Devotion for Thursday, March 24

“’But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

(Luke 15:32)

This Sunday we will hear the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son. And often when we hear this story, we are used to hearing it as a call to come back to God, for us to picture ourselves as the Prodigal Son. We are used to hearing these words as a description of God’s forgiveness for us and that there is no sin too great that God will not embrace us and receive us back.

But Jesus tells this parable as a response to Jewish leaders who question why Jesus hangs out with “sinners.” He tells this story to those who will not accept “sinners” back. In other words, Jesus tells the parable to those who are the elder brother. And in so doing, he challenges us as well. How do we in the church still act as the elder brother? Where are we called to accept others?

The parable helps us in our call to forgiveness by inviting us  to experience what the younger son went through. We are with him in his “dissolute living.” We are with him in his desolation as he feeds pigs and even wants to eat the pig food. We are with him in his shame as he returns home. When we hear the younger son’s story, we can then reflect on our own stories. We all have a “back story.” Knowing our stories helps us accept one another better. As we tell and listen to our stories, we begin to take the steps toward forgiveness.

The parable then gives us an alternative to the resentment we hold toward others. Whenever we read these words, we usually are quick to identify the father as God.  And God’s love is like the father’s: always with open arms, welcoming us. But the father also stands for how we are called to be. We are called to be those who will welcome others, forgive others and love others. In other words, the parable gives us two characters to choose from when those different from us come to us: will we be the father or will we be the older brother?

The parable does not end there. The father not only reaches out to the younger son. He reaches out to the older one as well. Like the father, we are called to try to build bridges, reconciling others even when they are far apart. Forgiveness is a process that does not end. The love of the father does not stop until all are celebrating and rejoicing, until all are included in the party.

So let us hear this parable as a call to us. As we have been forgiven, so let us forgive others. We pray this every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer. This story invites us again to live into that reality.

God, I confess that too often I have dismissed others.

Too often I have rejected and condemned others. Create in me a clean heart. Form me in your image. Help me to live out the love and forgiveness you have shown me in Jesus.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

In Christ,

Pastor David