Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 147:12-20, Joel 2:21-27, James 1:1-15, Luke 15:1-2, 11-32
In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, a young man demands his inheritance from his father, then squanders it on “dissolute living” until he is forced to become a swineherd and live among the pigs – a particularly low state for a Jew. When he is reduced to hungering for the pig’s slop, he decides he must return home. He is ready to humble himself before his father, but while he is still far off, his father runs to him, embraces him, dresses him in finery, and throws a celebratory feast. His older brother is displeased, and asks why the son who lived so recklessly deserved a party, while he who had been faithful to his family got nothing. The father famously replies:
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.
Jesus told this story because the Pharisees were complaining that he ate with tax collectors and sinners. Like the prodigal son, these people only had to take the first few steps toward Christ, and like the father he welcomed them with open arms and embraced their presence at his table. In a sense Jesus was also a prodigal son, but rather than being recklessly extravagant with his money he was scandalously generous with God’s love, much to the distress of his Pharisee brothers.
In ways large and small, we can all turn our backs on God. Maybe afterward we feel unclean, like we’ve ruined our lives and lain among the swine, and struggle to find the words that will render us acceptable again. Others may not think we deserve forgiveness, but no matter how far we have strayed, a contrite heart is all the apology God needs to not only welcome us home, but to celebrate our return.
In all of the Good News, is there any better news than a God who rushes toward us in love and forgiveness the moment we take that first step towards home?
Comfort: As soon as you come home to God, it’s like you never left.
Challenge: Call or visit someone you miss and haven’t seen in a while.
Prayer: Loving and merciful God, thank you for always being there with open arms. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever felt distant from God? Did you wonder whether you’d feel His embrace again?
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