Jesus tells the story of a man who had two sons, the youngest of whom asks his father for his inheritance before his father dies. He then goes off and squanders everything on riotous living. Eventually, in desperate need, he comes to his senses and decides to return home to his father to offer to work for him as a slave.
Bible Reading: Luke 15:20-24
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.
The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
This story is full of imagery and full of grace as it explores the relationship between a son who has brought great shame on himself and on the father he has forsaken, and a father who never stops loving the son he has lost, no matter what he has done.
The returning son expects nothing from his father, except probably a rebuke; he has already squandered everything that would have eventually come his way. And yet, when he arrives home, tail between his legs, he discovers quite the opposite, he discovers grace.
The first thing he is aware of is that, while he was still a long way off, his father has been looking for him, peering over the horizon, never giving up hope that his son would return. As he gets closer he sees that his father has abandoned all of his dignity and is running towards him, so eager is he to throw his arms around him, to hug him, to kiss him and to welcome him home.
As for being treated as a slave, the father will have none of it, instead he puts the best robe on him and puts a ring on his finger, both signs of his unchanged status as a son. And then he really celebrates, he has the fatted calf killed and throws a party with music and dancing, for the son he thought was dead is alive and has returned.
Jesus told this parable, along with the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin, following a complaint by the Pharisees that he eats with sinners. Jesus’ reply to them is effectively ‘Yes I do, as does my Heavenly Father’, and with the logical consequence ‘And so should you!’
If you have ever felt a long way from God, for whatever reason, the message from this parable is that your Heavenly Father is scanning the horizon for your return, ready to welcome you back with open arms and in great celebration.
Father God, thank you that when I was far from you, you welcomed me back with great grace.
Give me the grace to welcome too those who are lost.
Amazing Grace, my chains are gone.