March 4, 2016
I was back to my home town the other day visiting my mother and drove by the house I grew up in. It was a long time ago when I left there for college and then to live in many other places. To see my childhood house naturally brought back memories. You know how that is. The memories remind us of the importance of place and what it means to be home. Mary and I have moved enough so that we have wondered where we feel most at home. Everywhere we have lived has brought wonderful connections, friendships and more dear memories. It has helped us widen our understanding of home.
Now in Iowa we have come to appreciate a new place and feel once again that we are home. What makes it so is in large part because of the life and nature of the church. You can say that the gospel is always bringing us back home. The hospitality of congregational life and the means of grace are constantly returning us to the heart of our relationship with God and with others.
The parable of the prodigal son shapes an important understanding of what it takes to feel at home. We learn that it is not merely us finding a place to call home but the realization that by God’s grace we are found to be at home. In other words, home is where love abides.
In the parable we see the wayward son coming to his senses to return home. We see his older brother who has never left home. At the center of the story is the father who filled with compassion runs down the road with open arms to welcome in the prodigal; he then turns to his elder son to remind him that he too shares in the same compassion that brings them all together.
Lent is a season for homecoming. The time invites us to participate in compassion in most real ways! This compassion is of welcome, mercy and new beginnings. It turns us to look at our relationships anew and to celebrate the gift that brings everything together. Paul’s words are fitting to the parable: that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us (2 Corinthians 5:19).