God Does Not Acquiesce; God Celebrates – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Luke 15:11-32

We have here two prodigal sons, the word “prodigal” from the Latin meaning “wasteful.” The younger son having wasted his share of his father’s resources and his family’s good name; the older brother being wasted by resentment because life is not fair. This is a made-up story which Jesus tells, not because it is historical, but because it is true. I suspect most everyone can relate to both of these two brothers, how we can get so twisted up in life wasting all kinds of time and stuff, and harboring resentments towards others. It is comforting, is it not, that Jesus obviously knows this?  Is this story about the sons in any way Jesus’ own story? We don’t know. The story is certainly autobiographical when Jesus speaks of the magnanimous father who knows and loves both sons, without qualification.

The church has remembered this story down through the centuries because the story rings true. This is our story. We are these two children, sometimes more one than the other. And the father in the story represents the God whom Jesus calls “Father.

Every single one of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done. There is a child inside each of us whom God knows and adores, and that is by God’s grace. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve but which God desires. The French theologian, Charles Péguy, says that “Grace is insidious. When grace doesn’t come straight it comes bent, and when it doesn’t come bent it comes broken. When it doesn’t come from above it comes from below. Grace is insidious.”

The point of Jesus’ story is that we belong to God, no matter what. That truth is not a sign of God’s acquiescence to our bad behavior. Rather it is a cause for God’s celebration: our accepting the grace that we belong to God, no matter what. Those are God’s terms.

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8 Comments

  1. George Barlow on March 20, 2024 at 15:17

    Hmmm. It’s been a year since very perplexed Margo asked some good questions. God’s grace is present as the hydrogen and oxygen ions cling together and refuse to quit being water. When humans cling as tightly together (and to God) we will see as completely as possible God’s purpose for us. God has blessed us with memory, reason and skill. It’s our responsibility to promote equity, to show compassion and to secure justice. I’m standing with you in perplexity. It’s hard to believe what we can’t yet see.

    • Margo on March 21, 2024 at 08:23

      Thank you George

  2. Emma on March 20, 2024 at 09:09

    I like the idea that there are 2 prodigal sons. I never knew that prodigal means wasteful. One wastes his life in developing bitterness. The other wastes his life in decadent living. As church people, we run the risk, especially, of becoming bitter, I fear.

  3. David Watkins on March 20, 2024 at 08:39

    Dear Br. Curtis
    Thank you for shedding additional light and insight on God’s Grace as it is reflected in this story. I found your pointing out that we all have both brothers within us very meaningful, and a fresh perspective that I had not considered before. Thank you for this and for sharing your wisdom. Peace, David

  4. Nora on March 20, 2024 at 07:56

    Dear Margo,
    Maybe within ourselves there are two sides to our selves – like two wolves that try and consume each other. This is the story:
    An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
    He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
    So, we destroy ourselves in the end if we lack awareness of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness – which is unlimited! Money, resources, food, clothing are all limited material resources which pass. What counts is the relationship between the sons, and the father to those sons. All else passes, as we too will pass into eternity. There, only love remains. And love is justice in action, which can destroy the destructive wolves within us that seek to devour our very souls with resentment, jealousy, hatred, envy, malice, bias and prejudices against those less fortunate than ourselves – We can only love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves, as Jesus reminds us.
    We limit ourselves by a very narrow view of life because it is determined by our own self-interests and that can exclude ‘brother’ or ‘neighbour’ or ‘sister’ or ‘enemy’ (perceived threats to our well-being). Partly because of our Western individualism, we lack a sense of community and the “common good” – that my well-being depends on your well-being, that together we are stronger and individual egoism leads to selfish behaviour that always proves destructive (to both brothers).

    • Margo on March 21, 2024 at 08:22

      Dear Nora, The two wolves story is very well known. thank you for your reminder.
      “the common good” is not a forced ‘communism’ but a recognition of multiple needs all of which need to have an opportunity for fulfillment.: community consensus rather than conformity. Extremely difficult to achieve. May I remind you of the difference between ‘fairness’ and justice. Fairness is an ‘innate’ sense most people seem to have about distribution of resources both material and emotional. I think I can claim this for a society such as ours obsessed by compensatory therapy. Justice is to do with a legal system. Legal systems arises out of ‘precedence’ and ‘trial and error’ of any particular society at any particular time. There is no justice enshrined in stone out there set up for human beings. We try to grow towards an equitable one. It is our choice and creation. We often fail..
      I love Br. Curtis’s comments but they leave me perplexed, stunned because the kind of ‘gracious’ love he advocates I seldom encounter either in myself or others. Two of the current psychic issues are the damage of ‘sexism’ and ‘racism’. Neither of these are ‘healed’ by instant grace but are inched along by the long hard slog of raising consciousness, forgiving, and maintaining an expectant desire for the future. Demanding and difficult!. seldom attempted.
      I am not a fan of ‘pie in the sky when you die’ theology.. It is a fairly universal longed for hope, received in faith but not certainty. And does not excuse us from working on now.
      Many blessings and much grace be upon you.
      Margo

  5. Mitzi Budde on March 20, 2024 at 07:43

    Thank you for this uplifting message. Could you please provide the source for the Péguy quote? I’d love to read more.

  6. Margo on March 16, 2023 at 18:56

    Dear Most Revered Br. Curtis, Of what possible attraction is a God who does not care when the actions of one brother destroy the life of the other. What does this God employ to promote equity, compassion or even justice?
    Are we all simply to surrender to our circumstances and urge others to similar self sacrifice? Very perplexed Margo

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