Last week I wrote about the prodigal son and his reception from his father, about sin and imperfection and about shame and love. Now I want to talk about how to “return home” to our Father/Mother/God who wants to celebrate us as we return to our natural home in God. The prodigal son(and daughter) has wasted his inheritance and his life in profligate living, out from under the laws and duties of a son, is now taking care of someone else’s pigs—the lowest job available, and thinks that he could at least do the same job on his father’s farm; he could come home to be a servant there.
The prodigal has nothing of his own. He is empty and has been abased by his own choices. Yet he sees being a servant in his father’s household as better than being a slave to someone else. He comes home pretty beaten up, down and out, empty.
What he discovers is that his father is awaiting his return, hoping that he will come back, watching in case he does. His father races out to hug him and then tells the servants to prepare a banquet, a celebration for his son who has returned to the fold. So here is the son full of shame and here is the father full of love. What a contrast! In a way, how disappointing for the son who would welcome punishment or the low position of servant! For the father it is a wholly different story. He doesn’t wear blinders. He knows what the son has done, and yet he treats him royally, restoring him to his former position as heir and son. What are we to make of this story? How can we reconcile our own harsh feelings about ourselves with the father’s love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an issue for the father. The father is not agonizing about what to do now that the son has returned. He runs out with love and forgiveness and compassion in his heart and welcomes the “sinning” son.
Jesus offered this parable so that we would all come to see that, whether we feel we deserve it or not, we are welcome in God’s house. It’s not about deserving; it is about our inheritance and showing up to accept it, regardless of how we feel about ourselves.
We really turn to God in recognition of our deep need for what fulfills us —not just to confess our belief in God– when we have played out all the things we have been taught to seek—the mammon/materialism in our lives: when we realize that they hold nothing for us, when we are willing to try a whole new way of living, when we are empty and hungry for what God can fill us with.
Come home empty and hungry. Leave your mistakes, leave your ego-driven-ness behind, come home spent, tired of the way you’ve been living, come home hungry for something that will truly fill you, and find welcome and celebration and succor and comfort. And find that there has been a place waiting for you all along. All you have to do is to show up.