A few weeks ago in worship we heard the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32). This most famous of Jesus’ stories tells of a son who does the unthinkable – basically wishing his father dead by asking for his premature inheritance, only to waste every bit of it in a foreign land and then be left starving in a pigsty (a shameful fate for a Jewish boy). Finally, at the end of himself, the boy “comes to himself,” and remembers that he has a father and a home. He retraces his steps home without knowing what reception awaits.
And that welcome is shocking – the prodigal arrives to find his father waiting for him with open arms. He never stopped looking for him since the day he left. The prodigal’s story ends with a lavish homecoming party.
But the parable turns then to his self-righteous older brother, outside the home, unable to bear the graciousness of his father. His story ends with an odd reversal – he takes on the role of the “lost son,” even though it is needlessly of his own making.
It’s a beautiful parable because at its center is this father who gives beyond reason, offers grace without margins, who keeps constant watch for one son’s return, and then pleads for the other to leave his gracelessness behind so he can join in the party of new, restored life. All the while, the story invites us to consider our own homelessness and homecoming, asks us to remember that no alien land away from God, “our Father,” can be where we belong; no pigsty will ever be home for the beloved children of God.
Easter is about the relentlessness of God to have us home. It is the true story of our Father, who will give whatever it takes to have us restored to him. In Jesus of Nazareth, we meet this God, who not only longs for our return, but comes to us to give God’s very self for us, so that we will never be lost forever. Even death is not too far a land for him – even that place, so foreign from a life-giving God, Jesus will travel so that we can be welcomed back into his celebration of life, which is where we most truly belong.
Perhaps this letter finds you so lost you’ve forgotten where home is. Maybe the pigsties of the world have tempted you to give up on grace, mercy, and redemption in this foreign place. If so, I pray that Easter will give you enough of a sense of homesickness that you will come to yourself and remember who you are: loved beyond measure, sought after, worth dying for, and worth partying for, when you, like the Resurrected Christ, are finally restored to the God of life.
In Jesus, we see the lengths the Father will go to have us home. In Easter, we celebrate that that home is ours forever.
Welcome Home and Happy Easter,
The Reverend Eric Long
Photo by Shelly Whitaker