If preparing for Pentecost means being prepared to become the people of God, then it is good for us to remind ourselves of what kind of God we have. It is this God who acted for us on Pentecost, and in chp 7 of 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed we look — and we looked at this last Friday on this blog — at the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
I see three themes about the father, who surely images God, in this parable:
1. The Father risks — and I’m not getting into the recent debates here about open theism for this point is not that kind of “risk.” This father has an estate and he gives his youngest son the option — that’s the risk — to receive his inheritance early. This father gives his son the freedom to act as he wants … and I believe this freedom is inherit to how God treats us to this day. With freedom, as every parent knows, comes responsibility and risk.
2. The Father waits — this from the well-known exposition of the parable by Helmut Thielicke (which he called The Waiting Father). I do think this can be inferred, though we need to avoid sentimentality and melodrama, from the father seeing the son a long way off. Nor do I think understanding the yearning of our Father-God for the return of his children is at all absent from the theology of this parable.
3. The Father celebrates — the singular theme of the lostness parables is the joy of the parable at the resolution of the problem. When the sheep is found, the coin found, and the son found. God celebrates — a Celestial Round of Applause — when Eikons return to the God who made them and designed them to represent God and relate in love.