The parable Jesus tells in Luke 15 about the “prodigal son” is an occasion for celebration. My Bible has a convenient heading above this passage that says just that, “Occasions for Celebration.” You may know the story, I encourage you to go read it again. It’s about a child who left his home…
The son who leaves was allured by the call of a “far away land.” That phrase stuck with me this past week. Where have we been seduced by the calling of a far away land? Well, if “home” is less about a physical place and more about our spiritual connection with God, I would say we find ourselves far away often.
The truth is, we live in a time (and many generations have said that) where the promise of instant gratification is all around us. “Get this! Buy this! Go here. You need this. This or that will make you happy…” On and on we are sold the stories that speak to our deeper selves.
We have real longing and wanting. We crave intimacy, relationship, health, hope, joy and love. We want to be valued, needed, told we are worthy. But when we look for those things in a “far away land” (which is anywhere outside of God’s provision for us), we will always end up looking for more. And even worse, once we get to the distant land, those promising us what we have been looking for suddenly begin to demand we prove ourselves. Suddenly, we are asked to show why we deserve to be loved, valued, needed… why are we worthy?
The incredibly sad part is that we begin to buy into this too. We tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, fit enough, smart enough, beautiful enough… worthy. We have become “deaf” to the voice of God who is calling to us. Henri Nouwen says:
Somehow I have become deaf to the voice that calls me beloved, have left the only place I can hear that voice, and have gone off desperately hoping that I would find somewhere else what I could no longer find at home.¹
The grace of the story is just that, God is always ready to give us grace, to welcome us home, to invite us back to a place where we don’t have to prove a thing. I keep wanting to say, “God is inviting us home where we don’t have to prove a damn thing!” (Pardon my language!)
In the parable Jesus told, when the son repents and makes his way home, the father immediately welcomed him back! He even threw him a huge party! God wants to do the same for us: invite us home, forgive us, celebrate exactly who we are.
The truth is that coming home is often a looong journey. Even after I preached yesterday about how we don’t have to prove anything, about how God is ready for us to be home — intimately connected to God. After I had just been preaching about God’s incredible capacity for love and grace and God’s craving for us, almost immediately I heard the lies from my far away land.
As I made my way back to my seat from preaching, I began to hear the stories I’ve told myself: “That wasn’t funny enough. That was too heavy. That was too long. You could have done this or that…”
Coming home, being in a deep and meaningful relationship with God that is pumped full of precious acceptance sounds great, but it can be hard to believe when the stories we’ve come to accept for ourselves are so loud.
So, day-after-day we must commit ourselves to listen for the “Thin. Quiet.” voice of God (1 Kings 19:12).
You’ll know this voice when it sounds like grace, acceptance, delight, love and hope. You’ll know you are home when you hear the voice of a Father who reaches into the depths of our false-stories and places the truest story you’ll ever hear about yourself:
You are beautiful. You are wonderful. You are enough. You are valuable. You are precious. You are able. You are loved. You. Are. Worthy.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Cole
1. Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, (New York, NY: Convergent Books, Anniversary ed., 2016), 45.