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Father and Sons

Here are some thoughts on Sunday's gospel that were emailed to the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church.
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
 
3So he told them this parable: 11b“There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
 
25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”

Jesus begins the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” in this way: “There was a man who had two sons.” Taking us back to English class where we had to diagram sentences…what is the subject of the sentence? The man. What is the direct object? The sons. This helps us to get a handle on the parable. Rather than the parable being that of the prodigal son, it is the parable of the lavishly, generous father. 

It was not only the younger son who spurned his father’s love, leaving him and the rest of the family behind as he struck out on his own. The older son as well, in his anger scorned his father’s overtures to include him in the festivities at the end of the parable. 

And so, what this story really boils down to is that it is one about relationships—the relationship of the father to his children and the children to their father and each other. 

It is the same with us. Our lives are all about relationship—relationship with God, relationship with each other and relationship with our communities. When we are in right relationship with our heavenly Father, then we can be in right relationship with everyone else. Out of this kinship, let us be like the father in our parable, reaching out to each other and our world with joy as “3we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother [or sister] of [ours] was dead and has come to life; he [or she] was lost and has been found” (v. 32). 

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