God's  "Homecoming" Celebrations

Scripture     Luke 15:1-32


                             And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours,

                                   saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me,

                                       for I have found my sheep that was lost'...

                                  When she found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying,

                            'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost'…

                           Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

                                But 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.’




These three parables weaved together in Luke’s gospel today – the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son – become the stage for Jesus’ teaching about a radically new understanding of a bigger God who responds to the human journey of every one of us with mercy and compassion. Jesus urgently invites us to see beyond those judging, shaming and condemning images of God. These understandings like to keep ‘the sinners’ and ‘the righteous’ in two separate camps and this only creates animosity and division in the human family/community/world. “No, I’ll not have any more of this!” Jesus almost seems to be saying. Your God is a God of mercy and compassion. Your God is slow to anger and abounding in love and mercy. Your God stoops down to heal and bless the broken-hearted. Your God knows that we are all “prodigal sons/daughters” and we are all “elder sons/daughters.” The spiritual journey is all about this making our way back home to our true selves, finding our birthright and reclaiming it once again. Let’s get with the movement. It's time to get on the 'kingdom program'.



Yes, Jesus tells us our God will be waiting for us at the crest of the hill, coming out to us every day, every moment, encouraging us. Our God will be supporting us in our efforts at reconciliation with all those parts of ourselves that are still fragmented and longing for wholeness. Imagine such a God who loves a party and rejoices with all the friends of God when any “one” person finds their way home and back into a way of living in right relationship with oneself and others. It’s a big day in heaven… and it’s a wonderful day in the kingdom of heaven – here on earth!



Stories of relationships becoming ruptured and ‘lost’ happen in all our lives. A particularly poignant homecoming return was shared with me a few years ago. This middle-aged woman had undergone repeated rejections and misunderstandings from within her family members. No amount of reasoning or reconciling of differences could be reached. So, finally one day, she could take it no longer and left home. It was a couple of months before she felt the inner nudging to return and go back home and attempt once again to fit in. While still apprehensive and somewhat on guard about the ‘reaction’ this would cause, she steadfastly set out to act on this direction. Unbeknown to her, the mother had been reflecting upon the whole situation in her absence and had sought counsel about how to handle it all when, and if, the daughter ever did return. Then when ‘the day of reunion’ did happen, it came about that immediately as the daughter walked into her presence, the mother simply stood to greet her with her arms open and said, ‘Oh, I have missed you so.’  All that was needed for healing and reconciliation was one touch of this unconditional love and all hearts melted into a tearful, joy-full embrace. I’m home at last!


Jesus was speaking to grumblers… to those who cannot yet let in the truth that there are no exclusions in the kingdom of God. He has been hearing the Pharisees and scribes grumbling and saying among themselves - “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  They, the religious specialists, would have to set this young Rabbi straight! He was doing the unexpected. This was not how the Messiah, if that is who He is, is supposed to be; this is not what the Messiah is supposed to be doing. They had read and studied about the coming Messiah. They judged that he did not ‘fit’ what they knew. Therefore, they concluded he could not be the “One Sent’. To see Him eating with sinners repulsed them.  In their code of propriety there were just certain places that one did not go, persons with whom one did not associate…and they had a law that spelled all this out for everyone.  Why was He daring to contradict their Law?



Jesus answers their confusion, their dilemma. He reflects back to them that, as righteous onlookers, of course you cannot experience what is going on inside all this feasting and merry-making. Sure it must blow your minds – the Son of God sitting down at table with such ease in the company of sinners! And Jesus says, “You’re right. I am sitting down at table with sinners." I am rejoicing and being present to them in their struggles and their inner, often anquishing journeys to find themselves. They are lost in their pain, their brokenness, and their fears. They are lost and hiding behind their addictions, their possessions, their big egos. They are floundering in their lostness and my heart is grieving for them, for they are my beloved sons and daughters. Jesus says, in fact, I am reaching out to the righteous and to sinners, to the prodigal daughters/sons and to the elder sons/daughters. I am pleading with both daughters/sons to get restored to right relationship! This is the most all-embracive, all-inclusive gospel message.



The GOOD Father wants the prodigal son and the elder son to both be at the celebration of life, life more abundantly! As the parable ends, however, we are not sure if the elder son comes in to the home, the banquet. He is another lost child that has to undergo more of the process of conversion and returning to get back into right relationship with the human family. The older son’s decades of “doing everything right, keeping all the laws and pleasing the establishment” … has brought him no peace and no honour. And we know the father will be waiting and be there when this “one” more son or daughter comes ‘home’ to his/her rightful inheritance in the kingdom. We must begin to see that “the celebration” really only begins for us when we come into the house, when we sit down at the banquet feast prepared for us, when we embrace our birthright as dear children of God. 



Jesus cannot emphasize with us enough that this LOVE is what GOD is all about.  God is Love. The truly grand celebration, the good news event is to be proclaimed. God is happy when the lost is found – be it one’s sheep, one’s livelihood, one’s possessions, one’s son, one’s daughter, and most of all, one’s very own authentic self. In this quintessential Jesus sermon, he is saying that God takes the initiative, God is the lover, God loves unconditionally. God knows we’ve sinned - "missed the mark" – but God comes running after us. It would be a very different gospel and a different church history if we didn’t have this ‘larger-than-life-and-death story found only in Luke.



Carrying Grace      I love to rest in this love... embraced yet free.




#2 Mark Dickinson 2010-09-13 01:24
At the center of our being is our longing to be with God. In our broken, lost state we are incomplete, unfinished, imperfect. It is only in our rediscovery of our eternal connection to God, that we begin to feel the joy and peace that comes from knowing God, feeling God's presence ... and resting in God's hands.
Emmanuella says it perfectly: "The celebration really only begins when we come into the house". May we celebrate each day knowing that our journey is never a passage to darkness; God is our eternal light. Let us live in the Light .. and never (again) be lost!
#1 arletteh 2010-09-12 19:09
"The celebration really only begins when we come into the house."At that celebration is a spot where I will be perfectly at home,my completely true self.THERE is the " mark " for which God has the blueprint of my authentic, true self:confined, yet loving;busy, yet joyful;committe d, yet free. No just keeping rules; no just pleasing the establishment.A nd every day my God comes to the crest of the hill to see what part of me God can guide to become more truly myself.In my struggles,dear Jesus, let me turn to your love.Let me rest in that love.Let me feel embraced, yet free.

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