A man once placed a personal ad in the newspaper that simply read: “All is forgiven. Call home.” When the ad ran, that night hundreds of phones rang across the area.
Families are complicated.
Jesus’ longest and perhaps most widely know parable tells of a father who had let his younger son run away with his share of the family fortune. And when that son had eventually returned, that same father threw an extravagant party.
Many people might counsel such a father to give that wayward son a few licks with a paddle. For a child to merely asking for his inheritance, infers an insult that the family would be better if the father were dead.
Then when that son had returned, asking for a job as a servant, that same father instead immediately elevated him to a position of authority and responsibility. Consider for a moment the foolishness of this restoration: The son had frittered away a third of the family estate. (By custom the older son would have received two shares of the estate so at least part of the family would have enough to survive a disaster and younger sons only one share each.) Is this the kind of person you would allow anywhere near your home on a regular basis even with appropriate supervision?
Further, when the older son rebuked that father for such foolishness, that father had ignored that insult and had assured the older son of his place in the family and had urged him to join the celebration.
No wonder the religious elite had grumbled while the tax collectors and sinners had drawn near as Jesus told this tale that should be known by the quality of the Forgiving Father.
This parable leaves unanswered if the older son would remain outside sulking or if he would also learn to forgive and join the celebration?
I will have more to say about Luke 15:1-3 & 11-32 on Sunday, March 6th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.