Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

April 23, 2020 — How many of my father’s workers have food enough to spare?

The prodigal son by Gwen Raverat, 1914

Today’s Bible reading

 Then Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. After a few days, the younger son gathered together all he had and left on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his wealth with a wild lifestyle. Then after he had spent everything, a severe famine took place in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and worked for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He was longing to eat the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food enough to spare, but here I am dying from hunger! I will get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him. Then his son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Hurry! Bring the best robe, and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Bring the fattened calf and kill it! Let us eat and celebrate, because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again—he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. — Luke 15:12-24

More thoughts for meditation

Who knows how somebody is going to react when we ask them for forgiveness? — especially when the relationship has history and the offense can be even more personal and therefore hurtful. In the story above, the boy asks his father for his inheritance, something he only would have received when the father dies. To ask for this while he was still living is stronger than giving the finger to your father. “You mean nothing to me” is how that request would be interpreted. Ouch!

The father responds unexpectedly. This parable is often titled The Prodigal Son. According to Merriam-Webster, “prodigal” means “profuse [even wasteful] expenditure.” So maybe it should be called The Prodigal Father! Look again at the posture of the father at the son’s return. “But while [the son] was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him.” The image is of a man who is waiting, scanning the horizon and holding onto hope that he will see his son again. Matt Williams teaches how it was shameful and humiliating for a grown man to run like that when Jesus told first this story. But even if you didn’t know that, it is easy to see the profuse and extravagant, even wasteful, love and joy this father is letting himself feel. It almost seems as if he couldn’t not feel it.

Did you use yesterday’s prayer? It was based on Luke 16:1-9. In it, there is a similar picture of an authority figure and one who manages that authority’s wealth. Luke puts these stories back to back to give insight to Jesus’ declaration in 16:8b: “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light.” In both stories he contrasts what is strictly business and what is deeply familial. With Jesus, our relationship to God is more like family than business. It is more covenantal than contractual. [Know of any other blogs that differentiate this?]

Maybe you’ll want to just stay in this place of insensibly extravagant love and forgiveness in order to let the extent of God’s love for you sink in. Enjoy a long embrace that can’t help but violate social distancing.

Suggestions for action     

Jesus’s embrace is a salve to our wounds and gives our pain meaning. I imagine the son wept uncontrollably after he couldn’t even get his apology out because his father wouldn’t stop kissing him! All the pain and shame the boy had felt (and caused his father to feel) was being covered by love. If nothing else, this story shows us that “love [does indeed] cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8

Remember the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). Jesus invites us to participate with all those wounded healers who have embraced Jesus and embrace those still in their pain. And invite them to feel the embrace of Jesus, too. 

Take a few minutes and reflect:

 Has somebody made you feel like you mean nothing (even unintentionally) to them? Have you had some kind of reconciliation? Imagine what that would look like right now.

Pray using our breath prayer for this week: Breathe in saying, “Holy Spirit” and breathe out saying, “open my heart to your love.”

Today is Cesar Chavez Day! Appreciate his daring and practical witness at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.


  1. Tracey Kohl

    I came down to pray this morning. The dishes aren’t completely done from last night. There are cucumbers on the table from last night. I had cell right after dinner so I asked the rest of the family to clean up from dinner. Most mornings I don’t mind finishing up what’s been left to clean. This morning I do kind of feel like I mean nothing to them. I do wonder what reconciliation would look like. They Im sure don’t think they have done anything wrong. They did clean up some. I guess the place for me to start is receiving God’s all encompassing embrace and love. I am something I am loved. I guess that would help me take the dirty dishes less personally. Would that make the conflict go better? I think I also am afraid of the conflict because I don’t want hard feelings between us. It’s hard to not live in the immediate. Yes my children will be mad if I explain you didn’t quite do the whole job. I am their parent. I should not be dependent on their love. This is more than can be figured out this morning. But it’s good to sit in God’s embrace and let things shift and come loose.

  2. mable bakali

    That sounds tough Tracey. It can be really hard to balance satiating our own needs, while trying to practice patience and give grace to others under normal circumstances (and even harder in times like these). You mean something, and even if you can’t find that externally from people who you love, and love you I hope you are feeling it in God’s embrace.

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