The Prodigal Son - A Retelling

Tues 10th March

The story of the so-called Prodigal Son is a story we think we know so well! But what if we look at the story in a slightly different way? The Father in this version of the story is God (as per the traditional interpretation) but in this telling, God’s two offspring are The North and The South… 


The North came to God and asked for their share of the inheritance. God gave it to them and The North used the resources they had been given to develop, burning fossil fuels to meet the demand for energy. Markets flourished and more and more goods were produced to satisfy demand. Advertising was invented to create even more demand and for a while the dream of a better life was sustained by The North’s belief that they could buy happiness and fulfilment. 



Meanwhile The South continued at home with the Father and lived as they had always lived before. As The North became more and more hooked on the dream of development things started to fall apart. Someone predicted that their fossil fuels would soon run out. Then someone else brought forward evidence that all The North’s activity had changed the climate. All this started to niggle at The North’s conscience. For a while The North was able to argue that it was just a natural cycle of the Father’s resources that was occurring. However, as more and more information was gathered the truth became inescapable and inconvenient: what The North was doing was the cause of the problems. Furthermore, it was now affecting The North’s sibling, The South, and their Father too. The North realised things had to change…



Quite how this particular interpretation of the story ends remains to be seen! However, it remains at the heart of Christian belief that the Creator has given stewardship over this earth to humankind. How then is it possible that humankind has so dramatically and systematically destroyed it through misuse! 



It is widely accepted that the increases in storms and violent events of nature which have been seen around the world in recent times have their causes in human-made climate change. This forces us to ask how, as humans, we need to live in order to avoid having a negative impact on how nature and the climate develop. Changes in the climate are not just an environmental issue, they are a justice issue and an ethical issue too. The developing world is suffering most, but it is the developed world that has caused most of the damage. 



The ethical stance we choose to take in relation to climate change will affect both our own lives and those of generations to come. The actions we are prepared to take and those we do not or will not take will have dramatic consequences for the present and the future. Part of the problem of course is that we can just about get away with thinking that it doesn’t affect us here, in Europe, in the UK, in the Manchester & Stockport District. Although many of us will know people in other parts of the world whose lives have been affected by natural disasters. 



Yet the call-to-repentant action which is at the heart of the story of the Prodigal Son is one which we can all respond to in the choices we make and the decisions we take. In the traditional story, the second son was angry that the first son had squandered the gifts that his Father had given him. It is easy to understand and relate to his anger. So what will it take for us - the first son, The North - to come to our senses? For us to fall before God and confess ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your child'?



Rev David Hardman is the Superintendent minister in the Hyde & Denton Circuit.

Slow Down, Save the Planet is being funded by the Manchester and Stockport Methodist District

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