son until you land on the two that most stir your heart (you might also simply search by artist. In addition to Rembrandt’s classic work, some of my favorites are by Batomi, Murillo, and Barbieri). Now print copies of those two or bring them up on your computer screen and leave them open there.
In your Bible, turn to Luke 15 and read the entire chapter OUTLOUD. Be sure to read slowly, contemplatively, thoughtfully. Now, go back and reread just the parable of the prodigal.
While focusing on the pictures you’ve already chosen, consider those words of Jesus. And don’t forget the context. Jesus is offering these parables in response to some complaining he’s hearing about the company he keeps - the inferred question being, “If he’s a holy man, why does he soil himself by associating – even eating with sinners?”.
The paintings are interpretations of the story that give us some insight into how the artists experienced the text. As you gaze upon the pictures, how do the different artists’ expressions inform your own understanding or insights into Christ’s message? Imagine these different artists sitting with you and sharing verbally what you can now see them expressing only through the images they created. If you could hear them talking about what the parable teaches them or how it affects them, what would they be saying? How does what they are “telling you” amend or enhance your thinking?
BE A BLESSING
God is described as “the father of mercies” (II Corinthians 1:3) One of the parallel texts I shared in Sunday’s message was from Luke 6:36 where, on the heels of the challenge for Christians to “love our enemies,” and just before commanding us to resist the temptation to judge each other, Jesus says, “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.” The force of the word translated in these verses as “mercies” and “merciful” is akin to the idea of “compassion” – that aching mercy that comes from observing (and feeling) the pain of another person’s suffering.
What wounded soul have you encountered in the past week that might be blessed by a kind and gentle reminder of the fact that God suffers with them and offers them his warm embrace – even when - perhaps ESPECIALLY when their suffering is, in some way, the result of their own choices.
Why not write them a card, give them a call, or meet them for a “cup of coffee”?
Since we grow better when we are connected with other people, here’s an idea:
Acquire or borrow a medium-sized print of Rembrandt’s “Return of The Prodigal Son” and have friends over to sit with and reflect on it. Read the parable together and then share any feelings provoked in you as you: hear the challenge of the Pharisees, read (aloud again) the response of Jesus, and gaze upon the painting.
IT COULD BE SORT OF LIKE HOSTING A SMALL GROUP WITH A 412 YEAR OLD MASTER.