Fathers Day Message – Luke 15:11-32
Sunday 1st September A new kind of father – Pastor Graham Harms
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinnedagainst heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your propertywith prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The birth of a child turns a man into a father. A child gives a man a future of a new kind that stretches across generations. Today as we honour all fathers and lift up their role in our community, our text sheds new light on what it means to be a father, as we see the way God carries out that role himself.
It is very hard to lose a child. Some children are lost when they die before their time. Others are lost in a far country, Victoria, perhaps, as they wander off from their families, run away from home, or perhaps leave more amicably but settle overseas and don’t come home. Others still are lost in the world of drugs and violence. Still others reject their parents and bring hurt and misery to whole families.
God is pictured in today’s Gospel as a father who has two sons, and he loses them both. They don’t die, but it’s not much better – the younger one fronts up for his share of the inheritance in a gesture which almost says,
“I wish you were dead”, and heads off for a foreign land that is as far away from his father as he can get. The older one wishes he were anywhere but home. What a miserable situation. To lose both your sons in those days was to lose your future.
But this father is not willing to lose one son just because one is still at home. Children are not interchangeable. One does not substitute for another. Good parents love all their children and are not willing to lose any of them. So the father in the text is outside watching for the return of the lost son, the one who wanted to escape from his father’s house. He is watching so persistently, that when the boy returns, he sees him before anyone else does, and runs out to shepherd him through the village to his home, yes, still his home, in spite of everything.
God is like that with us. He has billions of children all over the world, but one does not substitute for another, and God wants everyone of us to be at home in his company, to call his place “home”. And if we wander off, as we do at times, he comes looking for us to make sure we are not permanently lost.
The other boy in the story was just as lost as his brother – lost at home in plain sight! He resented being at home under his father’s eye. He chaffed at the bit, and would have broken away, too, except perhaps he thought he had too much to lose. I don’t know if you can see yourself in that picture, as children of God who have been given everything – forgiveness, welcome, love, blessing – and still resent the things we don’t have. God reaches out to us again, as well, inviting us back into the feast, reassuring us that the whole treasure of heaven belongs to us. Be at peace – God will not give up on you, whatever you do, or wherever you stray.
Pastor Graham Harms