The Courage to be Welcoming

            I preached at our Eastwood Campus on Sunday, August 18, so, there is no Facebook video of the message.  Therefore, instead of adding one more thing to the message I will share a synopsis of the message. 

            The message was The Courage to be Welcoming.The fifteenth chapter of Luke begins with the Pharisees complaining about Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners.  In response to the Pharisees complaining Jesus tells three parable The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son.  All three parables are about something of value that was lost, but then found and the celebrating that occurred. I chose to focus on the lost son – The Prodigal Son. 

            This is a parable about scandalous grace.  The full impact of this parable is only understood when we understand first century Middle Eastern cultural values. It was expected even demanded that children would stay with their families to work the land and care for their parents. So for the younger son to ask for his inheritance was completely unheard of, it was greatly offensive to the father. It was an insult and shameful to ask for the inheritance. It was like saying to the father I wish you were dead. However, it was even more out of character that the father would agree to give him the inheritance. Any other father would have told the son you’re out of your mind, get back to work. 

This would have been a land-based economy. A family’s wealth would have been their land. The land would have been sacred. So, the father would have divided the land gave the younger son his portion which he promptly sold, again a great insult to the father, one’s whole life and identity was tied to the land. To sell the land was to completely reject one’s family identity. He then took the money squandered it away in the foreign land. So, for the father to receive the young son back with such a welcome would have been a grace filled moment, a moment of scandalous grace. This parable would have been shocking to Jesus’ hearers, it would have been so out of character to be almost unbelievable.

The younger son after squandering all his heritance found himself with nothing. The only job he could find was feeding pigs, which would have been the worst possible job for a Jew. The son realized his father’s hired hands had more than he did. He decided to go home confess his sin and ask his father to hire him as a servant. However, when the father saw him coming he ran to his son put a robe on him, a ring on his finger, sandals on this feet, killed the fatted calf and threw a party for his son who was dead and is now alive, who was lost and is now found.

We so much like to identify with the younger brother. We like to have the assurance that regardless of what we did God will welcome us home with scandalous grace. The focus of parable is almost always on the Father and the younger son. The older brother is usually an afterthought. 

Remember Jesus told the parable in response to the Pharisees complaining because they were offended that Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners. I believe the older son is the point of the parable. The older brother was offended by everything his younger brother had done.  The younger brother had offended and insulted not only his father, but the entire family. Therefore, the older brother refused to go into the party and welcome his brother home. 

It is little more prickly for us to identify with the older brother.  Who offends you? Who is it that offends you, that would make it difficult for you to eat the person whose theological position is different than yours, person whose political views are different than yours, the person whose cultural values are different than yours, the person who doesn’t look like you or speak your language and the listgoes on.

            Who is it that you or we as a congregation need to extend scandalous grace?  We live in a polarized world and if a Christian and/or the church cannot offer scandalous grace and receivethose who offend us, who will? We need to set the example for our community and the world. 

However, it takes courage to be welcoming to those who offend us.

*I do not remember where I read the information about first century Middle Eastern culture values. I apologize for no footnote giving credit to the original author.

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