When C.S. Lewis was asked what he thought marked Christianity out as different from other religions, he replied. “Oh that’s easy.  It’s grace.”

In this context, I would like to share with you one of my favourite parables from the Gospels. Jesus tried to explain the grace of God in the parable of the two sons, commonly referred to as the story of ‘The Prodigal Son’. On the surface, it appears to be the example of a rebellious son who demands from his father an early inheritance. His father grants him this request. The son takes his inheritance and goes to another city. It is there that he recklessly spends all his money on extravagant living. He ended up with nothing and was hired as a worker feeding pigs as a means of survival.  He soon came to his senses. He realised that his father’s servants lived better than he did having plenty of food and the necessities of life.  So he decided to return to his father and to say that he had sinned against him, and to ask that he be accepted back – but only as one of his father’s hired men. As the son returned, his father saw him coming home. He had compassion on him and ran to greet his lost son. The father clothed him in the finest of robes, and threw a lavish feast for him using the ‘fattened calf’ because his lost son had returned to him.

The second older son returned from his work in the fields to the sound of music and dancing and found out from a servant that his younger brother had returned home. Needless to say the older brother was furious and refused to go into the party. His father went to the older brother and asked him to join the party. The older son responded by telling his father that he had slaved for years never once disobeying his orders, and yet his younger brother returns after wasting his whole inheritance and has a  party thrown in celebration. The father says to the older brother, all I have is yours, but your brother who was dead is alive again, he was lost and is now found.

In this story, it is the second son who is, in fact, the ‘poorer’ of the two. He has misunderstood the grace of his father. The parable is often used to show us that, regardless of what is in our past, we can come home to God the Father, ask for forgiveness, and he will freely forgive us and accept us home.

The dictionary definition of “prodigal” is  “reckless extravagance”, and indeed, the younger brother demonstrated this in wasting his inheritance.  However, God as represented by the father in the story is “recklessly extravagant” towards us concerning his love, grace, and mercy. Just as with the father in the story, God is looking out for us regardless of what we do, and longs to throw a party for us. All we have to do is request and gratefully receive His grace.

God bless.

Reverend Dave