The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt (c.1669)
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
By chance, Catholic priest, theologian, and author Henri Nouwen saw a poster of this painting by Rembrandt. He was struggling in his life with, “physical exhaustion, emotional restlessness, and spiritual emptiness.”
Seeing the poster spoke to him of what he longed for, home. He traveled to St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) to see the original work. Spending time viewing the painting had a profound effect on Nouwen. “I came to see it as,
somehow, my personal painting, the painting that contained not only the heart of the story that God wants to tell me, but also the heart of the story that I want to tell God and God’s people.”
The encounter with this painting caused him to write one of his best loved books, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. In it he wrote, “For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself.I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
What is your reaction to this painting?
Think about your responses to the questions Nouwen poses. Discuss it with a friend or family member.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann categorizescPsalm 33 as a psalm of orientation: all is right with the world.
This is in contrast to a psalm of disorientation such as 74 (also called a la-
Psalm 33:2 reads, “Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre! Sing praises to him with the ten-stringed harp!
Click here to hear the music of a harp from King David’s time.
July 1 Psalm 30
July 2 Psalm 31
July 3 . Psalm 32
July 4 Psalm 33
July 5 Psalm 34
July 6 Psalm 35
June 30 Psalm 29
You can read the Psalms at www.biblegateway.com.
The UCC provides a thought provoking devotion each day. It is brief, but you will find yourself thinking about on and off all day.
Follow the link here to read.
You can also have it come to your email in box each day,