April 1, 2019
Scripture Luke 15:1-2, 11-32
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Then, Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.
Luke 15: 1-2, 11-13 NRSV
The parable of the Prodigal Son is only found in the Gospel of Luke. After losing his younger son to the siren call of fame and fortune, the father enthusiastically greets him in a major departure from parental authority and tradition. The story is pretty familiar: A father extends his deep, abiding love to an undeserving son, who is standing before him repenting of his wayward life. The prodigal son starts a well-rehearsed apology. But, the father cuts him off and demonstrates his unconditional love both emotionally with tears and materially with clothing, a ring, and a huge celebration.
This demonstration of the father’s love is obviously provided for us to make the comparison to God’s love and acceptance of us. After all, we remain sinners in life’s story: the imperfect beings in God’s good creation. God loves us unconditionally and accepts us without our forming any kind of formal explanation or even outlining our own plan to gain favor in the sight of God. None of that is truly necessary. God knows us and redeems us through Jesus Christ.
And, in keeping with the Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep, the parables that precede this one, the story could have ended right here. But, the author of Luke wants us to consider another aspect of our relationship with each other, the family dynamic illustrated here, and our relationship with God. If you and I have an abiding faith in God and God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, then we will understand that it is Christ himself who points us away from the anger, away from the angst, away from the hurt, and turns us toward the unifying love of God which we find in Jesus Christ.
As we work our way through this season of Lent, we should challenge ourselves.
Then, we can look with sympathy and empathy and place ourselves in the position of those who remain on the fringes and who continue in hurt and dismay. Then, we can say to them:
“You are loved. You are my own child.”
We must say to those outside our circle of trust and care:
“You are my brother and my sister.”
Because we live our life in Christ, we can say, “YOU are welcome here. THIS is God’s love.”