Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Many of us can identify with the prodigal son – we have been lost and now are found….incredibly thankful for the abundance of Grace our god gives us in our return, even when we hope to just be servants at the table.
However, given a little thought – we can also recognize the older brother in ourselves as well. Especially if we’ve been home – in the right with God for some time now. And truthfully – it is an understandable place. We’ve been here all along, why celebrate someone new – and not us – who have been through thick and thin alongside each other, faithful, serving, diligent and dutiful in faith?
Yet so often we focus on the sweet return of the prodigal son we forget the message here isn’t entirely directed at him or his brother.
See, most of us have been taught to believe that this story is allegorical, that is each character represents someone else. Specifically, that the brothers represent humanity and the father is god. But with much of our teachings when we put this into context where it was originally told, we find ourselves with a new understanding.
This story in its literary context doesn’t fit that mode. The lost coins and sheep that come before it are stories or grace where rejoicing is found in the grace of seeking 1 lost. The father is just another father. He has one son who is lost, and one who he presumes is with him, but realizes that his firstborn is missing something too.
So, if we look again, this story isn’t necessarily about God as father, but is about the grace that comes to us all. Parents and children alike. The younger prodigal son hasn’t necessarily fixed his ways yet, in fact some would argue that he’s just still scheming, but his father welcomes him home anyway, ready to keep teaching. The older son, confused and hurt by his brother’s actions first and then his father’s responses in both divvying up the household and in welcoming him home sees an abundance of grace and struggles to understand. The father who loved his sons greatly, recognizing this in both of them, received the grace and joy of welcoming a lost son, and in trying to help his oldest believe in his love.
So where do we find ourselves? Are we the prodigal child? The oldest child? The parent seeking wholeness in our family? Truthfully, we could be all 3.
The grace portrayed is the point of this story. How we forgive, seek reconciliation, and celebrate it is the point of this story. The process that comes after the celebration must continue to seek healing, for it is left unresolved. But with one who seeks grace, we find that all are given an abundance of grace and this is the celebration. Our lives can be filled with messiness and struggle but grace is still present and possible for us all. So, friends, whether you identify with the prodigal child, the dutiful one, or the parent, there is enough grace, more than enough in fact, for us all. How we experience it, how we share it, and how we are changed because of it is what matters. May we experience grace abundant, may we be full of joy in sharing it with others, and may we be transformed by it in all that we do, amen