Posted by: Jim Black | November 3, 2009

Wonder what happened the next day?

Jesus tells a great story! This past Sunday we took a glance at some of his greatest from Luke’s gospel. The one that has always been my favorite is his story of the “Prodigal Son” in chapter 15. Its familiar to most of us, but I sketched it out anyway. It was such a common story… one, no doubt, most in his audience could relate to. A son. Actually two. A father. An inheritance. When the younger son asks for his inheritance up front… the father, reluctantly I imagine, goes ahead and gives it to him. Surely it came with a warning. “Be careful not to spend it all in one place.” “This is all of it, so be sure to save some for a rainy day.” “Watch out for folks who might take advantage of you.” That kind of advice… the kind you would expect from a father to a son. Well, you know the story. The son goes out and squanders it all on high living! Then he hits rock bottom. The economy takes a downturn. No money. No food. Everything is gone. I’m sure the son had to have felt awful. When he comes to his senses he decides to turn around and head home. Hoping to just get hired on in his father’s farm, he is surprised to find his father waiting for him… arms outstretched… ready to welcome him home. When his jealous older brother expresses a bit of bitterness at the shin-dig thrown for his prodigal brother, the father just says, “Rejoice, be glad. This brother of yours was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found!” What a great story! But I wonder what happened next?

I mean, what would have happened if Jesus had continued the story into the next day in the life of this reunited family? Would the prodigal son have woken up in the warmth of his own bed and had a renewed appreciation for it… after all those nights with the pigs? What would the conversation around the breakfast table have been like that morning? Would he thank his father again for the reception? For the party? For the absolute and unconditional love that his father had shown? Would he tell his dad again how sorry he was for leaving? Would he savor every bite of his meal, appreciative of where it came from. Would his manors be more full of “please” and “thank yous” than ever before? Do you think he worked extra hard for his father, knowing how much his father had done for him? Or do you suppose that the little brother got up the next day and fell right back into a pattern of ungrateful behavior towards his family? Do you suppose he complained about his breakfast? “Dad, the toast is burnt.” Or “Mom, the juice isn’t cold enough.” Do you guess that he picked a fight with his older brother just for the sake of an argument? “Mom loves me more.” Do you imagine that he would decide to test his father’s patience again? Do you suppose he did any of those things?

If not, why do we? We who have come home have been welcomed unabashedly into God’s glorious kingdom! God has thrown his arms around us and called us his sons once more… despite the fact that none of us deserved it. He has thrown a party and given us a room in his dwelling place! And yet so many Christians wake up every morning woefully neglectful of all that God has done for us. We act as if making it to church once or twice a week is about all we can do in return. Surely the Father’s okay with that. Surely there isn’t any more he expects of us. Will we live our lives as grateful children ever mindful of what our Father has done for us? Our Father hurt when we sinned and turned our backs on him, but he welcomed us home anyway. He forgave us of our sin… and even gave his Spirit to us to empower us over sin. He has given us LIFE and life TO THE FULL! What will we do with it?

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