Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back 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; make me like one of your hired servants.’
“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The 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 servants, ‘Quick! 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’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”
We’ve all been the younger son – we know it. And we’ve all been the elder son – we know that too.
Jesus invites us to stop… and receive the Father’s love, no matter which brother we’re presently channeling.
This is the gospel.
This is the love of the Father for us, his profligate and self-righteous children. This is the love of Jesus for us – the love that took our sin upon himself on the cross. This is the love of God poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
This is how evil is overcome – with self-sacrificial love on the one hand, full and free forgiveness on the other.
This is the gospel of Jesus, our Messiah.
Before you go to sleep each night, spend a few minutes thinking over the day that’s now coming to an end. Invite Jesus to walk with you through the day, and bring to mind those things that would be helpful to sort out with him in the safety of his love for you.
What were the thoughts and feelings within you when you woke up? How did you spend the first hour of your day?
What was the highlight of your day?
What occupied your attention the most?
Where did you most sense God’s presence during your day? What was going on?
Did you sense God’s prompting to do something? Or say something? Did you sense him move you to engage with a particular situation you noticed? How did it go?
What were your primary emotions? Was there a fear or anxiety that was constantly present? Was there a hunger or a longing that was a constant itch?
Was there peace? Joy? Gratitude?
Who were the people you interacted with today? How do you think your interactions went? Was there a conversation you wish you could redo? Is there someone you need to make peace with tomorrow?
Is there someone whose forgiveness you need? Is there someone you need to forgive?
End your day in the Lord’s prayer.