The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Lost Sons (the Prodigal Son) are three familiar parables. So familiar we may think we know them. But these parables, like other biblical stories reward repeated engagement.
Reading them this time, I was struck by the repeating celebrating and joy. “He calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them ‘Rejoice with me’…I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents..” (Luke 15:6,7), ” she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me…’ …I tell you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents…” (Luke 15:9,10), “…let us eat and celebrate 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)
Friends and neighbors ,and evidently angels and heavenly beings, gather to rejoice over the finding of the lost. Everyone is rejoicing, celebrating! Well, almost everyone.
The elder child in the parable of the lost sons isn’t celebrating. Of course it also looks like they forgot to tell him. “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.”
Hmm. That might make one a bit cranky. It might make one feel a bit taken for granted. Or forgotten.
The parable of the lost sons is a dramatic example, but we can all think of smaller, everyday instances when we feel forgotten or taken for granted. The new, cool youth group leader and the long standing, faithful volunteer. Families who expect dinner when they are hungry, then eat and rush off to their next thing without a word of thanks. We could go on, but I’m sure you can come up with plenty of examples of your own.
We’re standing there, in the kitchen, in the youth room, in the office, thinking, “Hey, what about me?” “Did you notice that I’ve been doing -fill in the blank- for quite some time now?” Or as the son says, “For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command…” Any you never gave me a party!
I get it. I may have once or twice, said something similar.
The father’s response gives me pause. “you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” In other words, you could have had a party. You could have been someone who celebrated. Who appreciated their life, their friends, and their family. Nothing kept you from celebration – but you.
Ouch! How many times could I have celebrated something- could have rejoiced and didn’t? More than three, I’m pretty sure.
But my lack of gratitude and unwillingness to celebrate doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t celebrate. There are things worth celebrating. Say a brother who returns alive, a wondering sheep brought home, finding the coin you dropped that rolled under the stove. As difficult as life can sometimes be, there are reasons to rejoice.
We don’t know if the older brother went into the party or not. The story is unfinished. Will the older brother go in? Will we?