Today’s Lectionary Scriptures:
Joshua 5: 9-12
2 Corinthians 5: 15-21
Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32
Today’s Gospel passage is a familiar one. The story of the two sons and their father is one of our favorites. It reminds us that no matter how prodigal we may be, God always welcomes us home. We like this story. It gives us an assurance to which we can cling even in the most distant countries of our lives. We take comfort in its themes of forgiveness and reconciliation no matter what we do.
But I want to back up a minute. Today’s prescribed lectionary starts at the beginning of the fifteenth chapter of Luke and then it skips several verses. I think those verses are important for the context of our story. First Jesus tells of a lost sheep and the rejoicing of the master at its finding. Following that is the account of a woman who loses a coin. And now this…a father loses his most precious thing–his son and then rejoices at his finding. But notice that the father does not go in search of the son the way the other two did. When a coin is lost, the owner searches for it to bring its home. As important as it obviously is to the owner, it is still an inanimate object. The coin cannot choose to come home. And the sheep, while a living being, does not possess the gift of free will. The sheep will follow when its master comes to find it. But the son is different. The father does not stop what he’s doing and leave the older son and his property and home behind to chase after him. The son, as opposed to the coin and the sheep, must choose to come home.
Perhaps the point of this familiar story is not simply that God forgives us; perhaps the point is that we must choose to come home. After all, God’s forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love are always there for us whether or not we choose to claim them. Our journey of faith is not about God finding us but, rather, about our return to God. I don’t think these are three related stories of loss and finding. I think that instead the first two point to the third. God’s deepest desire is that we are indeed all found. But God, filled with love and compassion, is patiently waiting for us to decide once and for our deepest desire is to return home.
Grace and Peace,