I’m happy to report that earlier this week I finished Capon’s (in my opinion) magisterial three volume treatment of the Parables. Kingdom, Grace, Judgment is only $4.99 for the Kindle version–this is a steal. Go buy it. I’ve now moved on to rereading Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart. I’m not sure why.
His application for this particular parable to the Western church is certainly applicable in our current day and age. So I shall quote it at length:
“And if you then expand upon the parable, you get an instant application of it to the life of the church in all ages. For no matter how much we give lip service to the notion of free grace and dying love, we do not like it. It is just too … indiscriminate. It lets rotten sons and crooked tax farmers and common tarts into the kingdom, and it thumbs its nose at really good people. And it does that, gallingly, for no more reason than
the Gospel’s shabby exaltation of dumb trust over worthy works. Such nonsense, we mutter in our hearts; such heartless, immoral folly. We’ll teach God, we say. We will continue to sing “Amazing Grace” in church; but we will jolly well be judicious when it comes to explaining to the riffraff what it actually means. We will assure them, of course, that God loves them and forgives them, but we will make it clear that we expect them to clean up their act before we clasp them seriously to our bosom. We do not want whores and chiselers and practicing gays (even if they are suffering with AIDS) thinking they can just barge in here and fraternize. Above all, we do not want drunk priests, or ministers who cheat on their wives with church organists, standing up there in the pulpit telling us that God forgives such effrontery. We never did such things. Why, we can hardly even bear to think….
Do you see now? We are second sons, elder brothers, respectable Pharisees, twelve-hour, all-day laborers whose moral efforts have been trampled on by the Feet Beautiful upon the Mountains. We are resentful at being the butts of the divine joke of grace that says nothing matters except plain, old, de facto, yes-Jesus faith. And when we institutionalize that resentment by giving the impression that the church is not for sinners and gainsayers, we are a disgrace to the Gospel – a bushel of works hiding the Light of the world. We are under judgment. Oh, yes; we say we believe. But what we believe is largely an ethico-theological construct of our own devising, a system in our heads that will make the world safe for democracy, and for thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent ex-sinners like ourselves. Like the second son, our only real trust is in our own devices. Just trusting Jesus – the friend of tax collectors and sinners, the one who, while we are still sinners, dies for the ungodly – is not our idea of how to run a lifeline.
‘Diffidam mihi, fidam in te.‘
So there you go.
The brewery is still open btw. It’s just, after all these years of life, such conversations are best had over a beer.