It was an outrageous, humiliating request. The younger son of a wealthy farmer comes, flouting all respectful tradition, and petitions for his portion of the family estate now, rather than waiting after the death of his father. Chagrined, but motivated by tender love, the father liquidates the son’s portion of the estate and hands it to him. The son runs off to sow his wild oats and soon finds himself surrounded by fair weather, ne’er-do-well friends. In no time, he’s squandered all his money, lost all those ‘friends,’ and is desperate enough to lower himself to a degrading job of a worse kind of farming than his father’s. Once he gets to near-starvation, he decides to return home and beg to be taken on as a hired hand. The father is waiting for him and celebrates his son’s return, throws a party, and fully restores him to the family.

This, of course, is Jesus’ storytelling attempt to portray the prodigal love in the Kingdom of his Father, to scandalize his hearers with the shocking disrespect of the son, and to further stun them with the over-the-top reception of the father upon the son’s return. Many of those listening to the story would, by the middle of the telling, have completely condemned the sorry excuse for a son for his unforgivable actions. At the end of the telling, they would have wanted to scoff, thinking, no father, after that extreme rejection, would ever, in a million years, forgive that kid. Never. Unthinkable!

When Jesus ended by tying this story to his Father’s response to the sinfulness and disobedience of his children, there would have been disbelieving silence. Seriously? In that situation, there would be such extravagant forgiveness offered by the Father? This was the way of the Kingdom of God? There was no sin too far? No rebellion unforgivable? No rejection final? No behavior too revolting? Even though God sees all? Knows all?

While this story has all the makings of a fairy tale, the Kingdom truth is that the answer to those questions in the 21st Century is a resounding YES! The Father continues to keep watch at the furthest points of His Kingdom, waiting and longing for the safe return of all prodigals and the approach of those who have yet to even hear of Him. He still weeps at the vacancies at His table. He still seeks a prepared Bride for his only son, Jesus.

As we look around us, both near and far away, all peoples of this beautiful planet of ours are on God’s radar. He only has Plan ‘A’ (there’s no Plan ‘B’) and He’s going to bring it to completion. There are still the ‘least of these’ who need to be reached, to have the opportunity to know that the Father has always loved them, too. We may be scandalized to hear that, to think that people groups we often think are too far gone, too violent, too disgusting, to have the Father reach out to them. But, God! Let’s think God’s thoughts after Him. Let’s dare to believe that we were no different than those still in the Kingdom’s Queue. Let’s dare to believe that this entire love story of God’s is still drawing souls, still melting hardened hearts, still opening eyes and hearts to newness, still planning the celebration banquet when we all finally ‘get home!’  See y’all tomorrow, 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM.  PD

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