Sermon 7, April 14: Luke 15:11-32 (this is another sermon that is a foundation for so much of my theology and preaching)
Reflection Questions: These questions will focus on the latter part of the passage. We’ve all probably heard many sermons on the first part of the third parable. When reflecting on these parables it is very important to pay attention to what gets Jesus started telling these parables – who is he addressing? (see start of chapter). What theme or themes are common to all three parables? Is there an echo of verses 7 and 10 in the third parable? Compare verses 19 and 29. Talk about what you find remarkable in them. In the end, which son is a slave? Which son is freely there serving. (This is a huge point for me in the parables) Which son has the better relationship with the father in th end? Which Son is actually most likely lost by the end? Extra thoughts (There is a LOT in this passage). Thinking of the audiences or groups Jesus is addressing, what parables and what characters will each of them ‘find themselves represented in.’ Who does the father represent? How do you know? What signs are in the text that this is so? Which brother are you most like today?
When “heard” through Middle Eastern Male ears of Jesus’ day the Father in this parable is a disgrace to justice and fatherhood. He should not have ‘let’ his insolent son have his share of the inheritance, should definately not have let him liquidate his holdings and go live life on his own terms, and most definitly should hot have been waiting and watching for him to return, and once seen, rushed out to greet him and welcome him home. Instead, he should have disowned the boy and waited for an opportunity to make him grovel for a place at the table, then accepted his offer to be a slave for a time until the financial damage was somewhat repaired, and only then, once a price was set and paid, could talk begin of re-integration into the family. That ‘disgraceful’ gracious father is of course Jesus’ putting God the Father into the parable, dealing with sinners and the religiously righteous alike, with patience and grace. Except the sinner, seeing the grace, feels the love and is changed by the combination of knowing he did not deserve grace and being extended it anyway. He experiences the joy of being found after having been lost. The religous “saint” slave that he is to earning his inheritance by “slaving” for the Father, does not understand this grace, and will not participate in it, it seems. Which are you? Sinner or religious saint? Graced undeserver or faithful deserter? That is the main invitation and question Jesus raises in this series of parables. All three together are an invitation to share in the joy heaven has when someone who has wandered away from God’s grace finds their way back and is found. From heaven’s perspective, it is one of the most thrilling things that can happen!