Devotional Message: The 4th Sunday in Lent (3/31/2019)

Lessons

Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2nd Corinthians 5:16-21
St. Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Prayer of the Day

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward, and you embrace us all with your mercy. By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace, and feed us at the table of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 

3 So he told them this parable:

11b “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ” 

St. Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Prodigious

prod·i·gal /ˈprädəɡəl/ adjective
late Middle English: from late Latin prodigalis, from Latin prodigus ‘lavish’

  1. spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
    prodigal habits die hard

  2. having or giving something on a lavish scale.
    the dessert was crunchy with brown sugar and prodigal with whipped cream

The word prodigal appears nowhere in this week’s Gospel lesson. But evidence of prodigious behavior seeps into nearly every single verse.

The parable features a prodigal younger son. Uninterested in waiting for his father’s death, he wants his inheritance immediately. Unswayed by the faithfulness of his family, he throws himself into dissolute living. Unimpressed by his father’s work ethic and thoughtful financial management, he squanders his property in no time flat. Uninterested in the traditions of his heritage, this young Jewish man takes a position living in the midst of herd of pigs. Freely, recklessly, extravagantly, lavishly — prodigiously — he abandons everything he has, and finds himself in desperation.

The parable features a prodigal older son. Still angry at his young brother’s behavior, he refuses to honor the joy of his father. Still living with a chip on his shoulder, he is self-righteous about his own contributions to the family. Still fearing that this wild child has come back for another share of the inheritance, he disowns him (“But when this son of yours came back…”). Still angry that this brother has re-inserted himself into the family, he refuses to have anything to do with welcoming him. Freely, recklessly, extravagantly, lavishly — prodigiously — he regards neither his father or his brother, and thinks of nothing other than himself.

The parable features a prodigal father. Insulted by his younger son (“Your wealth is more important to me than you are…”), he generously gives him half of what he has. Seeing his son returning, he instantly runs across the fields, filled with joy. Uninterested in whether the son has returned to repent, or to ask for another share, he embraces him in unconditional love. Filled with joy that his family is together again, he throws a great party for everyone he knows. Deeply loving the elder son, he cajoles him to walk away from his anger and join the celebration. Freely, recklessly, extravagantly, lavishly — prodigiously — he demonstrates his foolish, unending, relentless love for both of his sons.

Most importantly, the parable introduces us to a prodigal God — who freely, recklessly, extravagantly, lavishly — prodigiously — forgives us (even when we don’t deserve it), restores us (when we are helpless to restore ourselves), and empowers (with a strength so much greater than our own) us for new life.

This Sunday we will be gathered in worship to offer our prayer, praise and thanksgiving to a prodigal God, whose love 

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What extreme (prodigious) behavior does the younger son exhibit?

  2. What extreme (prodigious) behavior does the older son exhibit?

  3. What extreme (prodigious) behavior does the father exhibit?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I felt, like the prodigal son, that I have strayed from the Father’s love, and am unworthy to return?

  2. When have I felt, like the older son, that I am far more worthy of God’s love than some other person?

  3. When have I experienced a love from God that I felt I neither earned or deserved?