Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Prodigal Son as Pastoral Care Instruction

The thing that strikes me about the so-called story of the Prodigal Son is just how lousy both sons are. The younger is wild, runs around, wastes - a "bad" seed. The older - is he that much better? He is prideful, he yells at his dad, tells him that he ignores him, is unkind, is not generous, and that he wastes attention on the lousy, younger son.

These two sons can often describe division and faction within a congregation - or even personalities we see there, can they not? Those who only seem to come to Church when they've hit rock bottom - the "stalwart" members who are arrogant and prideful and full of disdain whenever something doesn't go their way?

The father is the perfect example of Pastoral Care. How does he treat the younger son? With nothing but love and joy. I am glad you are here, let us get you incorporated, come to the feast, put your ring on, remember that you belong here and not out in your wild life. How does he treat the elder son? Even when he is yelled at and abused, the father speaks kindly, gently - corrects the elder son calmly, shows him what he isn't seeing.

This is the ideal form of pastoral care. To with joy lift up the fallen, and with quiet steadfastness and firmness to resist the proud and call them back.

This is so very, very hard. So often we want to be the Elder son telling folks off about how they treat us poorly. . . so often we want to be the younger son who runs off and just doesn't care about anything any more. Lord have mercy upon those You have called to serve as Your Pastors.