Hi, I'm Tim Coombs, co-pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Scotia, NY and a member of the network of biblical storytellers. To learn more about its mission, go to nbsint.org
The story of the Prodigal Son is one of three parables about finding the lost in the fifteenth chapter of Luke's Gospel. The first is about a shepherd who goes and finds a lost sheep. The next is about a woman who sweeps her house in order to find a lost coin, but then we come to the bigger story known as the Prodigal Son or sometimes called the Forgiving Father. And the story begins with the son telling his father that he wants his inheritance now, which in other words is saying, ""I'd rather you be dead so I can have the property."" Well, the father actually gives him his share of the property, and the son goes off and sells it and goes to a distant land where he blows the living on riotous living. But when his money is spent, a famine hits the land, and the son could only get a job feeding pigs. That's the worse thing that a Jew could do because pigs were unclean animals. In fact, the son would rather eat the pods the pigs were eating. Then he gets an idea. He says, ""I know! I'll go home to my father and say, 'Father I've sinned against Heaven and against you. Treat me as one of your hired servants, because they have food to eat.'"" And so he sets off, and while he is on his way, his father sees him and runs out to greet him. Now in those days fathers with land did not run anywhere, but this father does. He runs and embraces him, and the son says, ""Oh father I have sinned against Heaven and against you, I'm not worthy to be called your son."" And the father stops him and says to his servant go, bring a ring, bring shoes for his feet, and a robe, and kill the fatted calf. For we must celebrate the son of mine was dead and is alive and is lost and he's now found, and they celebrated. Now, the older brother was in the fields working, and when he comes home he hears the festival going on, and he finds out that his brother has returned, and he refuses to go in the house. And so the father runs out to greet him, and to cajole him to come inside, and he says, ""No father, I have been such a loyal son, and this other son of yours comes home after squandering your money on harlots, and you kill a fatted calf for him. You never did that for me."" And the father says, ""We had to celebrate because this brother of yours was dead and now is alive, was lost and now is found."" It's a story for the people who are in the community who reject the outsiders, those they would consider sinners. But the forgiving father is merciful upon all who return.