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The Prodigal Father

March 30, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 15:25–15:32

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
March 31, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Lent 4
The Prodigal Father

But when his older brother came in from the fields and neared the house he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and inquired what these things meant. And he said to him, "Your brother has returned, and your father has slaughtered the fatted calf because he has received him back safe and sound.

But he [the brother] was angry and did not want to go in, and so his father came out and pleaded with him; but he answered and said to his father, "Look! All these years I have been working for you and never transgressed your command, yet you never gave as much as a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has wasted your livelihood with prostitutes came back, you slaughtered the fatted calf.

And he said to him, "Son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours. But it is only right that we should rejoice and make merry because your brother, he who was dead is now alive; and what was lost is now found! (Luke 15:25-32)

If we were going to rank the Lord’s parables in order of importance this one, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, would surely contend for number one!

If you have been Christ’s for many years then you have heard it often. If you are a younger Christian then not so often, but all of us young Christian or old need to hear it today. For the young it will be enlightening. In it you will learn something of God’s boundless love and mercy! And for the old it will yield still new treasures, and so let us search the Scriptures together today.

The parable can be understood on several levels. The most obvious is that the Gentiles are the younger brother. Gentiles in Bible-speak means the entire population of non Jewish people. They are the prodigal sons of God. God created them, gave them life, bestowed his rich blessings of reason, intelligence and imagination upon them, but they turned away from him. They left him, and joined another family. They went on a journey “to a far away country,” and did not invite their good God to go with them.

The Jews, on the other hand, are the older son. They are the people who, in terms of this parable, were with God from the beginning. They were made bearers of God’s saving revelation to all the earth. They bore the end of sin, death and Satan, of all evil, injustice, poverty, pain, sorrow, sickness and death, within their corporate bosom. But instead of distributing it to the world they hoarded it; and thought it was only for them; and looked down upon their younger brother who was without it.

The older brother is right in his assessment. The younger brother did, indeed, prodigiously squander, fritter away, dissipate, desecrate and otherwise devastate the good and glorious gifts of God with prostitutes, and in doing every imaginable form of evil. They lived in pig slop just like Western Culture does today. The older brother, on the other hand, stayed with the father, worked for him, and served him with faithful devotion.

What is it, then, that makes this parable a contender for number one? Just this: That by it Jesus teaches Jew and Gentile alike; every man, woman and child; that his Father is our Father! Our good and gracious God. That he is indeed our Prodigal Father! Because “prodigal” also has a positive meaning: a person who does things lavishly, richly, generously and in a big, big way!

That’s what the Prodigal Son did in a negative sense. He lavishly did evil. He took God’s good gifts and used them against God. He brazenly sinned against God and did untold harm to his fellow man and could not stop! Would not stop! But raced blindly in the fastest lane of all …until he couldn’t. Until he hit bottom. But not the bottom that 12 step programs talk about. That is no bottom at all, but self-preservation.

But this son hit God’s bottom and then he woke up! May we all do the same! He came to the realization that he was living in hell’s waiting room, and nothing awaited him except temporal and eternal punishment! Except hell on earth, and hell in hell.

Have you come to that realization?

Not only did he not deserve to be called the father’s son, he had hired himself out to the devil. Played for the other team. Went to work for the other side and found himself not a “dope fiend” but a “sin fiend.” An abject, unqualified slave to, and plaything of, the devil who is incapable of mercy. Remember that the next time you decide to dance a little dance with him.

But the beauty of this pungent parable is that however far you have fallen into sin on the one hand, or self-righteousness on the other; however convoluted your complications, or histrionic your drama: we have a Prodigal Father.

His love is immense! His salvation incomprehensible! His compassion incomparable. His mercy immeasurable. And his grace in-expressible.

“O fear the Lord you his saints,” for he has slaughtered Christ the fatted calf on the cross. He has given humanity’s True and Actual Older Brother:

“E’re the world began to be. He is Alpha and Omega; he the source the ending he!”

God has heard our simpers of regret from the pigsties of our own self-created misery! He has, by his goodness, brought us to repentance by holy baptism; and here and now invites us to this Eucharistic assembly of the baptized: this church of the first-born!

In one of the Father Brown mysteries by the late great G.K. Chesterton Father Brown says this about a man he brought back from the brink of destruction:

“God has made me a fisher of men … I caught this man with an unseen hook, and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” That twitch brought you here today! Christ be praised!

He has led you to repentance, and dressed you in the finest robe, the robe of Christ’s own righteousness by Blessed Baptism. He put the father’s own ring on your hand, the cross of Jesus around your neck, and taught you to cover yourself with the “sign of salvation” marking you as one who belongs to Christ the crucified.

The angels of God rejoice over you as we join in the Eucharistic Celebration at the Father’s table today. As we hear the music, and dance the liturgy of salvation! Now the old things are passed away, and behold! all things are made new in us, and for us by Christ Jesus our Lord, “who knew no sin,” but “was made sin for us,” so that we might indeed become what we are today: “the righteousness of God in him!” Amen.