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Sunday Message for 27 March 2022: “Returning Home”

Today’s message discusses the prodigal son (Luke 15:1-3,11b-32), a story of how a person who’s made terrible choices can be restored.

The setting involves a father and his two sons, one older and loyal and the other younger and rebellious. The younger brother demanded and received a share of the father’s inheritance (legally, the young son had no right to this). The petulant young man fled with his inheritance and, after a time of ruinous living, he returned home hungry and humiliated. The father embraced his lost son and graciously provided a coming-home feast. Meanwhile, the loyal son was disgruntled and resented the lavish celebration for his wayward brother.

A person can run away from God, from their family, from responsibilities and all that should be dear. A person can even be given-up for dead or, almost as bad, shunned by those who should love them. Aside from these extremes, people make bad choices and alienate themselves. Are you aware of anyone who has experienced any of this? Do you know a prodigal or have you ever had prodigal tendencies?

People can react poorly against a person who’s choices have resulted in disaster. A lesson here is to not make things worse by refusing to help restore someone, especially if the prodigal person is trying to make things right. Perhaps you’ve done wrong and fallen short of peoples’ expectations. When you realize the wrong you’ve caused it could be that the difference between success and failure hinges on whether friends or family will help you. A lesson here is to not give up on yourself or others.

Like the prodigal son, all of us are far from perfect. Have you felt awful because of something you did that hurt others? The first step to recovery is admitting that you’ve done wrong. Absent this, you’ll remain in denial or mired in pride that won’t let you admit mistakes. The prodigal son in the story came to his senses, stopped making bad decision, and confessed his wrongdoing to his father: “Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son’ “(Luke 15:21).

When you own your poor choices God is there to help. Pause for a moment as you visualize the father’s joy over his prodigal son who returned home: “for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24). The father opened his arms and his heart to a son who’d been given up for dead.

Take comfort in knowing that you can reconnect with God and transcend past evils. God will accept you even if some others will not. The key is to make a decision to walk along a new, positive path. The journey of wholeness is not easy. Yet with perseverance you’ll experience repentance, redemption, restoration and reconciliation.

How wonderful that God can empower you toward a better place in life. To be sure, prodigals still walk the earth. Many haven’t been awakened to their sad plight and are wandering and wallowing in peril. It’s not just refusing to admit wrong that hampers restoration because in some cases a prodigal has also lost hope. With God’s assistance you can compassionately help guide them. As God’s followers we are obligated to help prodigals and other wayward souls. We, like that father in the story, can embrace those who want to return home. Jesus’ golden rule absolutely applies here: treat others as you would want them to treat you.

You may encounter obstacles on your journey toward spiritual health but don’t give-up when people reject you or fail to assist. The first-born loyal son in the prodigal story was unmoved by his wayward brother’s repentance. Rather than rejoice with his father over a restored lost sibling the older son hardened himself. This reveals a self-righteous sin, one filled with blinding anger. In some ways, the older son was now in a worse state than the brother he refused to forgive.

Have you attempted to reinvent yourself after failing in some way? Unfortunately, some people will not accept a new you because they refuse to change their minds. Some folks are so entrenched in their hostile ideas that no amount of facts or evidence will sway them. Accepting a new you may seem distasteful by people content to feed only their grudges.

As we close, please recognize that the teary-eyed hug the father gave his prodigal son metaphorically represents God, who offers life-enhancing embraces to all. There’s always hope because once someone turns from destructive tendencies they are free to be healed and restored. Experience the soul-cleansing redemption that arises from letting go of the past and changing your life direction. My prayer is that all of our prodigal tendencies will be overcome by forgiveness and restoration.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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