15 March 2012

Fullness (Part IV)

This painting by Rembrandt which hangs in St Petersburg has been the focus of many a commentary and deservedly so. Henri Nouwen wrote a short book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, based on his contemplation of Rembrandt's painting. He wrote three sections in the book, as each main character describes the situation. The father, the elder son and the younger son. Great reading.

Lately I've been pondering fullness, as you would know if you are following this blog, and which I hope you will know, as you read this one.... and some others. And fullness is not about reaching a particular level on a flask or glass. It's about overflow, and running over. The image I use is about the love of God and most clearly demonstrated in this story of the Prodigal Son.

Actually, the word 'prodigal' means effusive and lavish. It's more often particularized into wasteful spending, as Dictionary.com says, "Adjective: Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
Noun: A person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way."

Let's go back to context. The Bible records this story in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15. Y'shua uses three stories to amplify what He wanted us to learn. One is the story of the son. But here's how it begins, "Luke Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So He told them this parable, saying, "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?" (verses 1-4)

Y'shua tells about the 99 sheep, about a woman who loses a coin, and about a father who loses a son. In each case, there is finding of the lost and great rejoicing. Obviously the point of the three stories is to highlight the welcome Y'shua wants to give to the sinners and tax collectors who are coming to him. OK, I get it.

So, why am I bringing this up in my series on fullness? Because although the general use of the term 'prodigal' is about extravagant spending in waste, I'm thinking that the father in the story is extremely prodigal. He is effusive in spending on behalf of his wayward son. And Nouwen brings that up. And so does Timothy Keller in his review of this.

On his return to the family house, after wishing his father dead, the younger son hears this proclamation, “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate." (Luke 15.22-24)

Prodigal, effusive spending. Outrageous love. Great and glorious extravagance. That's what I'm talking about. Overandabove is in the nature of the father in the story.

And it's the key in understanding the grace of God, the undeserved, unrelenting giving of God to all people. No one earns it. No one can claim entitlement to it. God gives because it is his nature to give.

And he wants to give to you. Will you receive His love and fulness today? Start with a quick prayer and ask Him for help.

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