by Pastor Red
Luke 15:11-32: And He (Jesus) said, "There is a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had & took a journey into a far country, & there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, & he began to be in need. So he went & hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, & no one gave him anything.
"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise & go to my father, & I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven & before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.' And he arose & came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him & felt compassion, & ran & embraced him & kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven & before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, & put it on him, & put a ring on his hand, & shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf & kill it, & let us eat & celebrate. For this my son was dead & is alive again; he was lost, & is found.' And they began to celebrate.
"Now his older son was in the field & as he came & drew near to the house he heard music & dancing. And he called one of their servants & asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, & your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe & sound.' But he was angry & refused to go in. His father came out & entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, & I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, & all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate & be glad, for this your brother was dead, & is alive; he was lost, & is found.'"
In this great parable of Christ, you will have noticed that I have accentuated the word "celebrate" each & every time it appears. While this parable is chock full of different things that teach us so many things, as all of God's Word does, I want to concentrate on the celebration, why it is so important to the father, & so disgusting to the "obedient" son.
Often in this world, the Christian church is criticized for celebrating in the midst of troubles. We can even pick at each other for the extravagance of our celebrations. A small church can envy & complain about the amount of money a larger parish spends on decorations, lights & "unnecessary" tinsel & glitter. But even in the face of the world's complaint of any time we celebrate the smallest of blessings from God, we need to see things from the father's point in this parable. He saw this grand party, with the best of best being consumed, as necessary. He could do nothing else. When his rebellious son went away, he was literally dead to the father. He had severed all ties to his family, friends, & whole village by selling off his share of the wealth. He may have been living & breathing, partying & carousing, but to those who really cared & knew him, he was dead. His return, no matter his shape, condition, or reason, was a true return from that death. It was as miraculous to the father as if he had sprung up from his death or clawed his way out of the grave. In the sight of this wondrous miracle, this earth-shattering gift, a celebration, no matter how grand, was the least any loving father could do.
As far as the world is concerned, they see no reason for celebration because they are still dead. They have never known the connection to a loving father, much less the pain of that separation from all that gives us true life & breath. Without that knowledge, the world only sees its own reasons to party, the selfish, the transitory, & the flashy but useless. In this respect, the world is like the "obedient" son.
I have used those quote marks because I don't think that son is as obedient as he seems. He has never done any deeds to the contrary. He has outwardly done everything his father has asked, but where is his heart? If he was a true son of his father, he would have been just as happy, just a joyous, just as ready to celebrate his brother's return. But this second son is more like the world than his father. He only sees what is in this world for himself. He has no true love & care, just a calculator that tallies up the easiest & best way to get what he deserves. He begrudges all his father is doing because it is supposedly coming from his pocket. He sees no need to celebrate because he sees no miracle, no return to life, no resurrection.
As we get closer & closer to all the celebrations we have at the end of our year, please take time to see through the father's eyes. Let the return to life, through Christ, change your sight & see what this celebration is truly about. Celebrate His real gifts, His life that returns us to the Father, & the resurrection from the dead that He gives to us.