God is really doing a number on me.
On Sunday I preached the prodigal son text from Luke 15:11-32. What a rich text, right? Only 4,000 ways to preach what is undoubtedly the most beloved story Jesus tells. The angle I used on Sunday was just how little we know about the “rest of the story.” We don’t know what the younger son actually goes on to do with this new beginning. Did he really mean the promise he made while in the pig sty? And importantly (for people like me anyway), did he really deserve that party the father was giving him?
Why, I asked, could the son not returned to a number of conditions? A nightly curfew. A long workday. Diminished household privileges. Why did the father throw him a party before he even knew whether jr. was going to straighten up and fly right?
The father simply gave. And the father simply celebrated. And Jesus seems very uninterested in giving us the rest of what either son does. What freedom! Here’s everything I have! I’m just glad you’re here with me.
What freedom the father had to give his resources to the sons! Even though one squanders the resources in ridiculous ways, while the other doesn’t even recognize them. The only thing the father asked was that his sons celebrate with him.
To drive the point home, I taped 10 $100 bills underneath the pews. They were given out freely with the caveat that the people of God use them to celebrate God’s life with others. The only “responsibility” was to celebrate Jesus message of grace, love and forgiveness with people dying to know of it. (And to let me know in a month how it was used).
Only 9 of the 10 bills were “claimed”. Though all 10 are gone.
And I have an intense need to “know the rest of the story.” What happened? Did someone take it before the service started? Did someone find it and then not want to acknowledge it? Is someone not going to use the gift in the “right” way?
It doesn’t matter of course. And my interest in it reveals the smallness of my heart of course.
That was the point. The love and grace of God is given out to all of us. God lets us do what we want with it. When am I going to let people have the same freedom?