The GospelLuke 15:1-3, 11b-32
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
So Jesus told them this parable:
"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. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."' So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate.
"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"
Repentance and Forgiveness
Who is the most unhappy in the story of the prodigal son? Ans. The fatted calf.
The parable of the prodigal son is one of the great passages in the bible. The father welcomes home his son, the son who was lost. The father is absolutely joyous that his son has returned. Not everyone in this story is so welcoming. The older son is jealous. After all, this older son has worked along side his father all these years. His younger brother, who squandered all his money, gets this big celebration when he comes home with his tail between his legs. Where is the fairness in that?
How many of you have felt slighted by someone who may have overlooked all the work you have done and given credit to someone you consider less deserving. In the parable of the prodigal son the father tells his older son that he has not been overlooked. He tells him “you are always with me and all that is mine is yours.” He says, “my son was dead and now he is alive.” Don't you feel that way when you come across someone who seems headed in the wrong direction and then they make changes that allows them to be more productive and healthy.
Jesus was sitting and mixing with people who were considered unsavory. He was even eating with them. He was breaking the rules but he knew his mission. It was to reach out to those who were lost and spiritually dead and to breathe new life into their souls. His mission was not to tell them how bad they were. He was there to tell them how good they could be. That was the good news. That was the promise of a heavenly kingdom. Jesus knew that he could not reach them by keeping them at arms length. And, you know what, Jesus's mission is our mission.
When I look out at all of you, the faithful, I see people who regularly attend services and you do all the unseen things that keep this place going. You do it out of your love for each other and your love of God. We gather for worship, for prayer, for coffee. We build a sense of community and at the same time we are here to find and nurture physically and spiritually those who need us. After all, they are our family. They are our brothers and sisters.
We have been given the grace to walk with God on life's journey. We take comfort knowing that the path we take will lead us to the heavenly kingdom.