*Editorial Note: Arguably the most well-known story that Jesus tells throughout the Gospels, the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 has frequently been associated with the narrative of Holy Week, an obvious analogy to the straying heart of humanity, the gentle, compassionate, sacrificial love of God made manifest in Christ, and the self-righteous judgment of the religious leaders in power. As we progress solemnly towards the remembrance of Jesus’ death on Good Friday, the quiet grief of Holy Saturday, and the unexpected joy of Resurrection (Easter) Sunday, we invited Rachel Pierce, a longtime artist, writer, worship leader, and pastor in Virginia, to share a multi-layered reflection on this familiar story for us.
Both Rachel and our small team at Missio Alliance invite you to join us this week in finding ourselves in the story of the prodigals, as we receive once more the embrace of the Father, beckoning us in kindness to return home. ~CK
I sat on the floor in my living room with my guitar and my Bible open to one of Jesus’ most well-known stories, the parable of the prodigal son, from Luke 15:11-31. The focus of the our upcoming sermon series challenged me to think about this parable from the unique perspectives of the younger son, the father, and the older brother. As I read the passage a few times, I imagined myself in each scene of the story. My hope is that the lyrics and melody that we recorded inspire you to reflect in a similar manner, finding yourself in the story of the prodigals.
For aren’t all of our stories the same – a winding journey that ultimately is about returning Home to life in God, who is Love Incarnate?
I am a prodigal, I wandered far away,
And everything my father gave is gone.
I’ve lived a reckless life,
And I am filled with shame.
Longing for the place that I called home.
Oh Oh Oh
Home, I wanna go Home
I am a prodigal, each time I hear your name,
My heart breaks and tears run down my face.
I don’t care where you are,
Or even what you’ve done.
I’ll prepare a feast when you come home.
Come back home, oh please come home.
I’m not that prodigal, I followed all the rules,
Served and slaved and gave all that I have.
Now that you’re home again, what’s left to celebrate?
You’ve already taken your fair share.
Oh, Oh, Oh Home
I am prodigal, I wandered far away, longing for the place that I called Home.
Uptick Artists Collective is: Logan Jones (Guitar), Allison Hurst (Viola), Rachel Pierce (Vocals), and Adam Samuelson (Video).
Finding Ourselves in the Story of the Prodigals
First, we hear from the youngest son, his honest reflection, and the shame that comes from finding ourselves at the end of all we’d hoped for – even when we selfishly take what we believe to be ours, and try to make our own way in the world. The youngest son realizes his own shortcomings, and longs to return to the place that he called home. This first verse reminds us of God’s patient mercy and boundless grace – and our struggle to believe that we are worthy of His love.
Second, we hear from the father. Like our heavenly Father, this father welcomes his son home with open arms, celebrating his return with everything that he has. Similarly, the invitation from the Father to “Come back home” is one that we are all invited to. The deep and lavish love of the Father is a gift that ought to be celebrated. It is difficult to understand this type of unbridled love. God’s love is the love that heals, the love that stays, and the love that reminds us we are not alone. It has taken me the better part of 30 years (which included a year of intensive discipleship with a group of incredible leaders specifically focusing on the love of God) to understand the deep love God has for me and for all of creation.
The third verse is written from the perspective of the older brother. His perspective is an authentic reflection by one who stayed, who did all the ‘right’ things and yet experiences deep frustration and groaning with ‘home’ – all because his father wants to celebrate his long-lost younger brother. Honestly, I used to live in the space of the eldest son. I followed all the rules, did all the right things and still, after all my own trying, my world fell apart. It took years of kind and generous counseling, coaching, and spiritual direction work for me to return to the center. Returning ‘home’ when you believe that you have never left requires difficult soul work; for I also must recognize that I need the grace, beauty, and belovedness of following Jesus in my actual life, even if I have never left.
These three simple verses, each exploring a prodigal in the story, begs a deeper reflection:
- Where do you see yourself in the story?
- Are you the son filled with shame longing for the familiar?
- Are you the father, wanting and waiting for a child to return to your embrace?
- Are you the eldest son, angry with yourself or with God, wrestling with how things turned out?
These are good and honest questions. As we reflect on them, we find ourselves in each of the characters. We give ourselves permission to fully embrace ourselves in this familiar, yet startling, story, and we remind our souls that God meets us right where we are. If we are honest with ourselves, in different seasons of life, we see ourselves in the foolhardy younger son, the patient, compassionate father, and the self-righteous, angry elder brother. If we’re even more honest, we’ll recognize that this is okay. There is grace in each of these spaces. God’s grace extends to all of us in each season of life, in all circumstances we encounter.
My prayer as an artist, writer, worship leader, and pastor is that the gift of this song will provide space for you to reflect and find yourself in the story. And when you do, may you meet God right where you are, lovingly calling you Home. For aren’t all of our stories the same – a winding journey that ultimately is about returning Home to life in God, who is Love Incarnate? Click To Tweet
*Editorial Note: Henri Nouwen’s favorite book that he wrote was The Return of the Prodigal Son. Throughout this slim volume, Nouwen recounts the transformative experience he had upon first encountering Rembrandt’s famous painting. We invite you to spend some time gazing at Rembrandt’s stunning work, losing yourself in the details. An excerpt from Nouwen’s work is below.
The Prodigal Son, painted by Rembrandt
Oil on canvas, 262 x 205 cm.
Located: The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
“The more I spoke of the Prodigal Son, the more I came to see it as, somehow, my personal painting, the painting that contained not only the heart of the story God wants to tell me, but also the heart of the story that I want to tell to God and God’s people. All of the Gospel is there. All of my life is there. All of the lives of my friends is there. The painting has become a mysterious window through which I can step into the Kingdom of God. It is like a huge gate that allows me to move to the other side of existence and look from there back into the odd assortment of people and events that make up my daily life.
For many years I tried to get a glimpse of God by looking carefully at the varieties of human experience: loneliness and love, sorrow and joy, resentment and gratitude, war and peace. I sought to understand the ups and downs of the human soul, to discern there a hunger and thirst that only a God whose name is Love could satisfy. I tried to discover the lasting beyond the passing, the eternal beyond the temporal, the perfect love beyond all paralyzing fears, and the divine consolation beyond the desolation of human anguish and agony. I tried constantly to point beyond the mortal quality of our existence to a presence larger, deeper, wider, and more beautiful than we can imagine, and to speak about that presence as a presence that can already now be seen, heard, and touched by those who are willing to believe.
However, during my time here at Daybreak, I have been led to an inner place where I had not been before. It is the place within me where God has chosen to dwell. It is the place where I am held safe in the embrace of an all-loving Father who calls me by name and says, “You are my beloved son, on you my favor rests.” It is the place where I can taste the joy and the peace that are not of this world.
This place had always been there. I had always been aware of it as the source of grace. But I had not been able to enter it and truly live there. Jesus says, “Anyone who loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home in him.” These words have always impressed me deeply. I am God’s home!”
Excerpt from: Henri J. M. Nouwen. “The Return of the Prodigal Son Anniversary Edition.” Apple Books.
Rachel is a lover of flip flops, a singer/songwriter, and a worship leader originally from Wytheville, Virginia. Rachel earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Radford University. She just completed a Masters of Theology with a concentration in Worship & the Arts from Fuller Theological Seminary. Rachel leads Uptick Artists Collective, a group of independent artists who collaborate, connect, and invest in the ongoing work of Uptick, a discipleship investment movement.