St. Paul’s Congregational UCC
March 30th 2022
Scripture: Luke 15:1-3, Luke 15:11-32
Topic: The father who lost his son
We all lose things. Sometimes we think something is lost but in fact it is us who are lost.
In the text Jesus was on his journey toward Jerusalem. He stopped to be with friends and he taught and preach. Reminding those who would listen of the order of the day and that God was doing a new thing among them. He reminded them to open their eyes and to see the injustices, inconsistencies, and possibilities for them to be better, go deeper, to embrace the kin-dom of God within and without.
As he preached the religious sect of the Pharisees, and the teachers questioned his practice of the law by questioning why he associates with tax collectors (those who brough undue financial burden on His people for the romans) and with sinners. In response Jesus told 3 parables about lost things that were found and the value of bringing home that which was lost.
The parable that was highlighted in today’s reading is the parable of the father who lost his son. It tells the story of loss, transformation, and reconciliation. The son and the father are seen in a discourse that spanned years. It started when the son said I want my inheritance. In the shame-honor cultural construct of 1st century Palestine this was unheard of. Children did not ask for their inheritance before their parents died because it would be equivalent of saying “I wish you were dead.” The father did not correct the son. He divided the estate and gave the son his inheritance.
Many preachers focus on the son and his seeming insolence, ingratitude, lack of wisdom, etc., etc. However, at the beginning of this when the son asked for his inheritance, the father had the authority to say no; to change the situation or stop this in its track. Yet, for whatever reason, the father saw the direction his son was going and went along with it. What prevented the father from saying something?
Was he hoping his son would change his mind?
Was he heartbroken by the implication of the request?
Where was the mother? Was he over-compensating?
Whatever the reason, the son’s action and the father’s inaction resulted in the father losing his son.
The son left to a far-away region, and being young and inexperienced soon spent all his money and was broke and living on the margins. So, he took the job that was available, to raise pigs. In Jewish culture pigs were considered unclean and touching or eating them made the person unclean. One day while feeding the pigs and being so hungry that he wished he could eat the pigs’ food, he realized his dire condition, he hit rock bottom. He had a transformative moment, he repented and decided to go in another direction. He decided to go home because even his father’s servants lived better than this. It was years since the son left home, and when the father saw him coming afar off, he ran to him, clothed him with a fine robe, gave him the family ring, and threw him a party equivalent to a wedding.
When the son returned, his brother got mad and complained that this brother of his was not worthy of such good treatment. This reminds me of Joseph and his brothers who threw him in the pit and then sold him into slavery. This household, very much like many of our households, had some unresolved issues. However, the father welcomed the son with open arms and told his brother “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” The son was reconciled to his father and to his family.
We have all suffered loss: we have all made mistakes. Whether like the son, we were foolish or like the father we failed to stop something in its track, the result ended up being loss, loss of relationship, status, opportunity, honor, pride, money, hope, etc. We may have felt shame for our action and did not look back or we are living with that shame and loss. But we can change our minds, repent, turn around and go another way. Paul in Romans 12:2 wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” A mistake or loss does not have to leave us in the dust. We can repent, shift how we think about it, change our actions, turn away from the negative.
We are empowered to change our world. Christ summarizes the 10 commandments in the Shema to say, Love God, love yourself and love your neighbor. By doing so, we co-create a world that becomes the beloved community, where all can live in peace and justice. But it starts with us deciding to follow the leading of our God, making decisions to do that work, even when it is not popular and welcoming others to do the same.
Let’s co-create a better world, together.