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Furious, or willing to join the celebration?

March 25, 2023

Daily Scripture

Luke 15:25-32

25 “Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28 Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29 He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

It’s tempting to think Jesus’ story about the “prodigal son” (cf. Luke 15:11-24) ended once the younger son came home from his naïve, self-indulgent life, the father embraced him, and the party began. But Jesus had more to the story. He told it, remember, to people who grumbled about him mixing with “tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 15:2). So, he also told about the older brother, sure he was the “good” son and not pleased at all to see his brother back home. At story’s end, the father poignantly pleaded with the older brother to join the party: “We had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found” (verse 32). As he did in a few other parables (e.g. Luke 13:6-9, Matthew 21:33-40), Jesus left this story “unfinished” for his hearers to think about. He didn’t say what the older brother did.

  • The servant in the story said, “Your brother has arrived.” When the father came out, the older son disowned his brother, saying, “This son of yours” The father shifted the relationship back: “This brother of yours,” he said. Use your imagination to argue the older brother’s case: why did he find it wrong to welcome the younger one home? In what ways was the “good” brother’s reaction, and his whole argument, out of harmony with the father’s wishes? How did Jesus put the responsibility on the Pharisees to decide how they would respond as he left the parable “unfinished”? Being honest about whatever “older brother” tendencies you find in yourself, how will you finish Jesus’ parable? Will you join the Father in celebrating all the missing children who come home?

Lord Jesus, I want to “enter in” to the joy of your kingdom and celebrate what you are doing in other’s lives. Move me from a “tit for tat” existence to an exuberant, abundant life. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Dr. Rebeca Chow

Dr. Rebeca Chow

Dr. Rebeca Chow serves as the Clinical Counseling and Support Director at The Church of the Resurrection. Dr. Chow is a bilingual Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Missouri/Kansas and a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, with a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Kansas State University. She is a consultant for the Kansas Division of Family Services and Sesame Street in Communities.

As complex as the brain is, one of its primary functions is to form connections with others. At the most foundational level our brain creates stories to make sense of the experience of these connections from different perspectives. These stories we create not only determine how we feel, think or act; they also affect how we see ourselves.

For instance, in this story the brother felt angry about losing connection with the father, and felt his relationship was threatened by his brother’s return. This process happened to him because his brain perceived this experience as dangerous and created a story of disconnection or despair.

The opposite happens when our regulation system is fully engaged. Since we are wired for connection, when the story we tell ourselves is based on safety, we can assess every situation with an open mind, finding ways to be our best selves. In the same example, if the older brother was able to pause, and think that his father’s joy had nothing to do with how much he cared and valued him, he would have been able to share his father’s excitement and not feel threatened and disconnected.

Recognizing sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts as part of embodied life experiences offers a more holistic perspective for us. Honoring feelings does not require complicated explanations; it is just an intentional way of being—grounded and settled in the present moment. Ask yourself how you’re feeling? Taking some time to figure out how you are feeling about an interaction with someone you care for can give you more clarity. Remember to focus only on the 4 basic feelings-–happy, sad, angry and afraid. Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling, rather than trying to push it away.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.