In the sculpture, the younger son is kneeling next to his father, exhausted, worn out, relieved. Reconciliation, the gift, has been achieved, a sign of the good news of the gospel, the hope for new life. And yet, that frail father’s attention is not focused on his younger son, but on his older son, a tall strapping young man in boots, jeans, with his arms crossed, his face looking away. The father’s arm is outstretched on those crossed arms of the older brother. The older brother’s body is taut, tense, angry, bitter. It’s not at all clear what will happen next.
As you move around the sculpture, you can look at it from the perspectives of all three. But it’s in the sculpture, in its interrelations, that we discover both the gift of good news and the task of brokenness not yet healed, of witness yet to be offered.
The urgency of our task—of faithful study, of worship and prayer and spiritual formation, of service and ministry and witness in the world—is because there still is brokenness in the world to be addressed. There still is reconciling work to be witness to. There is still a faithful life to be lived. People are yearning like that father in the sculpture for reconciliation, for hope, for new life.
An excerpt adapted from “Practice Resurrection,” a sermon by former Dean Gregory Jones at the 79th Opening Convocation of Duke Divinity School on Aug. 30, 2005.
Reconciliation—Luke 15 Bronze Sculpture (2005) by Margaret Adams Parker, located on the Bovender Terrace of Duke Divinity School