weddings, hope, celebrations and joy

I had the idea for this post a week ago…so forgive me for the common delay between idea hatching and writing.

I said it on Facebook and twitter, but I’ll say it again – I really loved watching the royal wedding. It’s hard to remember another event in my lifetime which was so widely watched, and was neither sport-related or disaster-related. These last few days have certainly brought back to many the memories of 11 September 2011.

The Royal Wedding was rife with gossip, traditions and the strangest of fashion. All things which I don’t care much for. But above all this, I think there was a sense of hope as we watched this couple of our own generation vow to spend the rest of their lives together. How would the possible future king of England and a gorgeous middle class girl who became a duchess in Westminster Abbey, change the world?

The wedding itself was beautiful, positive, understated and, despite the 2 billion people watching, by the time they waved to the crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, perhaps a brief but honest insight into the real Will and Kate.

(If you’re interested to read more intellectual thoughts on the royal wedding from a wise friend of mine, click here. )

The Prodigal God

The night before watching the wedding, I finished reading The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller. The concluding thoughts of the book were still bouncing around in my head as I reflected on the wedding afterwards in my rather joyful state of mind.

The book is essentially a deeper look at Jesus’ parable of the The Two Lost Sons (often referred to as The Prodigal Son). But in summary, the parable is about a man who has two sons, the younger asks for his inheritance while his father is still alive, he spends it all in a foreign land, then realising he would be better off a slave in his father’s house, returns from the foreign land to his home, to the unexpected embrace of his father’s arms. His older brother isn’t so excited to see him and refuses to join in the feast his father prepares.

There were two lost sons…

One of Keller’s main points in this book is that so often the focus of this parable is on the frivolous pleasure-seeking actions of the younger son, and we ignore the fact that the elder brother is perhaps just as lost – as we see in his jealousy, his refusal to rejoice at the return of his brother (he is thinking about the cost to his own inheritance of his father’s actions).

Jesus’ teaching in this parable has just as much to say about people like me – who often stumble into acting like the elder brother as it does for younger brothers. I have been a Christian for many years now, and I can look back at times in my life I have acted like the younger brother, though not as much as I have acted like the elder brother – holding to legalistic ideals and withholding love, joy and kindness because of my own hardened, bitter heart. Both ways of living ignore the love of our Father God who showed me and all the world His amazing saving grace in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

What’s a book about God got to do with the royal wedding?

It’s all in the celebrations! Prodigal means ‘recklessly extravagant’ and the parable climaxes with a feast of the finest foods available to the Father. It sounds amazing right? The father goes all out for the son who returns home.

Jesus points his listeners and readers in this parable to a God of redemption, hope and joy. A God who literally celebrates when what is lost is found. Soon after I gave my life to Jesus as a teenager someone reminded me of the message of Luke 15 – that God would have celebrated with his angels that I had decided to follow Him. This blew me away – God, creator of the universe, would celebrate me? Yes, and you too. Knowing Jesus now brings me peace, joy, comfort and a trust in God’s purposes as I live in an uncertain world. But it also heralds the hope of a greater joy in the ultimate feast that is yet to come…

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him;let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:6-9

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