Which brother are you?


Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Grace and Peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

This fourth Sunday of Lent we are presented with a familiar parable that conjures up many thoughts.  First, we wonder what has gotten into the younger son to want to take off and live a life which appears to be full of sin. To squander his inheritance on those things that do not bring him any closer to God. His first and foremost desire is to ensure that his pleasures are cared for.

Second, who can blame the older son for being slightly ticked off, to put it mildly, with the return of his younger brother and the fear that now is inheritance may be possibly shrinking. This is not fair, and to stage his disapproval of the entirety of the events unfolding in front of him, he stages an angry protest outside of the party. It is here that his father finds him and encourages him to come and be part of the celebrations.

Possibly, the father is just naive! First, his youngest son insults him by asking for his inheritance before he is even dead. It is only after that, that he decides to go off to the Las Vegas of Biblical times. It is here that his dissolute living and lavish spending catches up with him and he finds himself feeding pigs, whom eat better than him.

So, where can you see yourself in this parable this morning. Do you see yourself as the younger or older son? Perhaps you may even see yourself as the father.

You may see yourself as one character in the story one day and another day you may feel as though you are someone else. I love it when I am able to venture into a gospel story and hear and see new aspects as God speaks to me in different ways at different times in my life. I hope that you too, have been able to experience this same thing as you truly listen to God talking to you through various scripture. As I sat with this parable from Luke this past week I was able to experience some new and interesting insights in ways that I had not before.

I grew up in the typical American family, or at least what seems more typical today! My parents were married in the mid-seventies and each brought children into the marriage. My mother already had two daughters and a son. My father had a daughter and a son. I can only imagine what those early adjustments were like. I would come along shortly after they were married, being the sixth child between them and their first together. Eventually, I would have two more younger siblings, making for a total of eight. The holidays are definitely loud and full of excitement when everyone is present, including the grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I thought of my family as I read this parable and pictured what my place would be in it. I will have to admit that it scared me a little. I saw myself as the younger brother, the prodigal son, that was willing to take anything offered to me and since so much had been offered, I was not afraid to ask for more, because most likely I would receive it. My parents had the means to do so and I did not feel guilty for the many possessions that I had. By this time, all of my older siblings were out of the house and it was just myself and my younger sister and brother.  Needless to say, this practice did not help my own financial practices when I started college, because I thought I could get whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. Eventually, it catches up with you.

The revelation that shocked me more so, was that as I listened to this parable more, I was able to see my parents as the father. Some of my older siblings have had their own fair share of problems with substance abuse, and even the law. They have went out and lived beyond their means and at times may have even experienced themselves having to feed the pigs like the prodigal son in the story. As I reflect back now, I witnessed my parents stepping up to support their children in their personal and financial struggles. They were, and still are like the father that welcomes his son home after contentious living and offers a roof over there head and food on the table to eat. There may be some tough love that goes along with the welcoming in as well, but the fact that they once were lost, and are now found was cause for them to open their arms wide and welcome them back home, like they had just left. This parable has helped me see God, where I did not notice God in the past.

What we have in this parable is the one thing that God ultimately desires for all of creation. This parable is God’s deepest desire, greatest yearning, and passionate dream for all of God’s children and the whole of God’s creation. And the one thing that is greater than life itself is knowing that we have been found.

This Lenten season, as we come to the font and are reminded of our own baptisms, we turn back to God and ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness of those things that we know we have done wrong, as well as those things that we are not fully aware. God meets us where we are at, before we have even fully admitted what we have done wrong. God is present in those times that we feel as though we are laying in the pig sty. God is there to pick us up, dust us off, and welcome us home with a deep loving embrace. It is for this reason that we celebrate and break bread together. For Christ meets us at the table, where we are at, broken or whole, offering us a meal that is full of grace.



By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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