7th January 2017

The Prodigal Dahlia

“…his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20 (NIV)

As I wrote this, there was one plant in our garden that got my full attention every day. It was a dahlia – and like other dahlias in the garden, I carefully stored the tubers last winter and replanted them in the spring. One of these flowers took a long, long time to grow – and now, in the middle of October, one solitary bud is preparing to bloom.

If plants could get jealous (bear with me on this one!) then I would have a garden full of envy. Why is their master’s focus on a dahlia that has taken all summer just to produce one bud? Poppies have filled the garden with colour throughout the entire growing season. Other dahlias have produced wonderful displays – indeed, they still are flowering, even though the cold nights are taking their toll. I have finally beaten the slugs and seen marigolds flourish for the first time. Why isn’t my attention stolen by any of the competition?

I don’t really know. Perhaps it is seeing this plant finally achieve its purpose in life. Yes, it may be only one flower, but this plant is now demonstrating that it, too, is a dahlia. The other plants bring me joy – but this year, this one dahlia has made me rejoice even more.

Does anything in that sound familiar? “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). God also behaves like this! But not with flowers – with people. All heaven rejoices over a sinner changing heart to return to God.

Thinking this through, that could cause indignation. Indeed, Jesus anticipates this. Luke 15 contains three encouraging parables – the lost sheep, the lost coin and the most wonderful of them all, the lost son. In the story of the lost (or prodigal) son, the elder brother throws a strop when he sees his father throw a party when his younger brother returns. “When this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:30). The older son refuses to join the party.

The father’s reply tells us what we need to know more about God’s heart: “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32). Yes, repenting sinners do appear to monopolise God’s attention. But we must bear something important in mind – we are all repenting sinners. Let’s not pretend otherwise. We have all caused our Father in heaven to rejoice.

So, as I wait for my dahlia, God reminds me of his wait for me – and his wait for you. The day you returned home filled him with rejoicing that overflowed to all of heaven.

Thank you, Father, for your wait for me, indeed, your hunt for me through Jesus. Help me to appreciate the joy that fills your heart – and to also rejoice when others turn to you in repentance.

Study by Ian Woodley

P.S. The Dahlia produced a beautiful red flower, with splashes of white on the petals….


About the Author: ianwoodley
Ian Woodley pastors the Nottingham Grace Communion Church.

Local Congregation:
Nottingham Grace Communion
Lucy & Vincent Brown Village Hall
Attenborough Lane

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Ian Woodley
Email: ian_woodley@wcg.org.uk

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One Response to “7th January 2017”

  1. Alisondonaldson on February 15th, 2017 7:55 am

    Hi Ian, I really like your dahlia story, partly because I love flowers and am always watching for any little sign of one poking it’s head up in the depths of winter or fighting for survival among the weeds! And partly because I so often feel like that little dahlia among the tall plants around me and it helps me to think that I am being watched over by God just the same even though I don’t feel very productive. You can see this by the lateness of this comment as I’ve struggled to put just a few words down, then found they’ve disappeared again from the screen! Or just looked at the size of the waves above me – there’s a mixed metaphor for you – but it’s what happens until I again see how my Maker is looking after me.

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