Summary: Something new about the story of the Prodigal son?+
We`ve heard the story of the Prodigal Son so often that it`s hard to find something new to say about it. Well, I have a friend who`s full of quirky ideas which make you think. One day he asked "Who do you think was most like Jesus in this story?" - what do you think we said?..... "The Father, of course". "Well, I think the fatted calf was most like Jesus! His whole purpose in life was to die so that people could have a feast!", said Ron........... of course we laughed. But it certainly made us think.
There are three main characters in this story - the Father and two sons.
The younger son is totally selfish - "I wish my Dad would drop dead so that I can get what is mine" he thinks - and son one day he goes to his Dad and says, "Put your will into effect NOW so that I can get out of here and enjoy myself" - and his Father did what he was asked! But can you imagine how he felt - the pain it gave to him! He wanted the best for his son, but he also knew that he would lose the lad completely if he didn`t let him go.
And what about the other son - the story`s near its end and everyone`s happy but him! He says to his father, "I`ve slaved away for years to please you, and you`ve never given me a thing. But this son of yours comes along, having wasted everything we worked for, and you give him a PARTY - for goodness sake..........".
But the lad had missed the point. The father says, "Son, when I gave your brother HIS inheritance, I gave you yours too - everything is yours. It`s your farm, your land, your family - it`s even your fatted calf. I hope you`ll excuse me for killing it without asking you. But, don’t you see, you could have had as many parties as you liked without asking me, because it all belongs to you.......... the trouble is, you never believed it".
Yes, he had everything, but thought he had to earn it. No wonder he was such a misery.
So there we are - two sons, focussed on themselves - grasping at everything and dead inside.
One father focussed on his sons - full of life and joy because he had given everything away - what a contrast.
There is a poignant moment in the story - the younger son has gone. There`s no news at all of him. Day after day the father stands at his front door thinking "Will he come home today?" Everyone thinks the old man`s gone potty - "you`re wasting your time. You`ll not see HIM again", but still he looks, and longs for his son`s return.
And then one day, on the horizon, a tiny figure - and something about that figure the father recognises - and something else about that figure too, it`s sheer hopelessness - nowhere else to go but home! And what happens next could have been so different: "You ungrateful wretch! Don`t come back here with your tail between your legs".
But it wasn`t like that at all.. "Whilst he was still a long way off, the father saw him and had compassion on him, and ran and flung his arms around him and kissed him" Kissed him - after all he`d done to hurt his father, his father kissed him - and said "Welcome Home!"!
There`s something great about that kind of exhuberance. Seven years ago I did a job exchange with an American Priest in Minneapolis - we both had a wonderful time, Jill and I with his church folk, John and his wife with ours. When our three month period ended, in some ways neither of us wanted to go back home. But it was what happened to him when he arrived back in Minneapolis which was so moving - lots of people were at the airport to meet them and greet them with streamers and banners saying, "WELCOME HOME".
It was that great exhuberance which touched Jill and I when we were there - the warm, welcoming, generous enthusiasm of a people who were not afraid to say what they felt and tell you that they loved you, hug you and make you feel at home.
Exhuberance like that is attractive. It makes you feel wanted - it makes you feel at home.
That`s what Jesus was saying in this story - the exhuberant generosity of a father who loved his son so much that he was prepared to let him go - and then was ready to welcome him back when he came to his senses and realised what he had been missing - for the Kingdom of God is like a party where everyone can feel at home!