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March 10, 2013 Fourth Sunday in Lent

 This week’s readings

I always find the week after the third Sunday in Lent the worst! It’s dark here in the northern hemisphere. People seem less patient, perhaps because of the burden of Lenten disciplines. It is often around or just after vestry time, when everything is transitioning into a new financial year. In the midst of this darkness, it’s time to start getting the preparations ready for Holy Week – getting the word out, finding volunteers for foot washing, organizing with ecumenical partners for Good Friday, coming up with something exciting for Easter Sunday while still in the penitent attitude of Lent.

But things are looking up with these readings. Last week we reflected on God’s grace in repentance; this week, the loving grace of God’s forgiveness and new life.

Our first reading celebrates the Israelites crossing the Jordan River on their way to the promised land. Finally the days of wandering and manna are over, and they are celebrating the new life in Canaan. In every stage they have marked and dedicated their victory to God. Their deliverance is further expressed in the words of the Psalm.

The passage from Corinthians shows us a glimpse of the new, reconciled life in Christ. What does it mean to “become the righteousness of God”? As we are moving closer to Easter, perhaps this is a time to reflect on what kind of Easter people God is calling us to be. Out of this season of penitence, how will we have changed? What will be new?

The parable of the Prodigal Son offers so many incredible opportunities for preaching about our relationship with God. Can we imagine ourselves as the selfish, frightened younger son? The bitter older son? The father mourning and hoping all at the same time? An interesting sermon might be to imagine how your Church acts as the father and welcomes and includes the prodigal sons and elder brothers. Do we welcome back with tears and celebrations, or with judgement and suspicion? Do we let the bitterness and fear of elder brothers restrict us from loving one another?

How are you looking forward to the Easter promise of new life this Sunday?


Dawn Leger

About Dawn Leger

I am a priest in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, having served in Stouffville, Ontario. I think preaching is a profound and great privilege granted to us by God and our Church. I love the reading, the writing, the proclaiming, the dissecting and the dialogue. I also love to cook, sing, read and laugh, in no particular order.

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10 Responses to March 10, 2013 Fourth Sunday in Lent

  1. Kyle Norman

    This week I am preaching on the Prodigal son, and am just starting to put some thoughts together.  Obviously there is always a challenge in preaching a well known passage such as this one.

    One question that popped into my mind as I was reading this relates to the son moving to a distant country.  It says that the son ‘gathered all he had’ in order to spend his wealth on wild living. 

     Here’s my question: Did this essentially mean that the son had to sell his inheritance?  Did the younger son turn around and sell to someone outside the family everything his Father had just given him?

    I haven’t yet checked any commentaries yes, I thought I would post the question here first.  Any insight you have would be great!


  2. That’s the way I’ve always interpreted it, Kyle, but I’d be interested to hear what you come up with. It’s likely that many interpret the story from our 21st century perspective, i.e. inheritance=financial assets. But in reality, it likely meant land, animals, and such. And if the son did, in fact, sell that property (real estate?), only to come back home… well, suddenly the situation seems a little more dramatic. :S

  3. I have always wondered how did the Father get the fatted calf and resources for the party if he had already given it all away? Did he take it from the older son? More seriously, though, I would like people to think about how, as a Church, we can be morelike the older son in welcoming people. Do we greet them with joy or with questions to see if we think they are serious enough?

  4. A great question, @Ron-Duncan. I really think it depends on the context, especially around sacraments like baptism and marriage. Perhaps the question you raise in regards to this week’s Gospel is whether or not it should matter, and how much?

  5. Dawn Leger

    As I read Kyle and Ron’s queries about land, inheritance and belongings, I imagines this. The youngest son sells his land. Now, the father’s neighbours are people who bought his land from his youngest son. All the people at the party are the people who are complicite in the young son’s betrayal.

    And yes, imagine the tension of the father commanding servants and ordering food that belongs to the son. Talk about presumptuous.

    The more we explore the historical context of this story, the more extreme and almost ridiculous it becomes. And perhaps that’s how we are to approach this story. It’s shocking and impossible. reconciled there is reconciliation. If this can be reconciled, how much more can you be reconciled?

  6. I still struggle with this and probably always will. The Father didin’t say well let’s take some time to study and reflect on this and once we decide on certain condiditions that I consider important and I am satisfied you meet them then I will throw a welcome back party for you. I wonder about the concept of radical hospitality – a hospitality and openess very different from much of what the secular world considers openess and hospitality. I think it does apply to baptism and in many cases marriage. Re. access to Communion I adhere to my Bishop’s instructions but I feel very uncomfortable in refusing people from the Salvation Army, for example. We are continually reminded that we make ourselves available and God does the building. I try to look at my decisions by asking is this something that will possibly allow them to experienece a moment of grace and recognize the presence of God. I am not being facetious when I say that I wish it was as easy to see how we come across as it is sometimes to see how other denominations do.

  7. Kyle Norman

    Call me daft, but why would you refuse someone from Salvation Army at commuion?

    Anyway . . .

    I did some research into the inheritance customs of the day.  I have always heard comments like how the Father was quite rude in taking the fatted calf – because that belonged to the older son.

    It turns out, while the remaining property (2/3rds – a double poriton) would have been entrusted to the older son when the inheritance was divided, it still remained under the power of the father.  From what I gather it’s a now-but-not-yet type of deal.  While the son could look out and say “I own all of this” his power over the land only took affect after his father died.

    Which gives a little extra weight to the idea that the Older brother wanted his father dead just as much as the younger brother.  Neither of them are stellar or righteous children in this story.

  8. Short answer: Salvation Army doesn’t practice baptism.

  9. They have a type of liturgy in which a child can be dediacted to God and is wrapped in the Salvation Army flag or at least they did. When I was teaching in Newfoundland if there wasn’t a service in the Anglican Church in Trout River we would go up to the evening service at the Salvation Army Barracks and when I was principal of the elementary school the Salvation Army Officer, a Lieutenant, was one of my teaching staff. I was impressed by the deep faith of some of the people and I find some of them with a deep respect for the Anglican Church as well. Yet we will give Communion to a baptised Christian irrespective of how truly faithful they are yet refuse a deeply faithful Salvationist who, of course, might be willing to take the host but would never touch the wine. Once again, one of the questions to live with.

  10. Personally, I struggle with our Bishops’ policy regarding Eucharistic Hospitality, but I abide by them as part of being a “Team Player.” Hospitality has a way of quickly becoming complicated: think of the friend who comes over for dinner and only then reveals that she is vegan/lactose intolerant/allergic to nuts/etc. Sometimes it seems like the last think we need is people who are already in the household giving us grief in the manner of the elder son.

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