For a lot of people, the month of January is frustratingly long and seems to drag. However I have to admit that usually for me it’s never long enough! The reason isn’t to be found in me wanting to wallow in the semi-gloom of winter, but instead me having to deal with my own increasing procrastination of the task of filing my tax returns before the month ends. Sadly (and this applies to other family members too), I am a 'late in the day' person, and so it takes a looming deadline and the threat of a fine, to spark me into action. As I try to convince my eldest child who again works to the wire with the essay deadlines she faces, it’s rare that any work that we do at the last minute is going to be particularly productive.
Thankfully then she wasn’t in attendance at church last Sunday when it could be claimed that the message found within the latest parable we studied providing with glimpses of “the kingdom” that we are called to seek first, went against this worldly wisdom. For in the challenging parable of the workers in the vineyard that Jesus told, we hear how those recruited late in the day, and working fewer hours than their fellow labourers, were still generously rewarded with a full day’s pay. Indeed in a service where we had two readings for the price of one(!), this amazing picture of a generous God was added to in our children’s reading, where the generous actions of the father of the prodigal son were celebrated too.
I have to say, that personally, the complex family dynamics and relationships found within the parable of the prodigal son, have always remained a fascination and challenge. One of my favourite books which explores this further (as well as holding a mirror to that which motivates ourselves) is “The Return of The Prodigal", by Henri Nouwen. As we continue through the year unravelling our motto “…first, the Kingdom”, I believe the themes found within the book shed much light on the heart of God, and his kingdom hopes for us all. As such, and as an advanced (rather ‘late in the day!”) notice from myself, as a part of Lent this year, please consider both reading this book (I have got hold of a number of 2nd hand copies, or can order you a new one), and joining our Lent group which will meet on a Monday evening (starting 2nd March), where we will share and discuss our findings together.