Originally published in the King’s Stanley Magazine.
Charles Dickens was once asked what the best short story was. His reply, apparently, was, “The Prodigal Son.”
Today we may or may not agree with his opinion, but we will certainly know the story he was referring to. It is possible that we would disagree, along the lines of, “For me it’s the Good Samaritan.” Both stories have passed into the popular consciousness and have an appeal across cultures, and across the centuries. Jesus told both stories yet, surprisingly, they can be found in only one of the four gospels. (More about which one below.)
The Christian season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, which falls on the 6th of March this year. No doubt some of us have decided what we might “give up” this year, and there are no prizes for guessing what might top that list. There is also the idea of “taking up” something or other. If we take a cue from the returning prodigal, we might decide to take on more regular contact with someone in the family. More challengingly, we might attempt to do what we can to repair a broken relationship, if that is at all possible.
If our cue is from “the Good Samaritan,” we might seek for ways to offer practical help to someone in need. If we are unable to do that ourselves (and we have the means), then we could consider a special donation to a good cause. Taking up a volunteering opportunity is also something to consider.
My final suggestion is to take up the challenge of reading through Luke’s gospel during Lent. If this appeals, a different approach would be to start with chapter 15. That is about the “lost and found”: the sheep, the coin, and the younger son. Then read chapters 3 and 4, then chapter 10, which contains the other famous story told in response to the question “And who is my neighbour?” Then read chapters 5 and 6, followed by chapter 14, then chapters 7-9, then chapter 1, then chapters 11-13, then chapter 2, and then, finally, chapters 16-24. This order could help us see this gospel in a fresh light.
All good stories have a punch line: “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
Lots for us to ponder on in those words, and in the Lenten season.
With Christian love,
Robert Draycott (Rev)