Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
I grew up referring to this parable in Luke's gospel as the Story of the Prodigal Son. Maybe I am not alone in this regard. But, the focus seemed to be on the wasteful, recklessly extravagant son. I think it is an understandable mistake in so far as most of the passage is spent in the description of the degenerate state of the younger son. The end of the passage focuses on the selfishness and jealousy of the older son. In either case there was a lot with which to identify. In my brokenness I can easily identify with both of the sons.
However, the message, the good news, in this passage begins with the setting of the scene. This man (Christ) welcomes sinners and eats with them. I can't help but think, "Good thing or else he would be eating alone!" Christ then continues with the parable of the prodigal father. The father in the story welcomes the son home with open arms, no recriminations just pure lavish love. The father cannot resist but celebrates lavishly wanting all to participate in the feast. According to the dictionary, the first meaning of prodigal is recklessly extravagant. The father is as guilty as is the son; one is as selfless as the other is selfish.
In this time of Lent, I am, as is the younger son, called to return, in quiet and trust, to the Father. I am encouraged to come in my brokenness and sit at the table and eat with Him and with other sinners. Realistically, what does this mean for me, in my life, in my circumstances? Who shall I eat with? Will it be my elder neighbors who tell the same boring story over and over again? Will it be the sloppy, loud kids who party all night long? Will it be the young couple with the new baby who possibly feel overwhelmed with the joys and responsibilities of new life? Will it be the sick neighbor who is suffering and difficult to be with? Will it be my neighbors of a different faith background, or a different ethnic or racial heritage? Will it be the student who is impossible in class? Will it be my colleague who can never get it right? Will it be the kid down the hall who no one talks to? Will it be the homeless and hungry? Will it be the battered and sheltered? Will it be friends and family? Who will I lavishly and extravagantly welcome to my table?
The challenge for me this Lent is to return to the Father and enjoy
His extravagant lavish love and then to live in that love.
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