Everyone has a chance to begin anew

Many years ago during seminary, when my husband and I served a congregation in Hartley, Iowa, we enjoyed the friendships of many farm families. One night, a farmer walked into a meeting, took his hat off and let out a loud, exhausted breath. “I hate pigs!” he exclaimed. When the laughter subsided, he regaled the group with a blow-by-blow report of all the things that had gone into his day of “tending pigs.” I had never known that tending pigs could ever be viewed as humorous.

Jesus shared a story of a rebellious boy who demanded his inheritance before his father had died. When he got it, he spent it quickly and unwisely. When it was gone, he ended up mired in pig slop, feeding pigs and wondering how he got there. It was then that he “came to himself” and went home.

The artist Rembrandt painted a beautiful painting of the father welcoming the rebellious son home. The painting is well known and can be found in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Rembrandt painted the father welcoming his son who looks like a concentration camp victim: shoeless, with scarred feet, a shaved head and wearing scant and poor clothing. In contrast, the father is pictured in glorious hues of gold and red clothing. He grasps the shoulders of his kneeling child. His hands are around his child but one is feminine; the other is definitely male, larger and muscular. And his eyes? His eyes are blind, perhaps implying that he no longer sees the past of his son. His younger son has “come to himself” out of a pigsty, has confessed, returned home and can begin anew.

Each of us has an opportunity to begin anew. It begins with “coming to ourself.” It is Lent. Soon we will be remembering the last days of Jesus’ life. And then, Easter alleluias will begin. Somewhere, in the midst of this, I invite you to “come to yourself” and come home to God.

The Rev. Debra Ball-Kilbourne is pastor of Faith United Methodist Church, Minot, and Des Lacs United Methodist Church, Des Lacs.