Summary: Before we can become the father, we must deal with our prodigal nature
Luke 15:11-32 June 13, 2004
The Return of the Prodigal
Returning to the Father
Over the Last few weeks we have been looking at this story of the Prodigal Son with the emphasis that we are all called to become the father in the story. But I also recognize that unless we deal with our own prodigal nature or our “older brother” nature we cannot truly become the father. If we step into the father role while still in the unreconciled state of the two sons, we will only lead people down our wrong path, rather than back to the father. Today we are going to look at the Younger Brother, or Prodigal and next week the Older Brother.
"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.
The Son begins his leaving when he asks for his inheritance before his father dies. It is a hateful request he is saying to his father that he wants him dead.
Kennet Bailey writes:
“for over fifteen years I have been asking people of all walks of life from Morocco to India and from Turkey to the Sudan about the implications of a son’s request for his inheritance while the father is still living. The answer has always been emphatically the same … the conversation runs as follows:
Has anyone ever made such a request in your village?
Could anyone ever make such a request?
If anyone ever did, what would happen?
His father would beat him, of course!
The request means – he wants his father to die.”
The Son is saying to the father, the only thing you have for me is your money. He solidifies this statement that home has nothing for him by leaving for a distant country. Where he wastes his money on wild living.
Some of you might relate well to the prodigal – there was a time in your life when you wasted your money and yourself on wild living. For some of you, the wild life might be your greatest temptation and therefore this story relates well to you. But for the rest of us, we never went through this outward rebellious stage, and are not tempted by it, what does the prodigal have to do with us?
I think that we all at some time have left home like the prodigal or have been tempted to do so. Anytime that we go looking to find our life outside of our relationship with God we are leaving home to go to a far off land. By asking for the inheritance and leaving, the Prodigal is saying “I want to have your resources, but not you. We become the prodigal when we want God’s resources without him.
This is what Nouwen writes:
Leaving home is, then, much more than an historical event bound to time and place. It is a denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God with every part of my being, that God holds me safe in an eternal embrace, that I am indeed carved in the palms of God’s hands and hidden in their shadows. Leaving home means ignoring the truth that God has "fashioned me in secret, moulded me in the depths of the earth and knitted me together in my mother’s womb." Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one.
Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: "You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests"-the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light.
He goes on later to say:
I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a child of God, the Beloved of my Father? I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me-my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts-and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God. Yes, I often carry them off to a "distant country" and put them in the service of an exploiting world that does not know their true value. It’s almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God’s love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent, Beneath it all is the great rebellion, the radical "No" to the Father’s love, the unspoken curse: "1 wish you were dead." The prodigal son’s "No" reflects Adam’s original rebellion: his rejection of the God in whose love we are created and by whose love we are sustained. It is the rebellion that places me outside the garden, out of reach of the tree of life. It is the rebellion that makes me dissipate myself in a "distant country."