The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most well-known stories in all of Holy Scripture. Even after many years of hearing it over and over again, I still get goosebumps and an occasional wet cheek when I hear the father’s words “because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
I remember a moment about fifteen years ago when I thought I had lost my own son. We were at a shopping mall and I had to use the bathroom. Before I had a chance to finish, my son left the restroom suddenly and when I finished and ran after him, he was nowhere in sight. What was just a few minutes, seemed like hours as my wife and I frantically searched for him, engaged the help of mall security, and expected the worst. Those few anxious moments turned to joy when my son turned up after deciding to leave me and find his mother who was in another part of the mall. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy. My son was lost and had been found.
So maybe this idea of “lost and found” hits home with so many of us, and that explains the popularity of the parable. Loss is so much a part of our lives. We lose jobs. We lose loved ones. We lose heart. We lose ourselves. We lose hope. Loss causes an emotional vulnerability that can often overcome the recognition of all that we have in our lives. All of us have felt loss and have felt it deeply in our souls.
Maybe that emotional experience of loss is what unlocks the promise in this story. We also find jobs. We find loved ones. We find our hearts. We find ourselves. We learn that nothing important to us is ever lost forever. We find hope. The turnaround in this story is palpable, as the deepest human sorrow is turned around and met with the joy and love of the father.
This is the way of God and God’s relationship with all of us. God has claimed us as his children – forever. We may stray, doubt and deny. We may act selfishly and deny the interests of others. We may think we can actually use up all the grace that God has for us. We can consider ourselves lost. But this parable tells us that God never counts us as lost, always calls us to return, and rejoices when anyone of his children is found.
There go those goosebumps again.
Devotions for the Week of March 6, 2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.