Last Sunday many of us revisited the Parable of the Father Who Loved Extravagantly.
Oh, we’ve all known it by another name for most of our lives, but once the stories in Luke 15 are before us, it’s evident that the star of the show ain’t lost sheep, lost coins, or wayward sons. Etched firmly in our memory banks are Jesus’ timeless imaginative word-pictures. As I heard someone point out many years ago, in these stories we notice there is a sheep lost outside the fold, and a coin lost inside the house. We have a son lost outside the house, and another lost inside the house. We have a sheep that does nothing to be rescued, except to be found. The same is true of the lifeless coin. And then we meet two sons whom Jesus utilizes to hold a mirror up to us all……and at the same time, a lens to see God through as well.
There’s a lot of coming-and-going in these word-paintings of Jesus. We see a wayward sheep and the shepherd who goes out to rescue it. We meet a widow turning her house upside down to reclaim her financial life-preserver. We see a father leaving his house, running to greet and embrace his wayward youngest son, and pouring extravagant forgiveness on his self-inflicted wounds. We see the same father leaving all of his guests at the banquet table to try and talk his oldest son back to his senses, pleading with him to come and take his rightful place at the same banquet table, with his brother, to be seated at his father’s right hand. Jesus does not tell us if the older brother ever comes to his senses or to the table.
It’s intriguing that in the fabric of each painting there is a revelry in the making. At the climax of each of these episodes of “Lost and Found” there is a party. Let that sink in.
Doctor Luke blesses us with these word paintings, unique to his gospel.
“I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; ..”Luke 15:18 | NRSV
20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. Luke 15:28
It’s a good thing to keep reflecting on these word-paintings of Jesus. In these days before Easter can we sit still for a while, gaze long enough to catch glimpses of the God Whose faithful love is on full display in Jesus and seen in his incredible stories? This faithful, long-suffering God is bound to us through the choice of unbreakable love, and is still calling us to the table of grace; still inviting us to cease our wandering ways, and self-righteous judgment, and come to the party.
A few years ago I stumbled upon this sculpture by Margaret Adams Parker, entitled: “Reconciliation.” It’s tucked away inside an a bit more difficult to locate than some of the other sculptures found on campus. But just like lost sheep, and coins, and kids – it’s well worth searching for.
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.’ ” Luke 15:31c-32 | NRSV
This is our story, the good news entrusted to us by Jesus; not only to share in words, but also to embody in our lives and congregations. We hear echoes of it in the baptismal liturgy. In Christ, we are called to create the kind of community we promise for children and their parents as we celebrate their baptism.
We will surround these persons with a community of love and
forgiveness that they may grow in their trust of God and be
faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them that
they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
– United Methodists Hymnal, pg 35
Let the party begin!!!!
How Sweet The Sound,
Jon (the Methodist)
If you would like to view past editions of How Sweet the Sound, follow this link: https://sounddistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/