Truth: Amazing Grace

This week’s gospel lesson from the fifteenth chapter of Luke about the prodigal son is a familiar story to both Christians and non-Christians alike. While the idiom is usually reserved for a long-gone person returning, the Bible story itself is one of amazing grace: a son selfishly goes off on his own to live a prodigal life – one of wasteful extravagance – and he winds up in destitution and poverty, eventually returning to his father’s household so he could work as a hired hand. But the father’s grace – his unmerited favor – is poured out on his prodigal son, who is welcomed back, reconciled and restored to his former life of love and acceptance. The son would assuredly sing out with joy the first verse of Newton’s hymn, “Amazing grace – how sweet the sound! – that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found…was blind, but now I see!”

De Terugkeer Van de Verloren Zoon c. 1669, oil on canvas, 262 x 205 cm.
by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

This prodigal son story is one of three used by Jesus to convey the inviting, welcoming, never-giving-up-on-us love of God. These tales of the great generosity of God is brought about because the Pharisees and scribes “were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow [Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them.”[1] These Jewish leaders are appalled that a rabbi would be in the presence of sinners and, more than that, this Jesus welcomes them and spends time with them! Hearing their disgust, Jesus shares three stories: one of a lost sheep, one of a lost coin, and one of a lost son. All three serve to demonstrate the lengths and depths to which God would go for God’s beloved creations, lengths which far exceed those which the Pharisees and scribes would permit. While these religious leaders uphold the letter of the law and grumble amongst themselves when it’s bent, Jesus shares with them the vastness of the spirit of the law and the amazingness of God’s grace.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with some great comment on this passage… staring at this screen trying to write some riveting, new insight that would really make this passage come alive for each of us. But perhaps that’s not what God is calling from this passage. What if God allows this passage to come up so frequently in the Church and in the world because we need to be reminded – again and again – that we are to reconcile broken relationships? What if God keeps bringing the prodigal son home so we can witness – again and again – the overwhelming love that God has for every single person who has wandered from God? What if God wants us to read this passage during lent to give us hope, to remind us of promise, to break through our stubbornness and guide us to be just as reconciling, welcoming, forgiving, and loving?

If this passage does anything for me this week it’s this: it reminds me that I, too was just as wretched as this son, but I am saved. It reminds me that I, too, was once lost but am found. It reminds me that I, too, was once blind but now see. It reminds me that I should be as loving and gracious as the son’s father…I should be as welcoming and excited when I see people seeking their Father…I should be generous and encouraging when I witness people coming Home.

Friends, I pray we’ll never forget the amazing grace that God has for each of us. I pray we’ll find ways to reconcile with our Heavenly Father who sees us and is filled with compassion. I pray we can see Abba Father running after us, throwing his arms around us, and kissing us with great affection. I pray that we can hear our Creator’s voice whisper in our ear: “My beloved, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” May each of us live in the Amazing Grace of our Father.

much love. sheth.

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[1] Luke 15:2, New Revised Standard Version

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