20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. Luke 15:20-24 The Message
In October each year we celebrate Homecoming at our church. We have the opportunity to reconnect with friends old and new, seeking to share this special day and time together. We enjoy this time and it is a time of feasting and fellowship. It is a wonderful time, but the essence of the Homecoming Celebration mentioned in Luke 15 is very different.
The young man had left home and his family for what he thought was for good and then found out that the world was a much more difficult place to live that he had thought. He had been gone a long time and had been thought lost for good and perhaps even dead. When the young man came to his senses he made plans to return to his father, confess his sin, and be contented to become his father’s slave, not believing himself worthy anymore to be a son.
This homecoming was not about coming to a place, but to a person. In returning he was hoping to be near the place of familiarity and hoping to occasionally catch a glimpse of the one who used to be his father. But this homecoming would be different, for “when he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.”
He began his speech, but the father wasn’t listening. He tells them “My son (not my servant) is here-given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!” We are sons and daughters not because of the place we gather but because the Father calls us his and has absorbed the offense. He didn’t wait for the son to come crawling back and grovel for a place in the servant’s quarters, but the father ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him as his son.
Many believe this is a story about a son and really it is about the wonderful, grace, love, and mercy of the father. When we gather, do we come because we hope being in the place will put us close to the presence of the Father? Have we remained faithful to the Father’s house (like the other son) while also neglecting that relationship with him? Will we come willing to offer our confessions and find the Father running to embrace us? I pray for that kind of homecoming every time we gather. What a homecoming! We should celebrate restored relationships with the Father.