Luke 15: 11-32
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
April 24, 2016
Luke 15:11-32: 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
One of the most powerful and moving stories of the Gospel! Most of us in this room have heard this story at least several dozen times, if not several hundred, yet every time I hear it or read it, I notice something different in the make up and the message of the story. Without a doubt, it is the dominant story of God’s grace! It is the compelling story of the father who welcomes his son, who he has said has “died,” back into the fold of the family. Even though he left on his own accord, refuting what his father had told him from the beginning. Then we have the part where, upon the wayward son’s return, it sends his brother “over the edge” that his father welcomed him with such open arms and celebration. Even though he was reminded that all that the father had was his and he never had to ask for anything.
I want to look at this wonderful, grace-filled parable in a little different way this morning as we place a strong emphasis on hunger in our lives, in our communities, and in the world. My friends, for the most part, we who have gathered in this room this morning do not “lack” for much in the way of good nutritional food. Now, whether we choose to eat good nutritional food is on us! Sometimes we make the wrong choices. Yet it is there for us. There are many in our world, our neighborhood, our community, that do not have the nutritional food they need. We have heard about this all through the month of April. We have provided food from St. Timothy’s to the local food pantry for years, and we have been active in making sure those in need get what they need.
But we can’t stop. We have to continue being agents of grace! We have to continue being like the father in the parable, welcoming those who are in need with grand open arms. Often times, when we work to the experience the means of grace, such as bestowing God’s love on others, we often lose sight of what the real interest is supposed to be. We tend to factor the parcel that we are to be the benefactors of God’s grace instead of the one’s whom we bestow. Rev. Jeffrey Snead puts it this way, “God has granted us a terrible agency: by denying forgiveness to others , we are in affect determining them unworthy of God’s forgiveness, and often without realizing it, we are declaring that we are also unworthy of the father’s forgiveness.” We are in a state of constant confusion and a dilemma when it comes to understanding God’s grace and the practice of putting that grace into action.
The father in the story of this parable this morning is the penultimate grace giver! That is what Jesus intended to portray; God is the one who bestows all grace in our lives, and we then, as the actors (the servants) in this God-given story must be the “grace given” in life and the world. We must be the ones who welcome those who need to be welcomed. We are the ones who must welcome those who are strangers and hungry. We are the ones who enact our lives in God-given, graceful fashion. We are the people who need to step forward in bold acts of grace and encourage the world to be a loving, grace-giving world to those who are imprisoned, hungry, naked and lost! We have to be the people who are strong in the face of injustice, racism, sexism, hunger, and slavery. We have to be “agents of grace!” Yet, in the oxymoronic state of the human condition we must constantly strive to be those agents; we have to comprehend that we too receive “grace” in our lives. Once again, we must receive before we can give! We must be nourished in order to nourish other people; others who have are hungry, sick, infirmed, lost, and lonely.
Therefore, let us be nourished at the Table of Our Lord this morning that we may serve the children of our God with grace filled lives to help fulfill the Kingdom of God ! Let us come to the Table of Our Lord.