Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 19:1-20:20 / Luke 15:1-32 / Psalm 45:1-9
Have you ever thought, attempted or successfully run away from home? One of my daughters thought she would run away when she was little but only got as far as the church parking lot and then decided to return home! Small children have some wild ideas in their heads but there are an alarming number of children who actually runaway every year. Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year and youth aged 12-17 are at higher risk for homelessness than adults.
47% of runaway/homeless youth indicated there was major conflict between them and their parent or guardian. 50% of runaways said their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care. Jesus shares a story about a runaway child who had everything a child could want in a comfortable lifestyle and a loving father. Yet he asked his father for his inheritance and after he received it, “got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” (Luke 15:13)
The son went as far away as possible. He forsook and rejected his father’s house, authority and influence. We describe this son as the “prodigal” son. He literally squandered everything he had with reckless extravagance. How long was he gone? Too long for the father but just long enough until he came to his senses. A famine swept the nation and while he worked feeding swine, he survived by eating as many corn cobs as the pigs.
One day he realized what he had done and all that he had left. Everything the prodigal son had hoped to find in the far away country, he had back home… clothes, jewelry, friends, joy, security, love. But greater still, his dreams were shattered, leaving a giant size hole of pain and emptiness in his heart. He decided to return home and say to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men” (vs.19)
The amazing thing about this story is that when his father saw him returning a long ways off, he ran to him, embraced him and smothered him with kisses! The son didn’t have to ask, “Make me a servant.” because the father had greater plans, “I forgive you!” The father is seen running to his son, restoring his son and rejoicing over his son.
This story is really about our lives and the Heavenly Father. In His wonderful grace and mercy He longs to forgive us. It doesn’t’ matter how far you have run…God longs for prodigals to return home to Him. In the far country, the prodigal learned the meaning of misery but back home he discovered the meaning of mercy. When we become disillusioned with who we are, disappointed with the world and ask, “Is this all there is?” Our Heavenly Father will always say, “Of course not…come on home!”