The hillsides around here are a lush and velvety green of winter wheat. Fruit trees are budding out just waiting for the right moment to flower. Every spring bulb in our garden is pushing up. Small armies of finches are attacking the feeders, and a couple of sparrows have been tentatively at work nest building. March is full of promise, but the promise could be short lived. Our winter snows, on which we depend for summer water, are far below normal. Some think it doesn’t matter. We can just take more out of the deep well aquifers, but they also are charged with winter snows. It’s a symbolic prodigal attitude. What’s at issue is stewardship, and stewardship requires honesty, confession, repentance and, yes, forgiveness.
To be profligate with the fickle promise of an early spring is not unlike the Prodigal Son who took it early and wasted it foolishly before experiencing the harshness of dry want. The problem with that parable is that it’s so easy to be proud of not being prodigal. That’s especially true in our very conservative area where people pride themselves on being self sufficient, but have often abused and wasted the wealth that was given into their hands. There is plenty of water, if used wisely. The soil is deep and fertile, if used wisely. The wealth of the nation has been spread with generous abundance over the land through dams on the Snake and Columbia that local people did not pay for but whose water and electricity is theirs to use, if used wisely. Resources underwritten by the nation flow into the valley as an investment for the good of the nation, if used wisely.
There is a certain parallel with the wealth of the Prodigal Son’s father at work here. There is also a certain parallel with the disrespect of the father and the abuse of his wealth. Excessive pride in “what is mine by rights”, disrespect for its source, and profligate use of it have predictable results. Our heavenly Father knows no limit to forgiveness, nor is there any limit to His wealth. The same is not true for the land or the nation. They have more in common with the fickle promises of an early spring in March.
On Sunday our churches will be filled with people quite proud that they are not among the prodigal. They are the elder brother, quite certain that it is others who have been wasteful of that which was not theirs to waste. The welfare of the nation would be secure if all those others could be cut off and disposed of so that they could get on with life lived in the abundance of the wealth they have worked for and deserve. With the right amount of self deception, confession makes no sense, repentance is unnecessary and forgiveness is for others to seek.
Can I hear an Amen!