Text: Luke 15: 11-32
Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
11 Then Jesus[a] said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with[b] the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father[d] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Quite a number of years ago I was working for an electronics firm in the Dallas, Texas area as the marketing manager for that firm. We were living in an area called the Mid-Cities and the offices of this company were in Plano-which is north of Dallas a little ways, which meant that every morning I had a lengthy commute to get to work. I normally left the house pretty early to avoid traffic and this allowed me to leave early in the afternoon as well, for the same reason. On my way to work each morning, I would normally listen to the radio, there was a news/talk radio station that was pretty good and part of the regular routine every morning was the Paul Harvey news and comment, followed by a little story that was called “The Rest of the Story”. You may remember some of these; they were usually quite interesting and sometimes even informative.
When it comes to our text this morning, I know that it wasn’t that long ago that I read this same scripture and built a sermon around it, but today I wanted to look at it again from another perspective. It occurred to me that the scripture ends with the brother a bit disgruntled and the party or celebration about to take place and we are left to our imaginations to fill in the balance of what happened. Have you ever given any thought to what things might have been like the next morning? Or the next month of mornings? Or for however long the prodigal decided to hang around this time? In the spirit of Paul Harvey, I want to know the rest of the story.
I don’t know if you will remember this or not, but in the early 1970’s there was a movie released called the Poseidon Adventure. It was about a luxury steam liner that gets capsized by a tidal wave on New Year’s Eve. If you remember the movie, you might remember the Oscar-winning theme song for the movie; “There’s Got to Be a Morning After”. This song was in the movie, but during that time it was also at the top of the charts for a few weeks being performed by Maureen McGovern. This song was specifically written for the movie and it did win an Oscar for an original song for a motion picture.
This text reminds me of that song; the son comes back, there is great forgiveness and great demonstrations of unconditional love and even a little bit of jealousy on the part of the brother; but then the story ends. I’m thinking in my own mind, there has got to be a morning after; the morning after the party, the morning after the celebration, the morning when reality begins to set in. It may not have been the very next morning, but I’m sure it wasn’t long before the prodigal was reminded that there was work to be done. My question is what happened in the rest of the story? How did the prodigal respond to this demonstration of unconditional love? How did the prodigal respond to grace?
If it were up to me to finish the rest of the story, I know how I would like it to read. I would have the prodigal up the very next morning, ready to work and ready to take on the challenges of the day. I would have the prodigal earn back the trust and respect of both his father and his brother as he works harder and longer than most of the hired hands. I would have the prodigal begin to be involved in different ways with the community and become a leader and volunteer in the community. I would have the prodigal help to make the family farm more profitable and perhaps introduce some new ideas or new techniques that result in less work but more productivity. I would have the prodigal perhaps meet his soul mate and bless his father and mother with grandchildren. I would have the prodigal become a source for information and learning that the younger men now sought out, I would have the prodigal helping others solve problems and helping others in any way he could. More than anything else, I would have the prodigal rise each morning with gratitude that he has enough to eat and a roof over his head and a place to call home. I would have him rise each morning giving thanks for his father and his brother and for the blessing of forgiveness and unconditional love. I would have the prodigal never forget that day in the rain when he came to himself while he was feeding the pigs. If it were up to me, that is what the rest of the story would look like, that is how the rest of the story would read.
But we don’t have the rest of the story, do we? I’m wondering if it was intentionally left blank for us to fill in our own response to this unconditional love, this remarkable grace, this loving forgiveness demonstrated by father. Perhaps it was left blank for us to fill in our own response.
We are greeted each day with every bit as much grace as the prodigal received the day he arrived home. We are greeted each day with the same blank slate, the same opportunity to begin again that the prodigal had on that morning after.
Do we greet each day with gratitude? Do we do all we can to help others and demonstrate grace to everyone we meet? Do we paint the new canvas of a new day with all the color and spectacle of the love of God? Do we sometimes forget how easily we could be one of the homeless or one of the sick or one of the imprisoned? Do we sometimes forget that with the dawning of each new day, we have a new opportunity to bring love and grace to the rest of our stories?
If it were up to me to write the rest of the story for the prodigal and his brother, I know what I would write and I know how I would have him respond.
How will I respond? How will you respond? These are the more pressing questions, for each of us have the rest of our stories to finish. Let us respond in love and let us respond with the grace of God and let us never forget to greet each new day with the gratitude of knowing that we can begin again.
Go in peace and go finish the rest of your stories and go with God.