Forgive the various access points to this post- there are just a number of threads to what I want to say.
This morning I dropped a friend off at the station, bought the mice pies for tomorrow's carol service and then set myself to head out for a run. I was aiming for a long one, so headed out towards the canal.
As I reached the prison, my phone began to ring. I wouldn't always respond but I decided to take the call. And there began a lovely, half heard (it was windy and a big road) conversation with a very old friend (not that we are very old but we have known each other since we were 19. It was just wonderful to reconnect, both of us with apologies for having not been in touch for too long.
When I got off the phone, and resumed the running bit it just occurred to me how important reconnection is.
Some of you will know that this picture has meant quite a lot to me over the years. It, and Nouwen's reflection thereon, have given me much to think about. It depicts the moment of return to the Father, the son's awareness of his own brokenness given perspective in the embrace of the Father. It is still and small and silent.
But in the text, well, the Father calls a party. And if the Father was the kind of guy who ran out to meet his wayward son, then I suspect he was the kind of man who could throw a great party.
And so the party wouldn't just be him and the sons: there would be others. The Father had killed a fatted calf and so there would be plenty to eat. But my suspicion is that for the returning son, the power of the party was about reconnection. Because with reconciliation with the Father accomplished, reconciliation to his peers could follow. Imagine the conversation, perhaps awkward at first, not sure how much to ask, but soon conversation flowing, reminiscences shared, reconnection established.
I wonder if we need both. We need the quite and intimate embrace of the Father as we return. We need that moment of stillness to receive the welcome back. But we also need the party, we need the chance to receive the grace of the people that we have walked away from. I found that welcome this morning in a call from an old friend.