March 12: Grace is our inheritance
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As the father of two sons, this passage speaks deeply to me of the gift of extravagant love that God has given by blessing me with my boys. It comforts me so to know that God heaps that love on me and also on you. I understand that no matter how far I stray, I am forgiven as soon as I even so much as desire to repent and return. God knows what’s in my heart, and will offer me forgiveness even though I am unworthy.
But it also challenges me to imagine the ways that the things I hold on to affect me. How can it be that the father celebrates the return of the one who wished him dead by asking for his share early, the one who spent that share in the most selfish ways imaginable, the one who disgraced the older brother, himself, and perhaps most unbearably their own father?
In my Lenten prayers, I usually focus on the space I make for God in my life by letting go of something. But this Lenten season, I have been praying about what I hold on to. And in this passage, I read the challenge for us as “letting go of what we hold onto.” As I hold onto my desire to do what is right, say what is right and even think what is right, I can miss that my inheritance is not a reward for being righteous – it is, instead, God’s grace.
That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t strive to live righteously, and to keep the promises I make to others, to myself and to God. But grace doesn’t come to me because I have done those things, it comes to me only because I let go of the human things I hold dear, and hold fast to God.
May we feel your grace today, Lord, as we seek to love you with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds and all our strength.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (NRSV)
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. 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. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout 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 to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 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! I will get up 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 like one of your hired hands.’ ” 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. 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.” 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. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 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. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 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.” ’