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Paul and Timothy a Prodigal Model

This past Sunday, we talked about the Prodigal Son, the Prodigal Father, and the grumpy older brother. What strikes me today in the Daily Lectionary is thoughts I'm having because of that parable still echoing in me from Sunday. This is often the most exciting parts of exegesis to me (the word is "intertext"): how one part of scripture speaks to another.

What I was reading today was Paul talking about Timothy. "Like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel." How wonderful, maybe. The eldest son in the parable last Sunday was a son serving a father in the work of their family. I said in my sermon that that son could have worked with the attitude of “I love working with Dad, one day I’ll inherit all this and the farm will be mine and I enjoy making it good now as though it already was.” Instead, he grumbled. Paul says of the "others," that "all of them seek their own interests." The eldest would have been seeking his own interest in maintaining the farm that he would inherit, and still he grumbled. But Timothy, according to Paul, is not grumbling. Timothy "will be genuinely concerned" for the welfare of the Philippians. I imagine that when people (sinners, gentiles) repent and confess and join the Christian community, that Paul and Timothy rejoice instead of grumbling.

This is remarkable. Philippians is one of the earliest texts in the New Testament, possibly less than 20 years after the first Easter. At this time, we have people living out loving relationships that involve work (not a dirty word!), a father metaphor, celebration for the repentant, and no grumbling. Luke was written, maybe, 60 years after Philippians. To me, this makes the parable of the Prodigal a commentary on the way things should be "back in the old days" when Paul and Timothy gave us this example.

It's not a scholarly proof, but that's what I love about reading the lectionary every day: It's how the spirit is speaking to me today.


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