Based on Luke 15:1-3,11b-32
A little guy went home from Sunday school and his mom asked what he’d learned that day. “We learned about the prodigal son,” he said. “Oh, and who’s the prodigal son?” asked the mom. “He’s a guy that took a bunch of his dad’s money and spent in on wine, women and gambling, and then wasted the rest.”
Somewhere along the line you’ve likely heard this story from the gospel of Luke. What more can be said about it? It’s an amazingly powerful story and if I had to choose only one piece of scripture to say what God is like, this would be it. Of course it’s got human nature pegged pretty well too. And like the best stories, we can likely see a bit of ourselves in all the characters.
This is the third parable that Jesus tells after the Pharisees grumbled about who he hung out with… sinners and tax collectors – he even ate lunch with these losers. Jesus doesn’t justify himself – he simply tells stories of lost sheep, lost coins, lost children, and a scandalously forgiving parent. This story has even deeper meaning, if that is possible, when we understand it in the `honour and shame’ culture of the middle-East world.
But for today, I just want to tell you a wee story.
It happened 15 years ago. My daughter and I were both under a tremendous amount of stress; our world was in turmoil, and despite our best intentions, we took it out on each other.
We had a fight one night that had us both screaming and hitting and she walked out and she didn’t come home. I think it was a Thursday. It was a terrible night. The next day she left a message saying she was safe, but wouldn’t tell me where she was. I called a friend that night and poured out the story. She said to me, not unkindly, `Juanita do you know how many parents would give the world just to know their child was safe?’ By Sunday morning she still wasn’t home, but at least I knew she was with people I trusted. It was a hard morning to be at church. When I got home, I saw her boots by the door; she was curled up on her bed in the basement, feigning sleep. A big shiny truck pulled up to the house and two teenagers from church got out. They brought me hugs and a card, and when I opened it, little happy faces fell out onto the snowy driveway. I sprinkled the rest of them down the steps to my daughter’s room. And I baked apple crisp.
Now, she didn’t come home and fall to her knees and beg forgiveness and ask to be allowed to do all the chores for the next year. Still, when I curled up beside her on the bed, she stirred and finding a green pencil crayon and a used envelope she scrawled one word – `Sorry.’
Later, when she came upstairs, I motioned toward the apple crisp – “I killed the fatted calf,” I said. She nodded and ate a double portion.
I invite you to reflect on a time when you felt estranged from someone dear to you. What did that experience feel like? What did you most want from the other person? What was your greatest wish for the other person?
This is deeply personal stuff so you may want to just hold your memory gently, or if it feels ok, you would be welcome share it…
In the story, the father kills the fatted calf, to create a feast of celebration. What would your favourite home coming meal be? Who would be there to welcome you? Who would you love to welcome home? What would you cook up for them?
In what ways might our communities and the world be changed through acts of reconciliation, such as in the story Jesus tells?
How might we, individually and as the church, demonstrate love that restores and reconciles?
(there was some fine and tender story sharing at church today)
We ended the reflection by singing James K Manley’s awesome song: `Music & Dancing’ where the father tries to convince the older brother to join the party to welcome the prodigal son home.