Sermon – 03-31-19 – Lent IV – Cycle C
Scriptures: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-23
Sermon Title: “Full Cycle: Coming Home (Reconciliation)”
Reconciliation. Making Up. Forgiveness. Love. Coming Home To Each Other.
How hard it is to make up. Somewhere along the way, a wise person told me that in conflict, there needs to be a way for all sides to be winners. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves to resolve conflict. This is not the “eye for an eye” of the Old Testament. This is “love your neighbor as yourself;” or even harder, “love each other as Christ has loved us.”
So in our parable today, one son is wayward and gets lost. One son stays at home and works faithfully and diligently. The audacity of the wayward son is great. He asks for his share of the inheritance before he leaves. Right there, most of us would have said “no way!” But then again, do we want a slothful son hanging around?
Whatever the father’s thinking, he gave his wayward son a decent amount of money. Off goes the son into sin city, squandering his money so that in no time the money is gone, caput. The son needs to earn money now. His self-image has dropped to the ground. A hired man he becomes. Worse yet, a Jewish man working on a pig farm! We suppose this son was Jewish, and we remember that pigs and Jewish people do not go together.
Here he is – the wayward son feeding pigs with no food for himself. The scripture says that “he would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating.” Every time I read this story, I wonder why he did not eat the food that he was feeding to the pigs. I think I would have, unless it was very hard, like field corn, which would not have worked well in his mouth and stomach.
So then this wayward and desperate son has a light bulb come on. He could be working for his father as a hired worker and would at least be fed decent food. Off he goes, leaving the pigs to fend for themselves perhaps. We don’t know.
The story goes that the father sees his son coming down the road when the son was still a distance away. This leads us to think that the father watched for this son continually. Does the father wait for the son to reach the entrance to the farm? No, of course not. This father runs along the road to embrace the wayward son! The father is so relieved, so happy! His lost son is found!
The son is quite surprised. He knows he does not deserve this mercy, this reception. But he was lost and now he is found! He tries to tell the father that he returned home to be a hired man on the father’s farm. The son does not expect to be returned into the household of the family. Here he is being honored with a feast, a party, a calf being roasted!
You and I know that something is not quite fair here. There are two sons. The one stayed home and was obedient. He is earning his place in the family. In fact, at the very time that the wayward son walked into this place called home, the older, sincere son was working at a distance on the farm. He did not see or hear this event. But as he approached the barn and house, he began to hear the commotion. What is going on he thinks? “What is going on,” he asks the first person he encounters?
The person proclaims, “Your brother has come home. We are roasting a fatted calf. We are celebrating! “What?” says the obedient son. “This is ridiculous. This is totally unfair. Where is my father?” The obedient son hurries to find the father and give him a word or two or more. Jealousy rises to the roots of his hair. That is not in the Bible. I can just see the skin tone changing, the hurt look on the face mixed with anger. “How can I be expected to join the party. I am so angry. Why shouldn’t I be angry? Wouldn’t anybody be angry?”
Now the father is upset. He was so happy. He cannot understand why the obedient son is upset and refuses to join the festivities. It is easy for us to say that the father should have had an open mind and understood the hurt that the obedient son was experiencing. The son bursts his reasoning to the father. He says, “you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.”
Then the father says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
This is not just a story from the 1st Century. This is a here and now story. This either reminds us of our own family or a family that we know.
The dilemma of being a parent. How much shall we do for our children? How much do we long to have them with us more than our children want to be with us? Do we do enough for our children, especially in today’s world. Do we do too much for our children? Are they spoiled? Are we fair with our children? Do we treat them as equally as possible? Do we rejoice over one more than another? Do we check ourselves to know if we are ignoring one child’s needs over another child’s accomplishments? If we have only one child, do we dote on him or her or do we pay more attention to our own life than to the child’s concerns?
Many of us can only look backward to when our children were young. Or, is there something we can do yet to reconcile what we did or didn’t do? Is there a chance that we can have a closer relationship with our children than we do? Is there a chance that we can strengthen our children’s relationship with God even when they are adults without harping, without getting on their nerves.
Many families find themselves in the same situation as the father in our story. One child becomes alienated by something – a word, an action. Is it too late to change that? I say, “Never too late, but how can it happen?” It cannot happen without asking God to direct the action. You see the father in this parable represents God our Father. He is concerned about every single child who exists. I believe that each person in this world was close to God at birth. Many of us wandered from that closeness. We become lost. Some persons managed to stay on the path and expect credit for doing that. But, our loving heavenly Father and Jesus, the Son, care about each one of us- righteous or lost. So we hear the voice of God the Father saying, “Child, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we have to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”