Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3So he told them this parable: 11“There was a man who had two sons. 12The 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. 13A 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. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But 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! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20So 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. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But 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. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But 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. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But 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.’ ”
Episcopal priest and author, Barbara Brown Taylor, shares these comments about this story:
Two brothers. The younger brother lives entirely by grace. Having dishonored his father, emptied his trust fund, and all but starved to death, he has weighed his options and discovered only two: stay where he is and finish starving to death or go home and beg his father to take him back. When the old man surprises him by running to meet him—a dishonored father, running to meet the boy who did him wrong?—there is no doubt what forgiveness looks like, nor how much it costs. The younger brother lives entirely by his father’s grace. Will anyone tell him he is wrong?
The older brother, meanwhile, lives entirely by obedience to his father. The theological word is righteousness—or, if that is too musty for you—rightness. The older brother has devoted his entire life to being the very best—the most right—son he can be. He has never left his father’s side. He has never gone against his father’s wishes. He has been loyal, respectful, hardworking and honest. Will anyone tell him he is wrong? Unfortunately, the way this parable is usually handled, you would think his father did, but that is not so. The father has nothing but words of love for either of his sons. In the face of his younger son’s remorse, he orders his servants to dress the boy like a prince. In the face of his older son’s despair, he says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” This man refuses to choose between his children. All of his energy is focused on getting them back together again.
Remember that the family crime in this story is not addiction, sexual or physical abuse. It is undue forgiveness. It is undeserved love. IT IS GRACE.
The story is not just about two brothers – it is about two brothers and a father. The Father - He’s the real prodigal, for after all, the term prodigal means “extravagant; wasteful.” The father is the prodigal, in that his love is extravagant and more excessive than either the younger brother’s loose living or the older brother’s moral uprightness. The father embraces wrongdoers. The father welcomes sinners home, even at risk of losing obedient sons and daughters who cannot or will not do the same. (Copyright 1999 The Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor)
There was a man who was commissioned to paint a picture of the Prodigal Son. He went to his work eagerly, laboring to produce a picture worthy of telling the story. Finally, the day came when the picture was complete, and he unveiled the finished painting.
The scene was set outside the father’s house, and showed the open arms of each as they were just about to meet and embrace. The man who commissioned the work was pleased, and was prepared to pay the painter for his work, when he suddenly noticed a detail that he had missed.
Standing out in the painting above everything else in the scene, was the obvious fact that the father was wearing one red shoe and one green shoe. He was furious. How could this be, that the painter could make such an error? He asked the painter, and the man simply smiled and nodded, assuring the man, “Yes, this is a beautiful representation of the love of God for His children.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, puzzled.
“The father in this picture was not interested in being color-coordinated or fashion-conscious when he went out to meet his son. In fact, he was in such a hurry to show his love to his son, he simply reached and grabbed the nearest two shoes that he could find.
“God is the God of the Unmatched Shoes.”
You and me. We are saved by grace – God’s undeserved love for you and me. That extravagant love is the gift of the cross. The extravagant love is the gift of the empty tomb.
You are forgiven. You are loved. You are always welcomed home. Receive the gift.
Amazing Grace? Yes. Yes it is.
Let us pray: Almighty God, your grace is amazing. Thank you for welcoming us home. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen