The Nourishing Place

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Sermon, March 10, 2019

The Prodigal Son

Throughout the New Testament we see ordinary people grumbling because Jesus loves sinners and was even accused of going to their homes, enjoying meals with them, and befriending them.  What does that tell us?  Jesus loves all people, yes, even sinners, even people who stray so far away they feel lost.  That’s what today’s story is bout.

This story, often called the Prodigal son, is really about three people not just the son.  It is about the father, the younger son, and the older son.  We need to understand what the word “prodigal” means.  It means extravagant. 

The younger son wanted to live his own life.  He asked his father for his share of inheritance so he could go to a far country and “find himself.”  The father granted his wish, the son went off, and yes he found himself destitute.  He had spent his money on selfish living, wining and dining prostitutes, probably gambling away his inheritance.  Where did he find himself?  He found himself tending to pigs and hogs and wishing he had as much to eat as they did.  In the Jewish world, swine were unclean animals.  So to tend to them would be the very lowest estate you could be in...the bottom of the social rung.  The younger son was wastefully extravagant and lost all he had.

The father missed his son.  Eagerly waited to hear from him.  But he did not receive any information about this son for years.  Then one day the father was out in on the grounds and he saw a poor, bedraggled man struggling up the path and the father recognized him.  Did he wait for this man to come to him? No, he ran toward the man, realized it was his lost son, and he grabbed him, embraced him, loved him and yelled for his servants to bring a robe, a ring, and sandals to his son who was lost and was now found.  The robe, the ring, the sandals means he reestablished this young man as his son and rightful heir. He said bring out a fatted calf and we shall celebrate his return. The forgiveness was easy and natural...for the father was extravagant in his love for this child.  The father in this story is like God.  No matter how far we stray, no matter how lost we become, no matter how wrong we treat him, God is waiting for us just to look toward him, take one step toward him and he races forward to grab us, embrace us, and reestablish us as his beloved children….forgiveness is easy and natural because God is extravagant in his love for each of us.

The third person in this story, of course is the older son.  He was also extravagant.  He was extravagant in his self-centered-ness, in being resentful, and even hateful toward his returning brother.  He was jealous of his brother.  He complained that he, the older son, had always done what was right but his father never gave him a celebration.  But his father said you have always had everything I have but you refused to enjoy it.  This son was so extravagant in his jealousy that he failed to enjoy the fullness of the life he already had.

This story tells me lost people matter to God.  And most of us at some time in our lives have been, or are, lost, even if temporarily.  We are human and we have a rebellious streak in makes us strive for independence.  It makes us want full control of our lives and not have to listen to what other people teach and say and do, and most of all we don’t want God interfering in our lives.  We want to be free!

And, yes that desire for control of our own lives without the love of God as our guide, is often our downfall.  When we feel life has let us down, that we have been hurt too often, that we don’t have what we think we want or deserve, we let go of the one thing that can and does save us from ourselves, and that is the love of God that is always available, always eager to reconnect us.

Both of the sons in this story learned a lesson that you and I also need to learn:  Hell on earth is knowing the truth too late.    The truth is, God is life, God is all of life, God is love, God is forgiveness, God is compassion and all of that plus so much more is offered to you when admit you need God and his guidance.

Each of us is a rightful heir to the kingdom of God today.  Come home to God.  Bring your friends and family and feel the joy of belonging to a family whose center and strength is God...shown to us through the loving kindness of Jesus, the Christ who loved lost people, who loved the outcasts, who befriended the beaten.

My question to you today is:  Can you be a prodigal Christian? Can you be extravagant in the love you have for all people, especially those who are different from you?  A better question is this:  Will you this day choose to be an extravagant lover of humans of all races, all political persuasions, and all who are different from you.  If each of us attempts this ideal of life we can change our lives, our church, our community and God will take care of the rest.

Lets encourage each other.  Be a prodigal, extravagant Christian starting today. Amen