Today is also known as Mothering Sunday or refreshment Sunday, a brief respite from the rigours of lent are afforded us and so I hope many of you will be spoilt a little today, and indeed at the end of our service all of us will be given some flowers by the church as a reminder in the days ahead of the task that lies before us in our daily Christian living – to receive and give to those around us the love of Christ.
It may seem strange that on this day our gospel reading is not about Mothers and Children, but Fathers and sons! The parable that we have just heard read as our gospel reading is only found in Luke’s gospel but is one whose faint echo can still be heard, whose picture language is still cherished by a world that seems to have forgotten so much of the Christian scriptures.
But what do we call this parable – the parable of the lost son or the forgiving father?
I wonder which title finds greater resonance with you this morning?
Which of these two, in fact its three, characters do you emphasise with most – the Father or the Sons?
The parable of the lost son.
The youngest, foolish and selfish son who wishes his father dead so as to inherit his share of the family fortune.
The child, to be inclusive for a moment, who is given what they ask for, what they dream of, what they strive for only then to loose it through reckless and self centred living.
Is this the story of a man who has crashed to lowest point in life, not just their life, but LIFE, without a single person around them who notices them for anything other than slave, a pitiful individual doing a pitiful job – a job for which there are sadly too many others just as qualified.
A son who comes to his senses and seeks forgiveness, who dares to return, to turn again, to admit that they got is so terribly wrong, to put aside self pity and recrimination and simply ask for forgiveness. Except of course it is rarely simple and it is always costly.
Or is it a story of the Forgiving Father - of a long suffering father who demonstrates the cost of that love which welled up in his chest as his son drew his first breath and yelled to the world that he had arrived. A forgiving parent, to be inclusive for a moment, who takes on the insults of their child who out of love makes the mistake of indulging that child, yes maybe spoiling the youngest to compensate for perceived strictness with the first born. A Parent, a Father, who nevertheless is prepared to watch, not just wait, but to actively wait and watch, who is prepared to reject the sound advice of fellow dads who say good riddance to their offspring when they become too much to handle, a Father who actively runs out, under the full and mocking gaze of the world to meet the dirty and disgraced figure who no one but HE can recognise as his son.
I guess the answer is probably tied up with what is preoccupying you and me on this particular day –this Mothering Sunday– what it is we need most in our lives right now so that we can go forward rather then remain in the rut that has become the familiar and frustrating in equal measure.
Our decision will probably be shaped by what it is that we seek most right now in our lives:
Is this a story about Repentance or Absolution?
Is it a story about the cost of admitting our need to repent/ change our lives and seek to restore/heal/reconcile all that is broken?
What ever your answer, and it can be either or and both! This parable is a story about costly living – the cost of asking for forgiveness and the cost of forgiving, of reaching out to the one who has hurt us like no other can and forgiving/loving in spite or and because of what they have done and who they are.