Prodigal God

Prodigal Son – Luke 15

During the season of Lent, River of Hope is constructing the sermon time together. You’ll hear that reflected in the audio and see it in the notes below.

Set up scene from last week: Jesus is teaching to the scribes and Pharisees who have been criticizing who Jesus hangs out with – the tax collectors and sinners. Yet who comes to listen?

The first is about one lost sheep and the shepherd leaving 99 to find the one, which no shepherd worth their weight would do. And the second story is about a woman who loses a coin and drops everything to find it. At the end of both stories there is rejoicing by the finder, but the finder always goes to get friends to rejoice with them as well.  Now, the 3rd story is today: the prodigal son. Why do you think Jesus tells this third story? What’s different about it than the first 2?

Who is lost in this story? Both sons are lost.

Why did the son leave in the first place?

Does the prodigal repent?

What causes him to go back?

What does he ask – to be a hired hand, not even to be the son again.

Knows he is dead to his father, knows he is lost.

Why did the son suffer? (famine, squander, no one helped him, dis-respected his father)

These others are not beyond redemption.

Those who are lost will be found.

“Son you are always with me” – you are with me. you have me. I am yours. This one needs me.

The first 2 stories tell pretty clear stories of the lost being found and then rejoiced over, partied over. This third story then gives another angle – the shadowy brother saying, “it’s not fair!”

There is no reason why the father should welcome the son home. He, like the older son, could be counting the cost of all that the younger son put at risk, squandered. The damage he did to the family name. There is no reason the son should expect to be welcomed home and treated as anything less than a servant.

But that’s not the kind of God we’re dealing with. I watched this Netflix original show called the OA. In it, a woman poses as the mother of a student who is in serious trouble with the school for violent behavior. So the woman, who knows the kid, Steve, goes in to speak with the teacher who is going to expel Steve. After the teacher’s impassioned explanation of the boy’s behavior interfering with those who are there to learn, the woman who is called OA, asks her why she teaches and that perhaps she’s forgotten why she teaches. She goes on, saying to her “Steve is lost. He’s the one who needs you.” She ends up reminding this teacher why she began to teach in the first place. She’s there for the ones who need teaching, not the ones who don’t.

Which is why Jesus tells this story of the lost son and the resentful son, knowing that the scribes and the Pharisees will see themselves in the story, counting the cost of all these others. The very nature of God is so expansive, it undoes all their math, all their keeping track of who is good and who is not. Who counts and who doesn’t. 

The sharpest line Jesus draws in the Gospels is not between us and them. 

The sharpest line Jesus draws in the Gospels is between those who think they get it but don’t and those who didn’t know they were getting it but were. 

The gospel is surprise and reversal. The gospel should shock us into a new way of life, a new way of seeing the world.  

A gospel call to insiders alone–or even first–short circuits Jesus’ surprising call beyond the boundaries of belonging we inevitably and sinfully use to circumscribe God’s relentlessly expansive grace. – Eric Barreto

No one is lost when it comes to the prodigal God!