The Fourth Sunday of Lent: What if…?

By Virginia Holmstrom

This post is part of a Lenten Series. For other posts in the series, click on “Lent” in the list under “Find Posts About…” in the menu on the right. 

Photo by Guillaume Rodier, adapted, used by permission Creative Commons License

Photo by Guillaume Rodier, adapted, used by permission Creative Commons License

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

I confess that the Bible’s overabundance of masculine pronouns disturbs my indignant advocacy to lift up the voices of women and girls—named and unnamed, with voice or silenced—in the stories recorded in the Bible and in the stories of modern day women and girls. I realize that, for me, the male imagery in the Bible can limit my understanding of Scripture. Sometimes, like today, I’m not even aware of it happening. I was reading today’s highlighted Scripture in Luke 15. Jesus overheard the murmurings of the religious leaders: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus responded by telling them the parable of the prodigal son.

I have read the story of the Prodigal Son many times. I’ve studied it in Bible studies; I’ve listened to countless sermons about it; I’ve even acted it out in drama exercises, taking on the role of the elder brother, the prodigal son, and the father.

I’m startled to realize that I’ve never, ever contemplated the parable by recasting the story’s male characters as women and girls. What if? ….There was a church women’s group that had nurtured and mentored girls through their AB GIRLS group, and one day one of the girls ran away from home to go meet someone she had met on the Internet. She became a victim of abuse, she was taken against her will to seedy motel rooms and locked up in abandoned buildings, her body sold and sold and sold again for money that she never saw. Finally left for dead in an alley among the trash heaps, she hovers on the edge of consciousness, her spirit broken, her body torn and bruised, her self-worth long gone. What if?…. she weighed her chances of rejection if she were to go home and, drawing upon every last ounce of strength and ingenuity, she found her way back to her neighborhood, and she convinced a guy at the gas station to call home and announce her return. What if?….the church leaders turned their backs on her, recoiling with disgust and gossip. What if?….you were the girl…or her Sunday school teacher?

What if?….the girl had not been a part of your church family; but instead, you merely caught a glimpse of her story as a statistic on the news. What if?….her story had happened in Calcutta, or in Las Vegas, or in your neighborhood.

The story of rejection and abandonment by God’s people happens every day, everywhere. The story, in fact, happened on that day when one was arrested, scorned by the religious leaders, tried, convicted, and crucified on a cross.

During this Lenten season as we follow the journey of Christ to Calvary, ask God to gift you with grace and mercy and forgiveness. Then extend it to others. Celebrate and rejoice when a child of God was dead and comes to life, when once lost, is now found. Now that’s amazing grace!

Virginia Holmstrom 2012 smVirginia Holmstrom serves as executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. 

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2 thoughts on “The Fourth Sunday of Lent: What if…?

  1. Virginia, you provide a very powerful re-imagining of the biblical story, both for women and girls and for our time. Thank you for thinking outside the box and for sharing!

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