Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Thorny Sermon: The Prodigal Son

From today’s Lectionary reading, the Gospel:

GOSPEL: Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11b – 32 (RCL)
Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11 – 32 (Roman Catholic)

Gustave Dore: The Prodigal Son in the Arms of his Father

Gustave Dore: The Prodigal Son in the Arms of his Father

Luke 15:1 (NRSV) Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Phar’isees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

17 But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ‘

20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’

28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

31 Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 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.'”

Sometimes people will leave off the part about the elder son, and just concentrate on the return of the younger son, focusing on the father watching always, hoping for the return of the younger son, ready to forgive and welcome before the words can even get out of the younger son’s mouth.

It is wonderful, and reassuring, for those of us sinners.

Many, however – including me – can also identify with the oldest son who says “I’ve always done everything right and you’ve NEVER given me a tiny goat, much less a fatted calf, and you’re throwing this party for the son who blew his entire fortune on louche living???”

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Isn’t that really the point of the story, that we can’t behave our way into heaven, it is sheer grace, the love of the heavenly creator, that allows us in? It’s not an easy concept to wrap my mind around, so today I struggle to take it in, and I give thanks for Father Neil who tackles the hard questions and doesn’t just sweep them under the carpet because they are inconvenient. (The sermon isn’t up yet, but when it is available, you will find it here)

March 10, 2013 - Posted by | Character, Charity, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Lectionary Readings, Relationships, Spiritual


  1. Our pastor also focused on the siblling relationship in his sermon on Sunday…interesting to think about that part of the story as we almost always focus on the reconciliation of father and son/God and man. I love that our churches use the same lectionary..would love to be able to have ” table talk” with you over a cup of tea each Sunday afternoon!

    Comment by Grammy | March 12, 2013 | Reply

  2. Oh, I feel the same way! We could go to breakfast together, just as we used to! 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 12, 2013 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: