THE PRODIGAL: WELCOME HOME, SON

       “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself: ‘At
home, even the hired men have food enough, and to spare.  I will go
home to my father and say: I have sinned against Heaven and am no more
worthy to be called your son.  Please take me as a hired hand….

          So, he returned to his father.  And while he was still a
long distance away, his father saw him coming and was filled with
loving pity and ran out and embraced him. . . his father said to his
slaves:  ‘Quick, bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him.
 And a jeweled ring.  And shoes….And kill the calf we have in the
fattening pen.  We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine
was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.

           So the party began.                                                                                                                                                                        

 Luke  15:17-24  THE LIVING BIBLE

        We spent a good bit of time discussing how the Prodigal finally “came to his senses” and came home.  And we listened to the speech he composed and rehearsed on his way back.  Surely, like some of us, he was very sorry and ashamed of his performance.  The highest point of the story, it seems to me, was when the Waiting Father rushed out to meet the Prodigal and hushed the son before he could finish his prepared speech.  Without scolding, he said:  “That’s not necessary my boy!  Let’s have a party.  Let’s celebrate!  My son, Welcome home!  Welcome home, my son!”

          If Jesus had been giving a play instead of telling a story, this is the point that would have probably brought the house down.  It would certainly have been the highlight of the play for me.  Isn’t it amazing how Jesus told such simple stories so beautifully and powerfully to make His points? Jesus was saying, “your Father in Heaven is like that.  You come home, and He’ll come out to meet you.  Be done then with self-recriminations.  Accept His gracious invitation and “Welcome Home, Dear Child.”

          I never learned to whistle loudly like a pro.  When I played baseball, I used to envy the guys who could fold their tongue up in a contorted fashion, or put a couple little pinkies in the corners on their mouths, and cut loose with a shrill sound that could wake the dead.  From dead away centerfield, they could rattle eardrums in the stands. My DAUGHTER can do that with the “best of ‘em” and every mom or dad who attends her sons’ athletic events in Atlanta will agree in stunned silence, ears ringing after such an exemplary demonstration.  You ever of ‘Whistler’s Mother?’  Meet ‘Whistler’s father!”

          At a time like this, I’d love to be able to whistle like that.  In coming out to meet the boy, embracing him lovingly, throwing a feast, Jesus was telling us something wonderful about God:  We don’t need to be estranged from Him.  He never wants that.  Never!   He always wants us to be where we should be, and be welcome in the security of His love.   He forgives freely.  And he doesn’t hold grudges!  I tell you something:  That realization is thrilling!   It’s enough to cause applause that would rattle the rafters and create loud, long, uproarious standing ovations!  “T.P.” didn’t need to leave in the first place.  He didn’t have to stay away for so long either.  When that boy, ragged, broken, dirty and ashamed, came stumbling home, he was restored to his family position (the ring served as a symbol of that) and was guest of honor at a party on a Happy Day for the Father.           

          Earlier in my life I had the opportunity to work in a series of meetings with Dr. Calvin Thielman.  He served for many years as Senior Minister at the little church Ruth and Billy Graham attended in the village of Black Mountain in North Carolina.  Along with the great Dr. W. A. Criswell, I suppose he sort of served as “co-pastor” to the Grahams.  Calvin was a marvelous preacher.  I understand that he unofficially provided material for some of Dr. Graham’s work and some of the other associate evangelists.  I can easily understand why.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Calvin referred me to a Scottish minister, Alexander Maclaren’s book, Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush.  It contained a story about Flora, a young woman who left home under less than happy circumstances.  She and her Dad, Lachlan, were at odds, and the young lady thought she could do better out on her on.  It didn’t work out that way. Finally, after years in London, ill and close to desperation, she made up her mind to go home and “face the music” and perhaps try to mend some fences before it was too late.  I pick up the story as she makes  her way back home.   Hesitantly: 

          All the way along the glen the last words of the psalm still rang in her ears, “Rejoicing shall return,” but as she touched the footpath to her home, courage failed her. Flora had written about her dead mother, but no one could speak with authority about her father. She knew the pride of his religion and his iron principles. If he refused to let her come home, then it had been better for her to have died in London.  A turn of the path brought her within sight of the cottage, and her heart came into her mouth, for the kitchen window was a blaze of light. One moment she feared Lachlan might be ill but in the next she understood, and in the greatness of her joy she ran the rest of the way. When she reached the door, her strength had departed, and she was not able to knock. But there was no need, for the dogs, who never forget nor cast off, were bidding her welcomewith short joyous yelps of delight, and she could hear her father feeling for the latch, which for once could not be found, and saying nothing but “Flora, Flora.”

         “She had made up some kind of speech, but the only word she ever said was “Father,” for Lachlan, who had never even kissed her all the days of her youth, clasped her in his arms and sobbed out blessings over her head, while the dogs licked her hands with their soft, kindly tongues. 

           “‘It iss a peety you hef not the Gaelic,” Flora said to Marget  afterwards; “it iss the best of all languages for loving. There are fifty words for darling, and me fither would be calling me every one that night I came home.’”         

            That’s sort of like the point Jesus was making.  You don’t need to be hesitant.  If you’ve been “away from home,” your father wants you to return much more than you want to return.  What more encouragement could you need to begin your journey back to faith?

  God’s servant, your brother, friend and fellow student,  ~donkimrey

          A concluding thought:    I’m probably going to complete this present study next time.  After the first of the year, I’l introduce some more of God’s “Comeback Kids.”  I’m serious about wanting you to find out how they did it.  And when you do that, I feel very confident that someone, somewhere, sometime is going to say: “If they can do it, so can I.”In the meanwhile, my heart and mind are focusing on Christmas.  I hope you’ll do the same.  Specifically, I’m asking myself several questons, for which I hope to find some answers in Scripture.  (1.)  Why did God cast those people (Mary. Joseph. The shepherds? The wise men?)  in what was undoubtedly the great centerpiece of history?  Not a celebrity among them.  Not a single Ph.D. or Nobel Price winner!   (2.)  Why did God pick that PLACE in time and history?   (3.) Why did God decide to introduce His Son in that barren, nearly desert land?  Couldn’t He have selected a more scenic backdrop for this great drama?   Think about it.  Share your thoughts with me.  Watch what that will do to your own appreciation for the introduction of the Light of the Word into the darkness that existed “in those days.”

 

 

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One response to “THE PRODIGAL: WELCOME HOME, SON

  1. The Parable of the Prodigal Son highlights a distinction between Judaism and Christianity. The former has traditionally placed the emphasis on God the father forgiving you on your return. The question there has always been what constitutes a “return”. The latter has traditionally placed the emphasis on God going out to get you. The Atonement begins with the Incarnation. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps not the complete Christian gospel in the sense that the father met the prodigal son half-way: he ran out to him when he saw him returning. It would have been a different parable if the father had went out and found him eating with the pigs and pulled him out of the mud. However, I do marvel at the simplicity of the son’s move to repentance: he “came to his senses.” No grand theological conversion there: just self-interest. The Parable of the Lost Sheep seems a better exposition of the complete gospel, though the subject is not a human being. The question is how you understand God’s initiative and influence in bringing about repentance and forgiveness. Neither Christianity nor Judaism seem to be saying that forgiveness is available without repentance. Both seem to say it is act of sacrificial love that brings about an initial repentence (Incarnation, Parable of the Lost Sheep etc.) or completes the process of deepening repentance (Cross).

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