Homily for the fourth Sunday in Lent (Year C) – Rolling Away to the Promised Land through Repentance
Updated: Feb 4, 2022
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Good morning bus riders!
We have now reached the fourth Sunday in Lent. If keeping count, this is the twenty-fifth day of testing in the wilderness
In today’s reading selection there is a long reading that tells the parable of the man who had two sons. Many people refer to that as the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Raise your hand if you think you could tell someone that parable, pretty much from memory, having heard it read multiple times before.
<Look for raised hands.>
Well, today … the twenty-fifth day in Lent … is the only time this parable is scheduled to be read aloud in an Episcopal church.
That means the lesson of that parable has to be seen in terms of Lent; and, the prodigal son learned his lesson, came home repentant and was welcomed back by the father.
A celebration was held in honor of the younger son having died and came to life … he was lost but was found.
There is no grief or sorrow in that part of the parable.
Again, Lent is what you make it to be. All of the liturgical “seasons” are about you; so, one’s spiritual development is all about what you do, not what Jesus did.
The testing of Lent is not about Jesus passing it. It is about you passing it; and, the only way to pass the test of commitment to Yahweh is to become His Son reborn.
This means Lent is not a forty-day period when one is asked to sacrifice one sin … and prove you can handle that. It is about a life-altering change of you, to prove all sins have no effect on your body of flesh.
If you’re counting the days, then you have already failed. Maybe that is why the Church calls for grief and sorrow to color this period of time. Maybe they know it would be a miracle for a spiritual testing ever ended up being a time for rejoicing. You think?
<Look for shocked faces.>
The theme that connects all of these readings today is repentance, leading to a transformation. They tell of a lasting change that overtakes one’s being; but that change has to come from oneself knowing change is the only way for survival.
The short reading from Joshua begins by Yahweh telling Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.”
I have mentioned before the meanings of names and here the meaning behind the name “Egypt” makes this announcement by Yahweh say, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of a tragic marriage.”
“This day,” of “Today,” means the enlightenment of newness, where what was has been “rolled away.” What once was a “marriage to tragedy” – meaning behind “Egypt” – is no longer. The onus of “disgrace” or “shame” is removed.
Now, the naming of that place as “Gilgal” – which means “Rolling Away” – is one of those problems for scholars that feel the need to prove everything in the Bible archeologically. There is no definitive place that tourists can go and have someone tell them truthfully, “This is the place named Gilgal.”
If you read verse ten, it says where that place was: “on the plains of Jericho.”
Now, the name “Jericho” is believed to mean “City Of The Moon,” which becomes interesting, when we read that it was “on the plains of the city of the Moon” that at twilight the sons of Israel recognized the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month.
The Jewish calendar is lunar based, meaning each new year occurs on the New Moon that follows the Vernal Equinox [Spring]. Thus, fourteen days later comes Full Moon.
At “twilight” or “evening” – or at 6:00 P.M. – The Sun is setting in the west, while the Moon is rising full in the east.
The known setting is forty years have passed and all the “sons of Israel” have crossed the Jordan River (in much the same way as they crossed the Red Sea); and, the time has come to recognize the Passover.
In the presentation by the NRSV, the word “passover” is not capitalized. When it is capitalized it make the meaning be an event, such as the festival called Passover. The command by Yahweh to establish a calendar and to remember the event of their firstborn males having been spared death says Yahweh’s passover was what the sons of Israel had to recognize and remember. To be spared death means to be given life; and, that had to always be remembered.
To specifically set this remembrance up to be at a time when both the Sun and the Moon appeared the same size, on the opposite horizons, reflects the separation existing between those two celestial bodies. The Sun appears to have divorced the Moon.
In that symbolism, the Sun reflects the eternal life of the spiritual, while the Moon reflects the physical body of flesh. Thus, when Yahweh told Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the disgrace from you of a tragic marriage,” the Spiritual had become more important than the physical.
A soul’s marriage to its body of flesh, where that flesh waxes and grows to the point of feeling it has total control over the soul, is the disgrace and shame of sin. This means the passover of Yahweh divorced that slavery to the flesh.
For that recognition to be done “on the plains of the city of the Moon” says a Spiritual marriage to the soul means there is then nothing to hide and no fears for what the body will try to do next.
To call that act of divorce “Gilgal” means not to name a place, but to name one’s resurrection.
Back when the lessons were during the weeks of Easter, when the Gospel selections told of the women of Jesus going at sunrise to anoint his body with oils and fragrances, they worried who would “roll away” the stone sealing the tomb.
I said back then that Jesus was the stone that could be rolled away, so one could rise from death. I said that a round stone would always be rejected by builders as a cornerstone. However, a round stone keeps one’s soul from always being sealed with a body of flesh.
Do you recall that?
<Look for nodding heads or wondering faces.>
I see the name “Gilgal” as speaking of the “sons of Israel” preparing to be “rolling away” to all of the parameters of their new home … their new marriage as Yahweh's servants. There they would encounter souls trapped in bodies of flesh, needing to know their God Yahweh offered an escape from reincarnation.
Thus, when we see how they stopped being given manna, where they would eat the produce of the land, that says they had changed Spiritually. The sons of Israel became the manna, which was the responsibility to teach their children how to marry their souls to Yahweh, while demonstrating what a righteous way of living was.
One final note is the meaning behind the name “Joshua.” It is the equivalent of the meaning for “Jesus” – “Yah Saves; Yah Will Save; or Yah Is Salvation.”
The Rolling Away from a bad marriage to a divine marriage always means Salvation comes from being led by a higher Lord than simply a soul in its flesh.
In Psalm 32, the first two verses begin with the word “happy.” While happiness can be a translation of the word David wrote, a better translation would be “blessed.” When “blessed” is written in a psalm, it immediately says that state of being came from Yahweh.
When he sang, “transgressions are forgiven” and “the spirit has no deceit,” this sings of that “passover” from a bad marriage to sinful ways and the overwhelming guilt that leads one to hide those ways from others. That is the “disgrace” and “shame” of wanting to stop, but not knowing how.
Yahweh blesses one’s soul by making one’s soul no longer need to worry about ‘how.” Yahweh is that answer.
When David goes from “When I kept silent” to “Then I acknowledged my sin to you,” this is the refusal to admit sin and seek a changed state of being, which demands a sincere confession of sins. The confessions that bring Yahweh into one’s soul are due to have reached rock bottom.
Verse eight then says “prayer” is the way one confesses to Yahweh. The resulting “ great waters overflow” sings of Yahweh’s outpouring of His Spirit upon one’s soul. Those are the cleansing waters of divine Baptism.
When David then sang, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye,” this is the “how” of Salvation.
When David sums up this state of change by saying, “Great are the tribulations of the wicked; but mercy embraces those who trust in Yahweh,” that says one has experienced both wickedness and righteousness … the Full Moon and the Sun.
David sang of the passover of Yahweh, where the death of the old brought on the desired changes of self.
By seeing that in Psalm 32, one can see how Paul wrote the same, where we read: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
This makes “in Christ” be equivalent to David telling how Yahweh said, “I will guide you with my eye.” The “eye” of Yahweh is the same as being “in Christ.”
Now, in these six verses of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote some form of the word “Christos” six times, with three of those in the Genitive case, stating “of Christ.” Five times in the same verses Paul wrote a form of the word “Theos,” with three of those also being in the Genitive, as “of God.” This states a Spiritual possession is told of by Paul, where souls become “of Christ,” “of God.”
Nowhere in all of Paul’s fifth chapter (which has twenty-one verses) did he write the name “Jesus.” This means “Christ” is a state of being, which is the divine “Anointment” by Yahweh. As such, Paul prayed for redemption and was given “the eye” of Yahweh to guide him; so, Paul was a “Christ,” just as were those true “Christ”ians he wrote to in Corinth.
For Paul to write, “we regard no one from a human point of view,” he knew the “human point of view” as a sinner. All of the ones to whom he wrote in Corinth also knew “human points of view.”
Their eyes were physical organs connected to brains, which were connected to all the other sensory organs; and, those sensory organs formulated sinful lusts. That led to desires for physical sensations that pleased the flesh.
Now, when Paul wrote “even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way,” that translation appears to be Paul calling Jesus “Christ.”
Paul’s only known encounter with Jesus was spiritual; although he most likely looked upon his dying flesh on a cross, while in Jerusalem to recognize the Passover … a festival.
In reality (considering how none of the Corinthians would have ever seen Jesus alive in the flesh) Paul actually wrote this: “no one perceives according to flesh. if kai we have perceived according to flesh Anointed.”
That makes a statement of divine change. It says, “Once we saw things with human eyes. If importantly we see things with eyes Anointed by Yahweh.”
The “if” becomes a conditional statement that says being “Anointed” demands one make a sincere request to Yahweh first.
Paul then is shown to repeat forms of the word that means “reconciliation.” A better way to translate the intent of those uses is “change that restores one to a position of favor.” This is a one-way street. A sinner soul is reconciled with Yahweh through an absolute cleansing of that which has become filthy dirty with sin, so one’s soul has changed to the sin-free state the soul was in, when Yahweh breathed that “ruach” into its newborn body. Only then can a soul enjoy a restoration of favor from Yahweh.
To be so cleansed means to also be given a “ministry of reconciliation,” which goes out explaining how others can do the same. It is that “ministry” that demands one be a “Christ.” As a “Christ,” the soul of Jesus is resurrected within one’s soul, so the unstated name that goes with a “Christ” is that which means “Yah Saves.”
Paul wrote to those who had only heard the name Jesus, telling them, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
The truth of the word translated as “ambassador” is it means “to be the elder, to take precedence.” It is the root word of “Presbyterian,” which says “Ambassadors,” as "Elders."
When one has “aged,” then one has “matured.” This goes back to the reading from Joshua, where we are told, “The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the sons of Israel no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.”
The "sons of Israel" were the first fruits of the Promised Land. In fifty days (Pentecost) they would be deemed “Mature in Christ,” because the “sons of Israel” is a statement that all … like Joshua … had married their souls to Yahweh and had been Anointed as His Christ [in Hebrew a Messiah]. They had divorced their addictions that had been the shame brought on by their bodies of flesh – born anew.
This means Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians to display their “Maturity in Christ” as a model of righteousness.
When Paul ended his fifth chapter by writing, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” this is better translated as: “this not having known sin, on behalf of our souls sin he made, so we might be born of righteousness of God within the same.”
That says each of our souls enter our flesh at birth “not having known sin.” Yahweh let us be born into a “tragic marriage,” where our pure souls would become enslaved by our bodies of flesh, which creates changing emotions, just like the Moon. We had to come to know sin through guilt, so our souls could pray for salvation.
To “be born of righteousness” can only come when one’s soul is “of God” … as His possession. When one is possessed by Yahweh, then one becomes “the same” as Him, which means being His Son reborn – Jesus.
This brings us to the reading from Luke, which tells the parable of a man who had two sons.
In the introductory verses we are told how the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling among themselves, about Jesus letting tax collectors and sinners come near him, even to share a meal with them.
Those introductory verses are included in this reading because the man who had two sons must be seen as Yahweh having two kinds of believers. Some of those believers are called “Pharisees and scribes,” while some are referred to as “tax collectors and sinners.”
In the parable we read today, it is important to see how the “grumbling Pharisees and scribes” sound like the elder son at the end of the story; and, that means the younger son is a reflection of those believers who are easy to dislike, even hate.
I have written about this parable several times, in blog commentaries over the last six years and a book I published back in 2020. I welcome everyone to read my most recent commentary that brings out more depth that can be found in the metaphor Jesus sowed into about five hundred words.
In that commentary, I wrote about two other stories told by Jesus, which parallel this parable. One is directly relevant, which tells of Jesus being in the Temple and observing a tax collector humbly begging Yahweh to forgive his known sins, saying in his prayer, “I don’t know how to stop being a tax collector.” Meanwhile, a Pharisee was orating to the crowd, bragging about how glad he was that his life had been blessed by Yahweh; so, he thanked God that he was not like that tax collector over there.
That same shoe fits the parable today perfectly.
The other was the parable Jesus told to his disciples not long before his arrest and execution in Jerusalem. On Mount Olivet he told them the parable of the sheep and goats. In that, the sheep are obviously presented as saints, with the goats shown as sinners, while both must be seen as believers in Jesus [a prophecy of Christianity]. When Jesus told of Judgment, neither the sheep nor the goat knew what they had done to deserve their fates. That ending needs to be applied to this parable, where the younger son is likewise an unknowing sheep, while the elder son is a match for an unaware goat.
Last Sunday’s Gospel had Jesus being told of some Galileans executed by the Romans at festival time, with Jesus asking those he was talking to about the eighteen killed in a more recent accident at Siloam.
Do you remember that lesson?
<Look for nodding heads.>
Well, Jesus said, in effect, all Galileans were sinners, just as the eighteen Jews killed by accident were just as sinful as was everyone in Jerusalem. If that was during festival time, then Jerusalem was filled with Jews from all around the world. All were called sinners.
That says there were no Jews without sin when Jesus had his ministry in the flesh.
That is the theme that says everyone must know sin, in order to pray for forgiveness and have one’s soul saved from sin … brought to righteousness by Yahweh.
So, when this parable begins with the younger son asking for his share of the father’s property, the error of reasoning comes from everyone jumping to the sinner’s conclusion that says, “How dare a younger son ask for his inheritance, before the father has died AND when the elder son is due everything.”
Because we are all sinners, we think that way; and, Jesus knew that. So, his wording is important to carefully pay attention to.
The literal Greek-to-English translation of what the son said to the father is this: “Father, give to me this placed upon share of this substance.”
In that, the Greek word “Pater” is capitalized, which means the younger son was addressing Yahweh, calling Him “Father.”
Without it being said overtly … Genesis 1 tells of “man” being created on day six of the Creation. On day seven, Yahweh formed His Son Adam. So, that becomes a reflection upon the “younger son.” By translating “substance,” rather than “property” or “wealth,” the “placed upon share of substance” is a request made by a soul to be born in the flesh.
Can you see that metaphor?
<Look for shocked faces and nodding heads.>
To see this not as a request for an inheritance of wealth in advance, but as a request made to have life on earth, the “two sons” can be generalized to be “descendants,” so the elder son is only related to the younger son by ancestral bloodline. This is the same bloodline that puts Pharisees and scribes together in a Temple, alongside tax collectors and sinners, where none are true brothers. Their only link is they are all Jews.
When we read that Jesus said, “So he divided his property between them,” in reality Jesus said: “this now he distributed to them the same this life.”
The NRSV shows a request for “property,” with “property” being divided; but the same words are not written. That which was given, based on the younger son’s request was “bion,” from “bios,” meaning “life, living,” implying “manner of life” or “livelihood.” It was not "property" that was divided and given equally ("the same") to the two sons.
This clearly has Jesus saying Yahweh created Jews to live different “lifestyles.” Some were meant to be “Pharisees and scribes,” while some were intended to be “tax collectors and sinners.” When all are sinners, each has a different challenge to reach rock bottom, feel the guilt, and sincerely repent for salvation.
In the account of Jesus witnessing the Pharisee and the publican in the Temple, he concluded that the sinner beating his chest was "closer to the kingdom of God" than the Pharisee. Still, "closer" means the tax collector was still a sinner.
When this view is taken, where the two sons are seen as completely separate from one another, so their sole relationship to one another is they share the same religion, then the story being set up says “tax collectors and sinners” were Jews who were thrown into the world without ever having been taught “how” to avoid that which the Law defines as sins.
The view the world the Jews had are then depicted by Jesus when he said the younger son “went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.” The Jews were no better than anyone else in the world; but as an outsider, in a foreign land, a Jew had to take the lowest rung of the social class scale (if they had no wealth). That made them be less important than the welfare of livestock (the possessions of Gentiles).
That takes me back to the younger son asking the “Father” for a “share of substance,” which when “life” is granted becomes a request for reincarnation. To request reincarnation says a soul was basically promising Yahweh, “If you give me another chance, I’ll swear I will serve you in the next life.” This makes him voluntarily take the hardest path to redemption.
When we get to know the elder son, the father tells him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” That speaks of his being devoted to calling Yahweh his God, while memorizing the laws, life after life. He never gets to stay in heaven, because the Greek word “pantote” infers “at all times.” Thus, he does everything except submit his soul to Yahweh, like the younger son had done by then.
The elder son went into a fit of rage, when told the younger son was being celebrated. His test of Lent was passed. The 'fatted calf' sacrificed was himself; so, the younger son made his promise come true, serving the Father for the rest of eternity. The elder son's challenge accepted life after life is to get over self-worship, while pretending to be an equal to Yahweh in the material realm. Jesus pointed out how he was failing Yahweh once again.
When we read that the younger son was reincarnated and “went away to a distant country,” that becomes metaphor for one of the diaspora, who were scattered to the ends of the earth, after having lost their lands. This then makes those who hired him to slop the pigs, while he himself was starved of spiritual food, says his employers were the leaders of Jerusalem [influenced by those serving the foreign Romans]. The Temple elite were who created the great famine that swept over the land. That famine means the leaders (the teachers of Law) never taught any Jews “how” to marry their souls to Yahweh. Slopping the pigs become metaphor for Jews being forced into tax collecting, just to stay alive.
This makes the younger son be like the tax collector Jesus saw in the Temple, silently praying to Yahweh for forgiveness. He knew he was sinning, without needing the Pharisees and scribes to tell him he was. His cries in silent prayer explained to God how if he did not collect taxes and keep a hefty share for himself, then he would not be able to withstand the demands of the Temple elite (trying to buy respect that was never to come). In essence, the trap of the material realm is fighting to serve those who benefit your human life the most, while neglecting to fully serve Yahweh. Thus, the younger son was forced to prostitute his own soul, because of the elder son.
This parable told by Jesus is very deep. Still, it needs to be seen as Jesus responding to criticisms of the Temple elite, who saw themselves as better than other Jews. They were blind to the fact that those other Jews depended on them for guidance, and they gave them NONE.
That is a human way of existence. It is being a sinner while thinking one is blessed by God.
The same state that existed then, prompting Jesus to tell this parable, exists today. There are Christians that do nothing but tell other Christians what not to do, while none of them are saying, “Get out of the pew and count on Yahweh listening to your prayers for salvation."
Raise your hand if you have ever gone to a Catholic-style church and stood and recited a confession of sins.
<Look for raised hands.”
That is not a sincere plea for forgiveness. That is nothing more than telling Yahweh, “See you the same time next Sunday, when I’ll have more sins to confess generically.”
Staying in a pew for a lifetime is not the ministry that Paul wrote comes with being given Yahweh’s “Anointment.”
I see the bus is coming soon; so, I’ll end here.
Please, take time to spend deeply reflecting on this parable, asking Yahweh to help you see the truth.
No one is going to save your soul for you. You have to save it on your own.
I look forward to seeing everyone again next Sunday. That will be the last Sunday in Lent. Until then, do take care of your souls.