A while ago, I "inherited" a men's Bible study group when its leader moved to another church.
A handful of guys come consistently, while others circle in and out of our orbit like comets, sometimes trailing the icy cold of deep space in their wakes.
We usually think of the fellowship in terms of those who faithfully come and join the discussions, but reflecting on the parable of the Prodigal Son -- and a recent song by Caedmon's Call -- got me thinking a little differently.
I'll start with the song, "Hold the Light," (written by Andrew Osenga and Randall Goodgame). It grabbed my attention because our Bible study has been meeting on Wednesday nights for about two years.
"Itís been a long year, like a sleepless night
"Jacob wrestled the angel, but Iím too tired to fight
"Every Wednesday for two years weíve met
"Iíve showed you all my anger, doubts, and bitterness
"There was no judgment in your eyes
"Just the silent peace of God that felt so real in you.
"Will you hold the light for me?
"Will you hold the light for me?"
I immediately thought of a couple of guys who had stopped coming after facing trials with their marriages, with their jobs, with pornography and adultery. We prayed for them constantly, but most of us felt we needed to do more somehow, thinking of them rotating in the darkness.
"And I stay up late, cause I cannot sleep
"I donít wanna face the quiet, itís just God and me
"Iím waiting for the gavel handing me the sentence down
"'Cause I donít believe forgiveness or even repentance now."
During the weeks I have been listening to this song, I've also been re-reading a great book by Henri Nouwen, "The Return of the Prodigal Son." The book (based on Luke 15:11-32) and the song dovetail nicely, as Nouwen focuses on our spiritual progression from being God's rebellious offspring, to being His embittered elder children and learning to become the loving father who "holds the light" at home until His beloved children return.
I am reminded that Jesus is to be our model. Yet when He left home, he was not rebellious. He went to the sinners in His Father's name, to bring them back home.
I am reminded that the Holy Spirit remained with the Father, but is part of the welcoming reception we all can expect when we come to our senses, whether we are recovering from riotous living or from the silent bitterness of the elder son.
The song continues a refrain we can all identify with:
"I want to feel redemption flowing through my veins
"I want to see with clear eyes, beyond lust and hate
"I want the war to be over and know the good guys won
"I want love to hold me and know Iím not alone."
Where will that love come from, if the world is populated only with prodigals and elder sons?
Can we accept God's forgiveness, embrace redemption and offer unconditional love to all our brothers and sisters who aren't ready to take that step?
The song ends as the parable ends. Some wounds have healed, but there are still some loose ends.
"Standing round a willow weeping
"Weíre praying in the backyard
"And the chill of the night, the friendship light reminded me
"Who we are. ... We we are."
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