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Coming Back Home (Third Sunday after Trinity)

[Luke 15:11-24] And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Coming Back Home

At the end of a long day, you say, “I’m spent”. At the end of a long life, will your soul say, “I’m spent”? Of all the time, the energy, the ability – the five senses and your mind – and of your knowledge of God’s will and of His Gospel - of all that God has given you, what do you spend it on? God has given you your very being, your very self, and your Christian faith. On what do you spend these goods?

At the start of our Lord’s parable today, we see a father and his two sons. The younger of the two sons had desired that his father give him his share of the father’s property. So, the father in the parable divided his property between the two sons.

Two Greek words are used here for “property”. One is [ousia]; the other is [bios]. These words have to do with life [bios], and being or existence [ousia]. This father is giving the very substance of his life – he’s giving of himself - to his two sons. All that makes and constitutes the measure of life is given to them.

That younger son receives this wealth of life from his father and then takes it very far away from his father. He squanders his life on a life not pleasing to his father. This son scatters himself and stretches his soul thin on what is called, in our translation, “reckless” living.

The word for “reckless” here is the Greek word for salvation with a negative in front of it. This son spends himself on those things which are not conducive to his salvation. He wastes what time he has. In the end, he lives a famished life – a life that his father will later refer to as ‘death’ – “this my son was dead”.

Brothers and sisters, you find yourself tired. You find yourself zapped. You find yourself spent. Where is the richness and substance of a life with God? Where is wisdom or growing or maturity in the faith? Where is progress in godliness?

Where is the joy of your salvation? Where did it go? Where is peace or contentment? They go like a vapor because we do not spend ourselves wisely. We do not spend the life God has given us as if it were from God.

Why do I have this nagging discontentment? Why am I so spent? Because of what I spend myself on. I spend myself far away from God or even in the pigsty.

You’ve all seen the stories of those who win the big lotteries, the big jackpots. And they waste it all. Tens of millions spent up in a few years. The winners are left in the shambles of a bankrupt life.

Every person born is the winner of much more than the lottery. You’ve been given life itself. And you, the baptized children of God, have been given infinitely more than that. Knowledge of God. Knowledge of His commands and will. God’s own Word. The very riches of heaven. You have God Himself. But, like the lottery, it slips through our fingers too easily.

The younger son in the parable spent his riches, from his father, in a far away country. This is you and I when we spend our life in the same empty ways as the unbelieving world. This is life without honoring the first, second, third commandments.

That is, life spent far away is life spent on the many empty idols in our life – life that does not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. It’s life that does not spend itself rightly using the name of God – calling upon His name, hourly, all the time, in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.

Life spent far away is life that does not keep the Sabbath day. That is, you do not rest from the needs and work, or leisure, of this life and spend a day of a week, or an hour of a day, on gladly hearing God’s Word and truly listening to it (as if it were a treasure).

Life that does not eat God’s Word as its main meal is life that gets spent thin and dry. (Yet, worst off are those who don’t notice they’re starving and die without repentance.)

Life squandered and ill spent is life in the pigsty. At the end of the parable, the older of the two sons accuses the younger of spending all his father’s money on prostitutes. This might be a false accusation, or, likely, it might indicate to us what the pigsty of the younger son’s life really was.

Life spent away from God’s Word easily, seamlessly, becomes a life dabbling in, spending itself on, and then justifying the immorality and sexual sins of the flesh.

With your mind or with your mouth, approving of what others do in the sinful flesh – thereby approving of what God calls sin – puts you in the pigsty and away from God. When you yourself engage in what ought not be done, or occupy yourself with sexually explicit images or literature –pornography or sexualized romance novels or movies – or engage in sexually immoral acts – the Holy Spirit flees your gates and you yourself become the world’s pigsty.

Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” [Matthew 15:8]. Whether it’s a heart far off, or life spent on the flesh, we daily must come to our senses.

The younger son in the parable finally realized he was starving himself - “he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.”

“But when he came to himself – when he came to his senses - he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you”I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment; but I am heartily sorry for them, and sincerely repent of them“I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

Come to your senses. Return to God your Father, your source of life and sustenance. He will forgive. In fact, He already has.

This now-sorry-son turns from the pigsty and begins his steps back toward his father’s house. Before the son can ever get there, his father is already coming to him. The father sees him from far off and runs – he runs to his child. The father embraces his unclean son, cries on him, kisses him, clothes him in new clothing, puts the royal ring on his finger, and celebrates with a sacrificial feast – the fattened calf slain.

Turn back to God, each week, at the end of each day, at midday, at the end of each hour, after every few minutes, all the time – be turning back to God and away from the emptiness of sin. Before you can even get to God, He is already back to you.

God embraces you, rejoices over you, clothes you again – washes your robe white in Christ’s blood – puts the royal family ring back on your finger.

The sins you fall into, whatever they are, are common to us all. Each moment you find yourself misspent, turn to the One who has spent Himself on you – Jesus Christ, who spent His life on the cross to purchase forgiveness for sinners. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance”, the Apostle Paul said, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” [1 Timothy 1:15]

We can each say that. And we each have Jesus as our only Savior who brings us out of the pigsty of our sin and back home into our Father’s house. Amen.

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