Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

The Rev. Jack Hardaway leads Lenten Quiet Day

The Rev. Jack Hardaway, rector of Grace, Anderson, led a Lenten Quiet Day at St. Peter's, Greenville March 4, 2017. About 50 people participated in this holy practice of taking large chunks of time for deep reflection. Jack offers us the reflections he shared with the group that day, to guide their time in prayer. Consider using these three reflections on parables to give yourself a quiet day this Lent.

Lenten Quiet Day, 4 March 2017
EVERY DAY IS A PARABLE

9:30 coffee

10:00 First Parable -Luke 10:25-37- The Parable of the Good Samaritan: The Boundless God

10:15 Quiet

10:45 Second Parable -Luke 18:1-8- The Parable of the Tenacious Widow: The Relentless God

11:00 Quiet

11:30 Lunch

12:30 Eucharist
The Third Parable-Luke 15:11-32- The Parable of the Prodigal Son: The Excessive God

1:15 Be the parable-sending forth

First Parable-Luke10:25-37- The Good Samaritan: the Boundless God

So the title of these reflections comes from one of Fr. Furman's sayings, a furmanism, "Every day is a parable." Indeed, every day really is.
What is God like?
The assumption of faith, the outrageous presumption of faith that drove all the heretics crazy, is that God is embarrassingly intimate and involved in the stuff of life and that God can be known in all this mess, the messier the better.
Not so much in the beauty of creation or in perfect tidy orderly lives. The Gospel is about something else.
Stories. These are how we intuit God's presence in the messiness of history and ultimately in the messy stories of our own lives.
The cross is a bloody mess, and the story of faith finds God's glory abounding so overwhelmingly in this biggest mess ever that it disrupts the machine of time, death runs backward, and creation begins again.
Now that's a story about what God is like. God is like that. A heart breaking betrayal of all that is human and divine suddenly becomes a new world.
God is like that story.
Parables. They are different from allegories. Allegories represent events and people, the grapes are Israel, the one who steals the cow is the king. The literal minded like these, because things literally stand for something else.

Parables are different. There is no symbolic correspondence to something else, or if there is it is not emphasized. Parables rather intuit meaning, they call attention to that twist in the gut that comes with the twists and turns of a story. God is like that twist in the gut from the unexpected.
I will be giving three brief reflections of three of the parables found only in Luke's Gospel. In a way they give us a window into how Luke experienced God in the messiness and trauma of life.

The first is a favorite, the Good Samaritan.

It is an upsetting story.
The lawyer wants to inherit eternal life, he summarizes the law, love God, love neighbor. Jesus says you got it. And then the revealing question, "Who is my neighbor?"
The questions we ask are always revealing. A question about boundaries, about the limits of responsibility, this much and no more...
The answer is a brutal and upsetting story. The man is robbed and beaten. Left in the ditch. The priest and the Levite walk on by, the Samaritan stops, and helps, he goes way out of his way to help, it cost him. The Samaritan whom everyone hates. A long, long story there, about bad blood and religious differences.
Who is the neighbor? The one who showed mercy. Go and do likewise.
Turns out the question was wrong, it isn't about boundaries and limits.
The question is will we be the neighbor? Will I show mercy?
A question without boundaries and limits, a costly mercy with no end in sight.
God is like that, boundless, our boundaries are crossed, an all consuming mercy overwhelms.
A parable of the cross. Where the suffering in the world confronts us. How will respond? In the ditch on the side of road we find the power of the resurrection, a resurrection beyond boundaries, boundless, that upsets and insults our limits.
It is a scary story.
God is like that.
One day walking down the road, a normal day, then devastation and betrayal and humiliation and the only one to show mercy, to lift a finger, is someone I really, really don't like.
God is like that.
What questions am I asking? What do they reveal about me? What boundaries and limits am I setting?
Every day is a parable, where the boundless God overwhelms my limits. A consuming mercy with no end in sight.

The Second Parable-Luke 18:1-8-The Tenacious Widow: the Relentless God

God is a chronic condition.
Like rain on Noah's ark.
Like Jonah trying to out swim that whale.
Like Jacob wrestling that angel.
Like a forty years in the wilderness.
Like gum on the shoe.
Like a tenacious widow pestering a corrupt judge.
God is a chronic condition.

The parable of the widow and the judge is about prayer, about never quitting, never ceasing, never losing heart. It is a funny story built on unexpected contrast, the powerless widow is in control, the almighty judge gives in, covering a bloody nose. Have you noticed how humor often works around unexpected contrasts?

It's supposed to be a funny story. Prayer is like that, a funny story.
God is like that, a funny story. Playful, creative, enjoying the humor of persistently contrasting the unlikely and the unexpected, the surprise of justice arriving from an unexpected direction, relentlessly relentless...
Prayer is something belligerently demanding and expectant and stubborn, it is a chronic condition, never ceasing to demand justice in an unjust world but don't let the humor of the situation escape you. Do you get it? Demanding justice in an unjust world? Its funny.
Are we giving God a bloody nose by our persistence? That seems to be the expectation!
Is God driving us crazy by never quitting, never going away?

A funny story.
A chronic condition.
In our own parables, have we ever not been heard? Have we ever not listened? Have we ever lost heart? Have we lost the humor of God's relentless pestering?
In the face of the impossible never quit. Do you get it? Standing up to the impossible? Its funny.

Life is a parable of the cross and the resurrection, the humor, the contrast, of something amazing happening out of something so dark.
The laugh of surprised joy, the side splitting hoot of resurrection, Jesus leaping out of the tomb with a belly laugh.
In the face of the impossible, laugh with joy.
God is a chronic condition.
Its funny. Do you get it?

The Third Parable-Luke15:11-32-The Parable of the Prodigal Son: the Extravagant God

In the 1970's my Grandmother worked at a bridal shop on Main Street in Greenville.
I was a very young child, I remember the smell of fabric and gardenia perfume.
The whole place made me feel itchy.
Grandmother would bring me and my brother Geoffrey there from time to time to show us off.
It was like we walked into this strange foreign country where we would suddenly be set upon by a vast crowd of women of all sizes, shapes, ages and colors who would smother us with love and affection.
We were hugged, kissed and embraced. We were well sugared.

Keep in mind that I come from a family that tends to be quiet, calm and moderately reserved, so it wasn't so much overwhelming as it was terrifying.
The ladies at the shop. A place of parables.
What comes to mind when you think of words like excessive, uncontrolled, riotous, extravagant, reckless, profuse and lavish?
What comes to mind with the word prodigal?

The word prodigal comes from the Latin word used to describe the excessive living of the younger son in the parable of Jesus that is usually called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, prodigal meaning excessive, profuse, extravagant, lavish, reckless.

Grandmother's wedding shop was a prodigal experience, overwhelming.
This parable of the prodigal son is full of prodigality. Every character is prodigious in some way. We all know about the younger son who squandered his inheritance by living large.

But the neglected older brother is extreme as well. He is resentful, prodigal in his resentment, prodigious in his jealousy, lavish in his anger. He is even more lost and wasteful than his extravagant younger brother. He is the prodigal warning to all us religious types and how we are tempted to sap all joy and thankfulness from the miracle of existence. To encounter God is not to be full of poison and gall over others, but to rather celebrate the gift that they are.

Then there is the father. He would have loved my grandmother's wedding shop. He is prodigal in his love. His love for both of his children is extravagant and lavish. He goes out to invite his children in. He is over the top in his joy at his lost son coming home, and in his pleading with the resentful older child.

There are other titles for this parable; such as, the Parable of the Resentful Brother, or the Parable of the Generous Father. I wonder sometimes if it should be called the Parable of the Great Dad with Two Idiot Sons. But really, prodigal is the best title. Not the Prodigal Son but simple The Prodigal, because everyone in it is prodigal in some way.

This is the longest parable of Jesus, it owns that singular title, it is prodigal in its length.
We are the followers and proclaimers of a Prodigal Gospel. God's love is extravagant and over the top, reckless, lavish, excessive, too much. God is Prodigal.
God is like that story, bringing too much to our not enough. More than extravagant, God is excessive, too much. We are overwhelmed.

God's love is ravishing.
Jesus is the living parable of God, bringing way too much to our never enough.
Jesus is the ludicrous extreme sugar kissing, hugging and embracing us.
God is like that story, that intuitive twist in the gut of too much-ness.
Live that parable, find God in the twists and turns of a messy life, the messier, the more the full weight of God's glory pours through.
That is the faith. It drove the heretics crazy. We can't prove it, except by how we live.
The prodigal Gospel is that God is simply crazy about us, God is about to pop.
God doesn't care a lick about dignity and poise; he is running out to get us, relentless and boundless, way too much. Get ready to be well sugared.
Live that parable.
Every day is that parable.

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  • Dean Timothy Jones of Trinity Cathedral
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