We might be familiar with the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11, but if we focus on some of the details of the story, we can learn a lot about God's mercy. There was a man with two sons. The younger son, for reasons we don't know, demands his inheritance while his father is still alive. This demand is insulting to the father on more than one account. First of all, his father is not dead yet. Here is the son effectively saying to his father, "you are dead to me." Second of all, he is the younger son. Typically the younger son didn't have much claim to an inheritance at all and here he is in all his pride demanding the inheritance from his dad. It is a sign already of the father's love that grants the younger son his request.
There are three details that I want to focus on in this column. They are the details that highlight for us the real situation of the younger son.
- The son moves away from home to a far off country. This isn't just a geographical point. The son has moved from his origins, he has forgotten who he is. He is away from the father. He is estranged from him. He feels the abandonment that is wrought by his own doing.
- He squanders his property. This notion of his property doesn't just refer to the money he wasted. The younger son has squandered himself. He has whittled away at his own being and identity. He doesn't know himself anymore. We can imagine him not recognizing himself in the mirror.
- When the younger son is on the brink of starvation and yearns to eat the slop given to the pigs, when pigs were considered unclean by Jews, we see really the depths to which he has slipped. He seems not to be able to get out of it. He is stuck.
In a moment of inspiration, he decides that a life as a slave in his father's house is better than starvation. He resolves to go back home, confess his sins against heaven and against his family and believes that his father would receive him as a slave.
Of course, the Father doesn't receive us slaves, but in his mercy, the mercy on display in this Year of Mercy, and in the rest of the story of the prodigal son, he makes us sons and daughters. Tune in next week for the rest of the story.
Last Week's Home Suggestion: Place your hope in Jesus and allow him to bear fruit in your life. That fruit will be love, joy, and peace at a time when I suspect that we could all use a little more fruit.
Rectory Christmas "Wish List": I thought that I would put together a wish-list from the rectory. This list is exactly that, a "wish list," so if you have a connection with the bearded guy in red and white, this is what the rectory would ask for:
- new tablecloths for the dining table in the rectory
- a clock radio for the basement laundry room
- I've been thinking about purchasing a new couch for the upstairs common room in the rectory, anyone want to help?