by Fletcher Lowe
One of the best known of Christ’s parables concerns two brothers and a father. The message we get clearly is that God’s love is unconditional and outreaching. But we rarely look at it in terms of work.
Initially both brothers disliked their work. The younger was so fed up he wanted out – and so he asked for his inheritance and left. The older, we learn later, saw his work as duty to the father ever though he loathed it. “For all these years, I have been working like a slave for you….” The irony is that the younger, having fallen into desperate times, “came to himself” and was willing to return and work as one of his father’s “hired hands.”
It is all about our attitude toward what we do. The elder brother never lost his sense of begrudging what work he was doing. It all was about duty – no sense of using his God-given abilities to make a difference. The younger son underwent a conversion. He came to that point as he “bottomed out” in the “distant country,” where he was working, as a Jew, feeding pigs. He saw working for his father no longer as drudgery but as serving.
In Episcopal worship the concluding Dismissal – the real heart of the Liturgy – calls us to such a sense of work – to use our God-given talents and abilities as serving. Just before the congregation goes out the door into the world: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” “And now Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you…” “Send us now into the world in peace…to love and serve you…” (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 365-6)