Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 is a familiar story to many, yet it bears retelling. The message of grace and acceptance no matter how far one falls is one we need to hear again and again. But perhaps we might consider reflecting on the older brother as we worship this week. His story might come closer to ours than that of the younger prodigal son – particularly if we are trying to emphasize radical hospitality.
This story reminds us how hard it is to be as gracious as God seems to be, at least as Jesus describes the love of the creator. Like the older brother, we are reluctant. We aren’t sure he’s learned his lesson; we aren’t sure she’s paid her dues yet. We hold back from the party that Jesus wants to throw for every soul that wanders into the fellowship of the church.
So, let this worship be an expression of the extravagant grace of God. Even in the midst of this season of Lent, a season of reflection and self-denial. Worship is a feast in the midst of the fasting. Let’s sing about amazing grace of the one who welcomes us home; let’s pray for new ways to offer grace to our wider community; tell stories of reconciliation even when hope seemed lost.
Yes, it is a day to thank God for welcoming us home from our wandering, but let it also be a day of extending that welcome in as many ways as possible. Draw the circle wide. These are the ones Jesus longs to gather under his wings – the ones outside our doors, the ones not like us. How do we enlarge our vision? How do we open our hearts to see as Jesus sees? How do we scan the horizon outside our walls, longing for those who have not yet found their way home, eagerly hoping for them, for any to come? How far will we run down the road to embrace them? How might we gather them up in Jesus’ name?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.