Even though we call this story “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” it’s really all about the father—that father who goes running down the street to embrace his no-account son; that father who goes out and begs his angry son to come inside to the party. God’s love and grace shines through this parable.
The parable reveals a lot about human nature too. When we look at these sons, we realize that neither of them loves his father. The younger son regards him as a “moneybag” to finance him in the lifestyle to which he would like to become accustomed. He is selfish and mercenary. The older son sees his father more as a boss than a loving parent. He is obedient but becomes resentful. In both cases, their relationship with their father is transactional: “Give me what I am due.”
The father, however, offers unconditional love and mutuality. He offers himself completely to his sons (the Greek word translated as “property” in the New Revised Standard Version literally means “life”) not based on their deserving or any transaction, but based on the father’s very nature.
The sons struggle to believe in their father’s complete and unconditional love. How much do we struggle to accept God’s? Whether we are weighed down by the shame of our past or by the self-righteousness of our deserving, we find it hard to accept that God loves us completely and unconditionally because of who God is, not because of anything we have done.
As we move toward Good Friday and Easter, we once again come face-to-face with the raw truth of God’s love. We do not deserve it. We have not earned it as reward for good behavior. God’s offer of love comes only through the nature of God’s grace.
Loving and merciful God, help me to see you running toward me with open arms and offering me all that is yours. Lead me into your loving embrace. Amen.
Lent is a time for focusing on our need for God and for remembering God’s abundant resources for filling that need. When the Israelites finally pass into Canaan, they observe the Passover as a reminder of God’s deliverance of them from Egypt. The psalmist, traditionally David, rejoices in the fact that God does not count his sins against him. Paul declares that through Christ, God has made everything new. God no longer holds our sins against us, and we in turn appeal to others to accept this free gift. Jesus eats with sinners and tells the story of the prodigal son to demonstrate that no matter how far we stray, God will always welcome us home with open arms. God never stops pursuing us, even if we feel unloved or unworthy.
Read Joshua 5:9-12. What stories do you tell about your faith? What do these stories help you remember?
Read Psalm 32. When have you hidden from God? When has God been your hiding place?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. We are ambassadors for Christ. How does your life display for others that life in Christ eliminates worldly identity labels?
Read Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. Do you identify with the prodigal son, the elder son, or the father in the parable? Are you ready to rejoin God’s household on God’s terms? Are you ready to welcome everyone home?
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