the one about prodigal...
April 1, 2019, 9:00 AM

Sermon from March 31, 2019

Text: Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

So, as we enter into this fourth week of Lent, we hear and read a parable in our gospel reading that is very familiar to us. In fact, it might be one of the most well-known parables in all of scripture. The story of a young man who demands his inheritance, goes off and lives the ‘good life’ in the world, spends it all, and comes back to his father who runs with opening arms for him. There of course is also the elder brother who is a bit resentful of the attention his younger brother has received upon his return and the father who comes to him in love and grace as well.

This is a story that we know well. But, I think because we know it so well, we tend to gloss over it, thinking that we already know all there is to know about this story. Yet, there is one thing that no matter how well versed in this parable that a person might be, there is usually one misunderstanding that we have about it – even something I’ve fallen victim to before as well.

This parable is typically titled ‘The Prodigal Son.’ So, that word prodigal. It isn’t a word that we typically hear of outside of this story. So, I want to ask you – what does that word mean? Anyone? Most think that it means ‘lost’ or ‘found’ or ‘returned.’ Something to that affect. Seems rational to think that. For this is a story of a son who lost his way and then is found when he returns to his home and father.

Perhaps the ‘lost’ definition can be applied to the elder brother as well. For he’s lost his ‘love’ for his brother and perhaps even his respect for his father. And still the father ‘finds’ him and calls for him to ‘return’ to the celebration of the re-emergence of his younger brother.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d definitely think that prodigal means ‘lost’ or ‘found’ because those words play such a pivotal role within this parable.

But, that isn’t what prodigal means. Not even close.

Prodigal means wasteful. Extravagantly wasteful.

And there is a lot of waste being thrown around in this parable. Sometimes in the most surprising ways.

Now, typically prodigal applies to those who spend lavishly in the finances and wealth that they have. This younger son insists and demands that his father give him his inheritance – now. Something that he cannot wait until his father dies to receive. In fact, I’ve preached it before that the younger son essentially tells his father, “I wish you were dead. So, I can live now.”

Surprisingly, the father gives his son what he asks. And boy does that son live into the prodigal life. For those who might be fans of the TV Show Parks and Rec, this son goes on a ‘Treat Yo’ Self’ lifestyle.

Food and drink? Treat yo’ self.

Clothes and accessories? Treat yo’ self.

Women and ‘fun’? Treat yo’ self.

He is living fully into the prodigal life. And then it’s all gone. Almost as quickly as it came to him. He then lives a life completely on the other side of the spectrum. He can’t be ‘prodigal’ in his living because he doesn’t have two coins to rub together.

So, he vows to return home and to the father he spurned.

And, here we get more ‘prodigal-ness’ dished out. But, this time it comes from the surprising father. For the father is extravagantly wasteful too. But, what he ‘wastes’ is his love and life. Or at least wastes it according to how the world then and even today would look at it.

He gave the son exactly what he asks for. He split his wealth and gave it to him so that he can go off and do what he wanted. Yet, as ridiculous as it is for the father to do that, what he does when that son returns might be even more ‘prodigal.’ He runs to meet his son as he crests the hill far from home. He throws caution and ‘respect’ to the wind in order to wrap his son in his arms once more. Brings him into the home and throws an incredible party for him. He places upon his body lavish clothes, feeds him wonderful food, surrounds him with friends and family. He celebrates.

The father is prodigal in his love. He shares it profusely with no regrets. He lives the ‘treat yo’ self’ lifestyle too. Yet, he gives and gives and gives. Instead of takes and takes. He lavishes upon this son all that he can.

And the third one in this ‘prodigal’ story notices and becomes quite upset. For the elder son has been ‘prodigal’ too. He’s been wasteful of what he already has from his father. He has the love, the life, the respect, the honor, the care. Yet, he doesn’t know. He doesn’t ‘care?’ He doesn’t live into what he has already been given. In ways, he’s ‘wasted’ his father’s love and life as well. He is ‘prodigal’ with his anger and frustration and resentment.

And yet, the father extends his prodigiously wasteful love upon this one too. Inviting him back into the home that has always been his. Inviting him back into the life that has been given to him. Inviting him back into the love that has always been there.

Inviting him back to mend the relationship with his brother, through him.

On this fourth week of Lent, we hear and read about the prodigal story. The prodigal life that these sons and their father live. The joy we hear this day is the father in this story is our parallel to God in our life. Our God and creator who is incredibly wasteful (in our eyes) with love. Sharing and spreading this love to any and all in the world.

Celebrating in full and beyond those who return from living a life vastly apart from the one who has given them life. Giving the unexpected – God’s very life – to the one who asks and demands it.

Our joy is God’s prodigal love for the world. Our joy is that in spite of our ‘prodigal’ lifestyle – God celebrates our return when we see that the ‘treat yo’ self’ life doesn’t fulfill, it doesn’t make us whole, it doesn’t satisfy us. We just crave more and more and this ‘stuff’ can never fill that insatiable maw.

But, God’s prodigal love can and does. This prodigal, wasteful, extravagant love tells us that we are already good. We don’t have to do anything, get anything, have anything to receive this love. It is given to us already. It was given to us in creation, it was renewed in us through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Whether we’ve lived a life of wastefulness or lived a life of frustration and resentment – our God runs to us, meets us where we are, wraps arms of love and grace around us, and invites us back into the home and love that has been first given to us. Our God helps us mend the relationships that have been broken. Through God, our lives are made whole.

Our joy in Lent, is that God is prodigal in love to us and all of creation. And thank God for that. Amen.

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