Summary: Our Call to become the father in the story involves grief, forgiveness & generosity

Luke 15:11-32 May 23, 2004

The Call to Become the Father

“The Return of The Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen. This is one of my “must read” books for Christians – I even recommend it for non-Christians. If you haven’t read it yet, read it this summer. We’ll have a little book discussion on the beach at family camp.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to looking at some things that impacted me from the book. I read the book years ago, but I think that these things are important for us to hear now.

Let’s start with the story

Story of the Lost Son

Jesus told them this story: "A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, `I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

"A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money on wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

"When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, `At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man." ’

"So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’

"But his father said to the servants, `Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening in the pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. `Your brother is back,’ he was told, `and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

"The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, `All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have.’

"His father said to him, `Look, dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’ "

In the story, you might find that you relate most with the prodigal son, who rejects the father, runs off to spend himself and his wealth in wild living, hits rock bottom, comes to himself and returns to the father repentant.

You might relate well with the older son who has always been the good boy and felt unappreciated, never really knowing the father’s love for you and angry when those who do not deserve it receive it.

You might relate well to the father in the story, especially if you are a parent. Possibly you have a child, or someone you love who has run off to a far off country to live wildly, and you are waiting for their return

Last week I led you through a meditation on who you most related to in the story and what God is saying to you as you are in that place, and then we talked about how, no matter where you are in the story, the end is not to only be reconciled with the father, but the end is to become the father.

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