Dear Lenten Pilgrims,
In March 2010, during a family trip to Paris, we visited the Rodin Museum, featuring the work of the great sculptor Auguste Rodin. We saw his most famous sculpture, The Thinker, along with many other amazing works.
In contrast to the smooth finish and polished marble of the Greco-Roman statues we saw at the Louvre, Rodin’s pieces are raw and rough, with the appearance of weight and gravitas that portray his view of the human condition. To be human, for Rodin, was not to be light and perfect, but to be encumbered by frailty and struggle.
The most moving example of this quality is his sculpture of The Prodigal Son, whose story is our scripture passage in worship this Sunday:
Notice dark and heavy it appears, much like the story itself. The man is on his knees, his body anchored into the ground, weighted down by life, unable to move. Yet he still reaches upward, his arms extended in a sweeping, soaring arc of repentance and desperation, hoping and longing for some way – and some one – to get him out of his mess. His right hand is open, begging, pleading for a blessing and a second chance. But the other hand is clenched, a fistful of anger and bitterness at his lot in life.
PRAYING AS THE PRODIGAL
Over the next few days, I invite you to prayerfully prepare for worship by pondering how you are like the prodigal right now. In what ways are you both open-handed and clench-fisted? How are we both beggars for a blessing, while also bitter at life? Longing for mercy, while angry at our situation? How do you feel stuck, yet still able to reach up and reach out for the love and mercy of God?
As part of your prayerful meditation, consider this beautiful poem by the great nineteenth century poet Christina Rosetti, told from the perspective of the prodigal at the lowest point of his despair:
A Prodigal Son
by Christina Rossetti
Does that lamp still burn in my Father’s house,
Which he kindled the night I went away?
I turned once beneath the cedar boughs,
And marked it gleam with a golden ray;
Did he think to light me home some day?
Hungry here with the crunching swine,
Hungry harvest have I to reap;
In a dream I count my Father’s kine,
I hear the tinkling bells of his sheep,
I watch his lambs that browse and leap.
There is plenty of bread at home,
His servants have bread enough and to spare;
The purple wine-fat froths with foam,
Oil and spices make sweet the air,
While I perish hungry and bare.
Rich and blessed those servants, rather
Than I who see not my Father’s face!
I will arise and go to my Father:–
“Fallen from sonship, beggared of grace,
Grant me, Father, a servant’s place.”
Join us Sunday as we explore the beauty and power of this important parable, and experience the grace, love, and forgiveness of God, freely given to you.
Grace and Peace,