Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 “In the Father’s Voice”
March 10, 2013 – Caitlin Trussell
Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable:
11 “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 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.” 22 But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”
Luke 15:1-2, 11b-32: A sermon for the fourth Sunday in Lent, March 10, 2013
Caitlin Trussell, Augustana Lutheran Church
My son left. MY SON LEFT! He told me he wished I were dead, asked for his inheritance and took off. I don’t know if he meant it but it doesn’t much matter one way or the other. His heart was set on leaving and maybe giving him the money meant he would at least get what he needed to live.
He’s always been so tough, so stubborn. Sometimes that worked for him and our household and sometimes it didn’t. And he was never sure if I loved him as much as his older brother. What is it with these kids that my love for them is the constant question? Well, I suppose once he left, walked away as if I were dead to him, that question was no longer the question.
It ate me up at night, imagining all the things that could happen to him and not knowing if any or all of them were true. Night after night I’d flop into bed, exhausted by the day’s work only to lay flat and be exhausted by the tossing and turning and wondering about my son.
I’m not sure how it happened but I must have slept because in the morning I’d wake up – scratchy-eyed and cotton-headed, but I’d wake up. I’d wake up, head to breakfast and be met by sheer joy as I sat with my other son who stayed and worked beside me day in and day out; so faithful and so good. He keeps the commandments faithfully and works hard as the head of the household. You see, when I figured out the inheritance, I divided it between them. Each of them received what I would have given them if I were dead. My friends thought I was out of my mind. It’s a little out of the ordinary but it works for us. I still work where and when I can but he figures out what happens next for our household. I love working side-by-side with him, living in the day-to-day with him. Laughing at the old jokes, praying the prayers of our ancestors, disagreeing about who should do what, working up a good sweat, arguing about plans for planting and harvesting, walking down to the river at the end of a long day – all of it wonderful. His faithfulness blesses me day-after-day-after-day.
He mentioned his brother from time-to-time. Wondered where he was, and wondered why he didn’t want to live here. I used to wonder why he didn’t go find his brother. I told him stories to try to clue him in. Like the time when David, our shepherd, went missing and then turned up a few days later with a wild story about finding one of his sheep he thought he’d never see again. I think he even kicked up his heels a time or two before he could settle down. Or the time when my sister, his Aunt Miriam, looked and looked and looked, practically turning the house upside-down, until she found the coin that she had lost. It took her days to find it and days to put the house back together after the looking. Truth-be-told we thought she was more than a little nutty at the time but we celebrated her find with her anyway. I told him these stories and more; and still, he wondered and worked and wondered.
Not too many days ago, I was coming back outside after taking a break from the heat, and I saw someone walking up the road. It was one of those moments, maybe you know the kind, where my heart knew but my head couldn’t catch up fast enough so I just stood there, frozen, wondering if it was true. But I knew, I knew his shape, I knew his walk, I knew HIM! Before I could think any more about it, I was off like a shot! I only remember running as fast as I could; I think maybe I was yelling. I’m sure I was a sight – eyes wild, robes and dust flying all around, chickens scattering and squawking, I just simply couldn’t move fast enough. I practically knocked us both to the ground when I caught him up in my arms. I know he tried to tell me something but my pounding heart must have blocked my hearing it. I just knew we had to celebrate. That very moment became celebration and that celebration became a party – fatted calf and all! He wasn’t quite ready but we partied around him anyway. I think he was in shock. He was so hesitant, so timid. I still only know what happened to him in the bits and pieces he has been willing to share. I hope I hear more as he feels he can share it.
His brother is also in shock. He couldn’t bring himself to be at the party that night. I went out to talk with him and he actually said something about, “This son of yours…” As if he had no connection to his brother at all! I did my best to reassure him of my love for him and explain the party for his brother. I told him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” This wasn’t optional partying; this was HAD-TO partying.
In the aftermath of all that has happened, here is what I hope my children know – deep down to their very toe-nails. I love them. I love them when they’re close and when they’re far away. I love them in their faithfulness and in their humiliation. I love them in their daily work and in their return. As inheritors of all that is mine, including my love, they are ambassadors of this household – finding whoever is lost from this house and bringing them to life again. For all of this and for more than there are words, I say again and again, thanks be to God!!!