Dear Friends

Luke 15:  18, 19
‘”18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’”
You may well have identified already that this is a quote from the parable of the prodigal son.  You may remember the younger son decamped with his inheritance which his indulgent but probably clinically insane father gave him as soon as he asked for it.  This is a parable which demonstrates the dire need for parenting courses in ancient Israel.  After frittering it all away he ended up starving in a less than minimum wage, zero hours contract with a local farmer feeding the pigs, which of course was complete anathema to a devout jew.  He could sink no lower.
It clearly took this complete drop in his fortunes to make him come to his senses and utter the words in the quote above.  He trots home, is welcomed back by his long-suffering father and enjoys a wonderful party about which his hard-working but slightly dull elder brother gets into a tremendous sulk.  And it’s here I have a confession to make!  When I think myself into this wonderful parable I always think I’m the dull older brother rather than the renegade younger one.  I’ll leave you to ponder what this says about me, but the point of telling you is that I don’t think I am alone in this.
We live in a society that is ever more keen in accountability and apportioning blame.  Whether we’re talking about national politics or personal responsibility at work, if something goes wrong, there is a desperate rush to find out whose fault it is.  Ostensibly this is so we can learn lessons for the future and so the same mistakes don’t happen again, but the subtext is so you and I can prove that it is not our fault.  In modern society we seem to have lost the ability to accept personal fallibility.  It’s not my fault so I’m perfect like my new white marble effect kitchen!  As soon as it looks a bit tatty, I’ll get a new one.  As soon as someone else makes a mistake, we’ll cast them out  so we can get someone else to do the job properly. The younger renegade son would have got very short shift indeed!
Is it a co-incidence that, in such a blame centred culture, anxiety rates are through the roof.  We all strive to be perfect because there is such a small sense of the need for forgiveness in the world?  Maybe the beginning of Lent is the time to remember that I have actually got just as much in common with the feckless younger brother as the supercilious older one.  Because of course our Lord Jesus Christ, who told the story first, and clearly understood human psychology rather better than us, majors rather heavily on honesty and forgiveness.  But it’s difficult to accept the forgiveness if you don’t accept that you need to be forgiven!
A prayer which is very suitable for the beginning of Lent!
Lord Jesus, grant me the strength to forgive.
Purify my heart and mind.
Bestow your grace on my weaknesses and failings.
Open my life to your true and endless love. Amen.
Below is a painting by the French 19th Century artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.  I don’t know the artist or the panting at all but I like the sense of destitution it gives.  He has no hope but to throw himself on his loving father.
The Prodigal Son. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Every blessing