Is there a better week to return home than Easter? I have had the privilege over the years to hear about and watch many prodigals find their way back. In a dorm room, a fraternity house, a locker room, an empty classroom, even a hallway of an academic building that was mostly deserted on a weekend, minus the muffled cries of a college student coming back to relationship with Jesus. You might have seen a similar occurrence recently at church.
It probably was not the same as the story Luke the doctor reported in his New Testament Gospel account. You may not even have recognized the person at first. He or she could have been sitting in the church when you arrived as you took your seat a few rows away.
Read Luke 15:11-32.
I remember one young man, probably a sophomore. I noticed him during the greeting time when we were asked to greet one another by moving out of our seats and mingle a bit. He looked like he just got up out of bed with his hair uncombed, wrinkled T-shirt and old pair of jeans. He appeared to be looking for someone over my shoulder as we exchanged small talk. Then he smiled, excused himself, waved his hand and walked away. I followed his eyes to a man coming up toward my row of chairs and guessing, thought to myself, “It’s his father.”
The older man walked a bit hesitantly, then stopped and altered his path swiftly to our row. The young man intercepted him at the aisle, and they stood and looked at each other momentarily. Both men stared at each other, and it seemed the older man was surprised to see the younger man. As he moved into the row, he suddenly threw his arms around the student’s neck and hugged him. I could not tell who started to cry first, but the sobs got louder. Soon both men’s shoulders were going up and down as they hung onto to one another’s necks. I stood just a few feet away, not knowing what was happening exactly, but marveling at what God was up to.
When I looked up a few minutes later, they had stopped hugging. They were still standing, forehead-to-forehead, talking quietly, their faces red with tears. They then took their seats and the father put his arm around the son’s shoulder as the pastor started his weekly talk. Throughout the rest of the service, the older man kept looking at his boy, eyes misty and full of love.
After the service, I walked over to introduce myself to the dad. He spoke exuberantly of his son returning to God after his mother died unexpectantly right after he finished junior high. There was anger toward God and many unanswered questions for years. He said he was stunned to see his boy in church that morning and knew God was answering prayers of many sleepless nights.
There was no fatted calf being grilled in the church parking lot that Sunday. But a son returned home. I was there and saw part of God’s redemptive work in real time.
What do you remember from the narrative in Luke 15 about the prodigal son? Which character in the parable do you tend to resemble? Have you wronged your parents in some way and need to finally repair the damage? Have you allowed something to come between you and your heavenly Father that needs to be forgiven? Is there someone you know who needs help to “get home?”
Live communally. God is calling – return home to Him. Or help someone else with open arms.
Love is a verb,
©2014 by Mike Olejarz