With Easter still so fresh in our minds, I’ve been thinking recently about Jesus’ much-loved parable of the Prodigal Son. For me, it typifies the message of Easter: a father’s love knows no bounds when it comes to welcoming home a child who has strayed. As we follow the story we’re delighted when the son comes to his senses and starts the long trek home.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20
We’re not surprised this story is so popular. Some of us have walked the path of the prodigal. What a relief to be safely home where we belong! What a joy to know our Father’s forgiveness and the undeserved gift of reinstatement to the full position of beloved child, with all its privileges.
The father in this story had two sons. The older son who, in his own eyes at least, had never put a foot wrong, was not at all happy that his wayward little brother’s return was greeted with celebrations.
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! – Luke 15:28-30
It was clear to all who heard Jesus tell this story that the older brother represented the religious leaders of his time. What a challenge to us in the church today! How do we feel about God welcoming “prodigals” into our church? (Our church? His church!) Recently returned prodigals may not look like, sound like, behave like us. Will we join the angels in heaven in celebrating their return; or will God find us sulking outside the party?
This story reminds us that God loves “older brothers” too! Hear the father pleading with his older, self-righteous son to come down from his high horse and celebrate a wonderful, work of grace. How did he respond? Jesus doesn’t tell us. I think this was deliberate. We in the church get to write our own ending to the story. Let’s make it a happy one!
Prayer: Father we thank you for your love for your wayward children. Thank you for drawing us to yourself and welcoming us home. Forgive us when we have been less than welcoming to others by our words or actions. Guard us against ever feeling we deserve the privilege of our position in your family. Help us reflect your love to those we meet, regardless of their background or behaviour. Show us creative ways to present your love to others in our community in these unusual times. It is our privilege to serve you, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Song: “Softly and Tenderly” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI3TolPnAVM