A few weeks ago, my co-worker Nellie decided that in order to illustrate the Parable of the Prodigal Son, he would throw a big party for the 7th-8th grade students at our church. It was awesome! There was a DJ, there was dancing, there was food and flashing lights and it was well-done and a lot of fun. One of my fundamental theological positions is that God likes to party, and I thought this was a great demonstration of that. (I think 50% of my posts have to do with God and partying, so there you go.)
As I was re-reading that story this morning in Luke 15, the very last line from Luke 15:32 stuck out to me: “But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.” (To read the whole story, click here.)
This statement comes at the end of the parable. It’s a statement made by the father to the older son when the older son is upset about the party the father has thrown for the younger son. (This comes at the tail end of another story Jesus tells about a lost sheep and the joy and celebration that come when finding that sheep. I’ve always thought of this chapter in Luke as the “God likes a good party” chapter!) One of the things I’ve always taken away from this chapter is that for God, there is much rejoicing when lost things or lost people are found.
It seems like most people, myself included, typically make this into a morality tale where there’s a “moral to the story.” We place ourselves in the role of the father and say, “I should be welcoming to the ‘lost sons’ in the world like the father in this story.” (It’s always convenient to make ourselves the best looking character in the story, isn’t it?)
What I’m wondering this morning, though, is how am I like the lost son? What have I been given that I have squandered and wasted and ruined? Where have I really screwed things up? Where do I need to ask for forgiveness? Every one of us is a lost son.
And where am I like the older son? Where do I harbor resentment towards other people who “get what they don’t deserve?” Where do I block the flow of God’s love to other people because they don’t fit within my own view of what the church should be or my own political affiliation or my own personal preferences and comfort zone? Every one of us is an older son.
Finally, where do I need to realize that I am deeply and dearly loved, regardless of all the junk I carry around? Where do I need to realize that even my deepest, darkest secrets, thoughts, prejudices, mistakes, and grudges are wiped away and forgotten, giving me a brand new chance at life? Every one of us has a forgiving Father.
God, I’m thankful that you like a good party. I confess that I often don’t consider myself good enough to be invited to a party with you. I confess that it sometimes ticks me off that you throw parties for people I wouldn’t invite to a party. Help me to realize the breadth and depth of your love and forgiveness, not only for me, but for others as well. Help me to get over myself enough to understand that everybody’s invited to parties you throw, not just the people I want to be there. And may my life be an expression of the depth and breadth of your love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.