Below is the text of the sermon preached by Godwin Chimara on 27/03/2022 based on the parable of the Prodigal Son

The Parable in Context

The parable of the prodigal son or the parable of the two sons (as some prefer to call it) is one of the most popular parables of Jesus. It is the longest of all parables in the gospels. It is one of three parables that you can only find in the gospel according to St. Luke. And in Luke’s account, this parable sits within the context of Jesus journeying towards Jerusalem on his way to the Cross. A journey that began in Luke 9 and will last all the way to Luke chapter 19. So, it is not out of place that this parable in Luke 15 has been chosen for the lectionary as a reading in this Lenten season.

I am mindful of the male domination of the characters used in this parable. If you find it unsettling, I encourage you to replace them with female characters or a combination, whichever suits you best. The bottom line is that whichever character you prefer to use, the message and its intentions are still valid.

The Prodigal Love of God

This parable is a response from Jesus when the Pharisees and Scribes accused him of inappropriate behaviour. And what did Jesus do wrong? – he welcomed and ate with sinners and tax collectors. Hence, this parable is often looked at from the point of view of repentance and forgiveness, where God out of love welcomes and forgives all who truly repent of their wrongdoings. A friend of mine calls it the parable of the prodigal love of God.

This morning, the Spirit has laid it in my heart that we should (in our context) look at this parable from the perspective of reconciliation – a once divided family is now brought together through genuine reconciliation, and there was joy all around. Although it could be argued that the older son was not overly happy but he sucked it up for the sake of reconciliation – a true Christian character.

There were at least a couple of things that were wrong with the behaviour of the younger son. First, he asked his father for his own share of inheritance. That was very rude of him; for in that culture (and in my culture too), asking for his share of inheritance before his father’s death is tantamount to him telling his dad that he wished him dead. Children who make such request lose respect and honour and are ostracised from the community. Some will say that is an unforgivable behaviour. But out of love, the father yielded to his request.

Secondly, this younger son wasted and squandered his money and inheritance and finally debased himself (with no other choice) by working in a pig farm and feeding himself with food meant for pigs. By these actions he brought shame not just to himself but to his father and family, reducing his status from the son of a large landowner to an unclean man.

The traditional title of this parable is the ‘prodigal son’ because the focus is on the behaviour of the son. When we focus on the wrongdoings, then attention shifts to who wronged who, who is right and who is wrong – a focus on ourselves. But when we focus on reconciliation, we look beyond wrongdoings, and our attention shifts from focusing on ourselves to focusing who we are called to be. And that was exactly what the father did. He looked beyond the wrongdoings of his son, and focused on who the wrongdoer is called to be – a beloved son of the Father, a beloved daughter, a beloved child of God.

God’s Mission is Reconciliation

Why did Luke place this parable within the context of Jesus journeying toward Jerusalem on his way to the Cross. And for you children here today – your own question is – why did Jesus die on the Cross?

The sole objective of Jesus journeying to Jerusalem and dying on the Cross is to reconcile us back to God. The mission of God in our fallen, broken world is reconciliation. In her sermon last Sunday, the Bishop gave us a litany of the brokenness of our world.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Scripture witnesses to God’s total mission to reconcile all of his creation to himself. God’s reconciling mission is holistic – reconciliation in our relationship with God, reconciliation in our relationship with ourself and with one another, and reconciliation in our relationship with all of creation. We as Christians participate with God by being transformed into ambassadors of reconciliation. And the church is called to be a living sign of the one body of Christ, an agent of hope and holistic reconciliation in our broken and fragmented world.

The church’s ministry of reconciliation flows from the call of being a reconciled community. In John 17.20-21, Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers – that we may be one just as he (Jesus) and the father are one.

A serious impediment to God’s mission of reconciliation in our time is not only the reality of divisions and conflicts around the world, but also quite often the church being caught up in these conflicts. The church has become a place where the blood of ethnicity, tribalism, racism, sexism, social class, nationalism etc seems to flow stronger than the waters of baptism and our confession of Christ. And this is seriously damaging our witness to the gospel of Christ, the gospel of love.

When we as Christians are passive bystanders, and do not become agents of reconciliation amidst divisions and conflicts, we are guilty of withholding love to a neighbour, the love of God is not manifested in our lives.

Be Ye Ambassadors of Reconciliation

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, I need not remind us that our beloved Diocese is in need of reconciliation.

In her charge at the Synod four weeks ago, the Bishop reminded all of us that the Diocese is not well (which is a publicly known fact). And if someone is sick, in order to get better, and to be well again, the whole of the person’s being – body, mind and spirit – has to be engaged in desiring healing.

The medication for this healing is nothing but reconciliation. For reconciliation begets healing, and healing begets new life.

In our second reading this morning, St Paul reminded the Corinthian church which was bedevilled with divisions and conflicts (and likewise he is reminding us today) – If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, old things have passed away, everything has become new. And it can only come from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation – the ministry of healing wounds, the ministry of rebuilding trust, the ministry of restoring right relationships.

Make no mistake – reconciliation is hard work, it is long-winded, often puzzling and never risk-free. It always walks hand-in-hand with truth, justice and sacrifice. These are all exemplified in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our role model.

So, in this season of Lent, as we journey with Jesus towards the Cross, let us genuinely seek reconciliation through the ongoing mediation process. Let us be the harbingers of reconciliation. For without reconciliation, we will not be able to enact the kingdom of God among us in this Diocese. Let our focus be on Jesus and not on ourselves; for Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, as the writer of Hebrews puts it (Hebrews 12.2)

If we truly seek reconciliation in Christ Jesus, those things that drag our Diocese backwards will pass away, and our Diocese will be renewed for the work of God’s kingdom that lies ahead of us in this place and at this time.

This is our task in this season of Lent. And be rest assured that if we do this, joy and new life awaits us and our Diocese.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.