John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Faith 2.0 hosts a monthly theological reading group. If you're local and interested in joining us, leave me a comment or shoot me an email.

This month we read The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen. It's one of my favorite books of all time, and I'd like to use some of the more quotable sections of the book as a springboard for some conversation here.

The book was inspired by Nouwen's encounter with Rembrandt's painting, Prodigal Son.

In the Prologue, Nouwen tells about the first time he saw the painting:

One day I went to visit my friend Simone Landrien in the community's small documentation center. As we spoke, my eyes fell on a large poster pinned on her door. I saw a man in a great red cloak tenderly touching the shoulders of a disheveled boy kneeling before him. I could not take my eyes away. I felt drawn by the intimacy between the two figures, the warm red of the man's cloak, the golden yellow of the boy's tunic, and the mysterious light engulfing them both. But, most of all, it was the hands -- the old man's hands -- as they touched the boy's shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before.

Realizing that I was no longer paying much attention to the conversation, I said to Simone, "Tell me about that poster." She said, "Oh, that's a reproduction of Rembrandt's Prodigal Son. Do you like it?" I kept staring at the poster and finally stuttered, "It's beautiful, more than beautiful...it makes me want to cry and laugh at the same time...I can't tell you what I feel as I look at it, but it touches me deeply." Simone said, "Maybe you should have your own copy. You can buy it in Paris." "Yes," I said, "I must have a copy." (p. 4)

Is there anything in the world that strikes you like that? Anything that makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time?