Lent Reflection: But While…

So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.

– Luke 15.20

The Prodigal Son knew he had to go and tell is Father that he has sinned against him, and to ask for forgiveness to the extent of being a hired worker but not as a son – that privilege has been lost through his actions.

And so he sets out home. Starving, weak and in clothes which are fast becoming rags. Placing one foot in front of another, he makes the journey back  from the far off country to his Father.

But while

This is one of those moments in scripture where the focus suddenly shifts away from one subject to another, often from humanity to God.

Dr Martin Lloyd Jones was known for loving these moments in scripture, preaching regularly on the phrase ‘but God..’. So often, these moments are moments of grace.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.

– Luke 15.20

His father spots his lost son from a long way off and he was filled with compassion, and so he runs to his son! The son hasn’t said anything yet! He speaks in the next verse but what he says does nothing to affect or change the father’s response to him.

As someone who has grown up in the Anglican tradition, I can’t help but read this passage without hearing the echo of this post-communion prayer:

Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life;
we who drink his cup bring life to others;
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.

Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Church of England,
Italics mine, Bold in original.

Grace in scripture is so often when we humans end up damaging relationships and ending up in bad circumstances which we don’t know how to, or simply aren’t changing. ‘But while’ we are in that place, God comes to us. Jesus comes to us in the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension in order that we might be forgiven and have eternal life.

In a very real sense, this picture of the free and abundant grace of the Father whose love and compassion leads him to run and embrace his Son is a picture of the grace which we have received, ‘that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home’!

 

 

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