When you’re dead,
what is everybody else to you but dead.
And you a son, dead to a father who can’t see you anymore,
become a father, dead to a son whom can’t be seen anymore.
What is Christ?
What is Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Is he the father?
He calls himself or he says about himself that if you have seen him you have seen the father. Or is He that which helps you realize your need for the father, for repentance? Is He that which causes you to repent? In that sense he is neither the father nor the son who stayed home nor the son who went away. He is something else entirely. He is the need.
"Why are we celebrating?"
The servant answers but the father explains: "The celebration IS because the son that was dead is alive. The son that was lost is found."
It seems a strange answer. But actually it's a strange question. And the father sounds a bit stumped by the other son’s asking of it. As if the son had asked why rain falls down instead of up. The father says there really is nothing more to say. It is simply a matter of gravity.
But unlike the way the father talks of the son who was finally found, the way I and my puritan brethren often talk of alive and found, in essence: salvation, is exactly like the son who was never lost. We talk about salvation until it ends in an argument, not a celebration. A puritan hears music and dancing inside where he should be, but never dances, because he doesn’t know how. Somewhere along the way the puritan becomes lost in his own found-ness and dies in the midst of his own life. Somewhere along the way he forgets what found sounds like and stands deadly still in the dance of salvation.
And so the puritan becomes his brother.
Now apostate, the puritan stays in his anger, that place outside of joy, while the father pleads for him to come in.