A parable is a story which reveals the truth- the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. Each time we hear a parable we learn something new. There are essentially three characters - three main people- in this parable- The father, the younger son, the prodigal son who left home, and the older son. There is truth about ourselves in the two sons and the truth about God in the father.
For the people hearing this parable, it was shocking, because the younger son had asked for his inheritance. He essentially said to the father—I can’t wait for you to die—I want my inheritance NOW. I need my money NOW. I want to do what I want. You can’t keep me here. The son wanted to be a rebel. What would your reaction be? If you were the father, what would you say? What would God say?
This father shockingly said, “ok.” He gave his son his inheritance knowing that the son would leave. God always respects our free will.
I am sure that, at first, the younger son thought it was wonderful-he had all this money and he didn’t have to worry about anything. He could have a great life.
He had lost all his money. He squandered the money on drugs, alcohol, and parties. He ended up eating with the pigs—homeless. Then he woke up --- he said I need to go home—I need to go back to where I started. He didn’t want to go back because he loved his father and brother. He wanted to go back for selfish reasons. He had run out of money.
But would the father take him back? Would the father let him in the door? What would you do? At that time, among the Jewish people, once you left, you could not go back. You were shunned from the family. Some families may say, “You’re dead to me.” Can we ever say that to anyone? Can we ever say that to another family member? Aren’t we all part of a family?
The wayward son did what each one of us needs to do—go back home -- to have Christ in our lives, not just one day or one hour but every day and every moment of the day- not just to say prayers but to know and experience the continuous presence of God.
But will God take us back? Will God take us from where we are? Even if our motives are not perfect?
The father in this parable tells us what God the father does.
The father is actually waiting for the son and spots him at a distance, a long way off.
The father is waiting for his son. God waits, and waits, and waits, and waits. (Pause to reflect).
When the father sees the son walking over the hill, he immediately runs out to meet his son who is ready to come back home.
The father is so joyful and forgiving; he throws a party for him.
It didn’t matter to the father that the son has wasted his money—it did not matter what the son had done—what was important is that the son was coming home. It didn’t matter that the son was not perfectly repentant. The father was just happy to have him home.
Sometimes we think that we are waiting on God, but God is waiting for us.
We realize in this story that God thinks differently than we do—that God is forgiving and is ready to accept us back no matter what we have done.
All that is needed is that we are willing to go back home.
For us to go back home, we must know that we are forgiven.
We must know that no matter what we have done, God is waiting for us
God is looking out for us.
The problem with the younger son in the parable is that he did not appreciate the life he had – he thought things would be better on the other side—that he would be a lot happier if he had more money and more freedom. He's care that he had a job to do.
This happens to us all the time we don’t appreciate what is right here in front of us. What is worse is that we become apathetic; that we don’t care that we have responsibilities. We don’t appreciate the wonderful life God has for us.
Surprisingly, the father gave his son a robe -restoring him to be part of the family again; a ring -to show him his commitment, and sandals—giving him the freedom to walk away again.
The older brother is jealous. He wonders why the father never gave him a party. Jealousy is common among family members. Was the father unfair to the older brother? Did he treat the sons equally? Was the older son right? Maybe the older son felt cheated? In our eyes, he may have been cheated, but not in God’s eyes. Each of us is different. God doesn’t compare us to one another. God loves us all equally. Sometimes God has to work harder to bring us around. Each of us is different. When we say that everyone must be treated the same, it doesn’t recognize our uniqueness.
Hopefully, the older son would be able to love his brother again. Hopefully, the resentment he may have felt can be healed. Some people struggle with life more than others. That’s why we welcome those who suffer from addiction or homelessness. It doesn’t matter how they got there. At some point, we have to learn to forgive and welcome everyone.
Let this be the moment, not later today, or tomorrow or next week, that we decide that we can return home. Each of us is like the prodigal son, and each of us will be welcomed home by a loving father. Let us pray for our society that we can return to our Christian way of life in which each of us is different, and each of us is respected.
God is waiting for us.