Deep in our souls there is a longing for home. It shows up in our books, our movies and our songs. Our “homesickness” shows up everywhere, but it seems that few know the way back. Home has become this theme, this larger-than-life magnet that powerfully draws the iron shavings of our soul. But, underneath it all, home is not about a building, an address or a room. Neither is it about the comforts of familiarity. Those things matter, but it’s deeper. All of us have an innate desire to get back to that place where we are safe, where we are known, and where we are loved. Simply put, we all long for God. In Luke 15, Jesus tells a triad of parables about lost things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, this story is about a man who has two sons: one older and one younger. As we come to find out, both of them leave home. One son goes to a faraway land. One son leaves home by staying home. And both are invited to experience a Father who navigates the world of lost children. Both brothers are lost. Both brothers need help. Both brothers are at a distance. And both are invited home to experience the father’s heart, the father’s joy and the father’s love. God wants people “home”- including you and the ones you may think are too far away.
After spending a few weeks exploring the younger son and his time away from home, this week our attention turns to the father and his response to his runaway son. If it is true that "Every baby is born into the world looking for someone looking for them," then our understanding of the father's posture toward wayward sinners is critical for how we make sense of ourselves and the world. In spite of being hurt, disrespected and insulted, the father in the parable of the prodigal son demonstrates the pursuit of our Heavenly Father toward us. In all respects, Luke 15 urges us to behold the Father! Behold the Father's eyes, the Father's heart, the Father's feet, the Father's arms, the Father's lips, the Father's gifts, and the Father's joy. For those who are tempted to believe that their sin has made God the Father turn away in contempt and disgust, this parable tells a different story. The Father is delighted to bring "home" to us in unparalleled grace.
This week's sermon focuses on the journey of the younger brother who ends up in the far away country, miles away from his father and his home. Everyone who travels down this road eventually follows the same familiar markers and landmarks: the separation of shame, the isolation of shame, and the narration of shame. As we unpack this shame story, we discover a way out and a new story enacted by our Heavenly Father. To know our way back home, we have to understand how we left. We have to answer the question of God, "Where are you?"
The Parable of the Prodigal Son does not happen in a vacuum. In fact, it's the third of a three parable set that Jesus tells focusing on the motif of "lost things." As Jesus teaches about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and finally a lost son, He is not just riffing on a random theme. Rather, he is directly responding to a real life conversation with the Pharisees who grumble and scoff at Jesus' eating habits with sinners. In a sense, they are asking Jesus "why bother with lost things?" This week, as we step into the first week of this new series, we will explore the background of Luke 15, the other parables of Luke 15 and begin to examine the movement of the younger brother away from home. This parable has both a personal and a missional lens of application as we examine the journey home- both for us and for others. God wants you and others home to be safe, loved and known. And frankly, we struggle with that more than we know.