The younger of them received the resources he sought. He was free to achieve whatever he wanted to achieve — or to achieve nothing.
Actually, the first-born son had the same options. He remained with his loving father - secure in the relationship his father established with him - appreciating the resources and guidance that were his in that relationship - finding meaning and joy in the responsibilities that went with those resources and that guidance.
You and I have been given an entire universe of spiritual and material resources by our heavenly Father Who has also given us the freedom and the responsibility to set the priorities and the goals for the use of those resources in our lives.
Blessed by God, we are free to live our lives totally confident in the relationship God has established with us now and eternally – like the first son in Jesus’ parable.
The second son chose a different path. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country; and there he squandered his property in loose living.
In that far country, the younger sonlived for the shallow pleasure he could find there. He made no investments for his future — temporal or eternal. He had no time to correspond with his loving father – hardly even thought of him.
And when he had spent everything the big blast was replaced by the big hangover and the hard look at reality. The bills came due — they always do— if not in monetary currency, then in truly expensive spiritual, mental, and emotional currencies. Everyone and everything left. All he had left was himself — and a rather pitiful self at that. And when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse - a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.
What was he to do? He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country — to a person who was completely in tune with the life, beliefs and customs of that country.
The citizen of that country sent him into his fields to feed swine. Remember those hearing Jesus’ parable were of the same culture as that younger son — a culture with strong Biblical sanctions against any and all contact with swine. No animal was more unclean to Judeans and Galileans than swine. And Jesus tells us the young man would even gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate.
The pods were from the carob tree.
In Biblical times, carob pods were used strictly as animal fodder. The prodigal son had sunk to the level of the most unclean of beasts and couldn’t even have the food left over from those swine.
No one gave him anything.
The young man had nothing — not even self-respect.
He began to think of where he had come from. He thought of his father whose love and support he had always taken so for granted. He thought of how well his fatherhad provided for him and tried to guide him to spare him the degrading situation in which he now found himself and how little he had given his father in return. He thought of how completely he had abused the freedom, resources and guidance his father had so lovingly given him.
With as much humility as he had ever felt in his life, the young man thought, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.’”
How much the young man’s thoughts seem to echo the lyrics of that hymn we sang just moments ago — “Just as I am without one plea ... and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot ... O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” Remember Jesus is telling a parable. The loving father is God Who created, sustains and loves us totally and completely. The younger son is every human being who has ever strayed from the relationship God so lovingly and faithfully seeks to have with each and everyone of us. Forgiveness and reconciliation are what God came to earth as the flesh and blood Christ to restore for us.
The younger son arose and came to his father. How low his head must have bowed — “Just as he was without one plea”. Not worthy to be a son, he came to plead to be a hired hand and knew his father did not even owe him that.
While the young man was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced and kissed him. Notice how his father rushed to him and embraced him. Isn't that The Gospel? God always rushes to us - makes the first move - comes to earth as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ to receive us, suffer, die, and rise for us. While we allowed temptation, sin, and lack of faith to distance us from God, God came to us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ. God our loving Father Who art in heaven loves us that much.
Mark Twain once said, “When you get to see St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, go right in and leave your dog outside. Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." That’s kind of the essence of Jesus’ parable of The Loving Father.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS — OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR. AMEN.
The Sixteenth Sunday of The Trinity Season September 9, 2018