“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them…
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…
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him…
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 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.’” – Luke 15:11-12, 20, 28, 31-32
A Thought for the Day
An iconic story about the love a father has for his sons. For two millennia this story has inspired us as a picture of God’s love for us, whether we are living in the rebellion of the younger son or living in the rebellion of the older.
This story is one of three that Jesus told in response to Pharisees and teachers of the law speaking negatively about the sort of people Jesus ate with. So what is Jesus’ response to their complaints? He tells them how much God is a God of celebration. Listen to Henri Nouwen’s words about it:
“Celebration belongs to God’s kingdom. God not only offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, but wants to lift up these gifts as a source of joy for all who witness them. In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. ‘Rejoice with me,’ the shepherd says, ‘I have found my sheep that was lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the woman says, ‘I have found the drachma I lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the father says, ‘this son of mine was lost and is found.’
All these voices are the voices of God. God does not want to keep his joy to himself. He wants everyone to share in it. God’s joy is the joy of his angels and his saints; it is the joy of all who belong to the Kingdom.” – “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen, pg 132
Celebration is at the core of these stories because celebration is at the core of who God is. This series of “lost” stories are very much about the love God shows in searching for those that are lost, that is of course exactly why Jesus had come. But they are also about revealing the depth of God’s love in celebrating the return of those that are lost.
Pause for a moment to think about Jesus framing his meals with the tax collectors and sinners as celebrations. Some of them may well have placed their faith in Jesus, but it would be reasonable to conclude that not everyone sat at those tables were interested in a relationship with Jesus. Yet he celebrated them being found anyway! In those meals Jesus ate and shared, and in the meal he invites us to share with him through communion, Jesus is celebrating those that have been found as well as those that will be.
Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? Because many that have been lost have been found. Because those that haven’t been found yet, will be.
So as you pray for your five today, let it be an act of celebration that all who are lost will one day be found.
Praying for your Five:
“Heavenly Father, draw me into your celebrations today. Let me feel, and see, and know your joy today at the rescue of my friends and family that is already in place. Fill me with that joy, as if I am already at the table with you and with [say the names of your five] as we all revel in your goodness, grace, and love. By your Spirit, enable me to joyfully live in the truth that you will not fail to bring anyone to sit at your table. Amen.”
Praying Something Old
This is a prayer written by Church of the City New York. It isn’t old, but it is inspired by Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.
A Liturgy for Those Looking for Joy
When the world expects sadness,
help us, Creator of Light, to look for pockets of joy.
When the world is overwhelmed by darkness,
give us eyes to see little delights.
When the world is caught up in sensationalism,
help us speak of the hidden wonders we’ve discovered,
holding them up for others to see.
The sacred stillness of the early morning,
a quiet moment in the sun,
small children laughing on scooters,
trees bursting into bloom and lillies opening at the corner bodega.
These small joys reveal the truth of the world we live in.
No, there is not peace everywhere
and all pain has not been removed.
But there are still people returning home,
voices that pray,
moments of forgiveness,
signs of hope.
We don’t have to wait until all is well
to celebrate the glimpses of your Kingdom at hand.
Let us not deny sadness,
but transform it into fertile soil for more joy.
Let us not deny the darkness,
but choose to live in the light.
Cynics seek darkness wherever they go,
but joy is the mark of the people of God.
Help us discipline ourselves to choose joy
for the reward is joy itself.
Help us renew our minds until they default to joy and not fear,
for there is so much to frighten us.
Help us believe that the Light can be trusted,
for there is so much darkness to mislead us.
Jesus, you are both the Man of Sorrows and the Man of Complete Joy,
help us to hold both sorrow and joy in the ways you’ve shown us.
Help us to remain in your love
so that your joy may be in us
and our joy may be complete.
Praying Something New
Invite another family to have a communion meal with you today. Not a meal of stale bread and over-alcoholised wine with sombre quietness, but great food, laughter, and celebration. And in the midst of that take time to share joy at those sat at the table now, and those who one day soon will.