Have you ever been lost and you didn’t even know it? I know it’s hard to imagine with all our technology, with all our advances, we think it’s hard to actually get lost. Wanna go some where type the address into mapquest or use your gps on your phone, installed right in the car and off we go.
But it’s not as easy as all that. We have all heard horror stories about GPS systems, this story is only a few years old. A British couple were driving in their rental car on a back road in Germany. it was in the evening when The GPS voice told them to turn right. SO they did, not realizing that they weren’t really on a road, until it was too late and they had driven into a building, not just any building, it was the village church.
Problem is we can get lost and not even know it. We can get too focused, or distracted. we rely and stick with the words we hear, sticking with the guides we trust, the missing the way we really need to go.
In the parable, the story that Jesus tells, the young son was listening to his desires, his wants, he wanted to do and live as he pleased, find his own way in life. I wonder how boldly he strolled up to his dad, to tell him to give his share, now this isn’t a hey, I want my allowance, I want some short term loan. No, this son of his wants what he’d get when his dad is dead. And remember there’s no ATM. What’s going on here is so much more painful and shameful than we modern non-middle easterners fathom.
The son takes the father’s money and with it his honor. He practically tells his family to get lost, and heads out of town. This young man isn’t quite the entrepeneur so many houng people are these days. He doesn’t invest it in a new business, start a new life. No, he spends it, squanders it, blows it all. There’s no doubt. We all can agree, this guy has lost it–lost any sense of responsibility. We would agree this guy is a lost cause.
When he’s blown through all the money, he discovers where he’s landed, sees himself as the lowest of the low, living with pigs, (remember Jews aren’t into pork, pigs are despised and dirty, they are totally unclean). This guy is below rock bottom. Now there’s at least two ways to read his words. The first is that he’s simply so desperate, and he know’s he’s got nowhere else to turn. He thinks why not give it a go with his old father, maybe the old man will if he not let him back in the family, at least the old guy will treat him as well as he treats his workers.
Another way to hear these words of this young son, is to think it took him this long, this far gone to finally get just how bad he’s hurt all those around him. To a truly feel remorse, to feel sorry not just for himself, but for what he put his family through. Perhaps now, he doesn’t need a GPS to find his way home. Maybe you’ve made that journey once or twice yourself, or more yourself. A real walk of shame–you know when you’ve messed up real bad, when you’ve hurt someone close to you, when you’ve betrayed those around you, and even perhaps yourself. Maybe you know that feeling when shame sits in the pit of your stomach.
And as he approached his home his father saw him coming. I bet that’s when it got really real. Was it too late to turn and run away again? But the only one running this time was his father. Again, we westerners especially with our need to get out there and get running for our health, do not immediately grasp what’s going on. Patriarchs, the heads of the family and society do not run. It is undignified, but that is what this guys father does. He runs, he doesn’t hide his love, his joy, his emotion. It’s out there for all the world to see.
Not only does he pull up his robes, he starts yelling, whooping, and a hollering. Let’s through a party, strike up the band, don’t slink around in shadows afraid of what others may think or say. Invite everyone, get the best food, the best drink. No hold’s barred celebration for this lost soul.
And here’s where we meet the older brother, not wrapping his arms around his brother, not crying tears of relief and welcome, but stomping-off in righteous if not anger, at least indignation. I know I’ve walked in this guys shoe more often than not. After all, I tend to be the quiet, nice, do-gooder. Not a terribly effective trouble maker. My rebellion is often hidden and understated. People like this older brother, people like me, well we’re lost and we don’t even know it. We’ve got our nose to the grindstone, focused on the oughts and shoulds, trying to be fair and expecting to be treated fairly in return. We are the dutiful ones, the ones who day in and day out work behind the scenes with little or no recognition, just doing our job. Never wandering too far. So we think we’re not lost, but our hearts are nowhere to be found. the older brother who stayed at home, did what he was told to do asks, “where’s my party, where’s my reward?”
Some might say it’s in heaven, but if this is Jesus talking, and Jesus doesn’t just tell nice stories with no point. He’s often talking about the way God wants it to be. Well, the party’s still for the profligate. The thing is, the Father doesn’t ignore either of his children, the Father goes after the older son, to bring this one back too. God wants all of the lost ones found–the ones who wander far far away, and the ones who get lost while staying close to home. Jesus is telling there is plenty of food, plenty of room, plenty of love for all God’s children. No one is too far gone, no one is too lost to be found. The table is set for you today, whether you knew it or not, whether you expected it or not, in this place all the lost are found. Amen.