by Ricky Chelette, Executive Director
What would it be like to have every sin forgiven and every bad deed forgotten? What would it be like to come home – not to a house, but to a place of grace and truth and lavish love?
The story of the prodigal son is that very story – a story of truth, grace and coming home. It has captured the hearts and imaginations of man for centuries. It appears in chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel. It is a beautiful story of prodigals and a good, loving, and gracious father.
Though written centuries ago, it is really the story of all of our lives. It is a picture of the character of God, the sinfulness of man, the power of repentance, and the power of lavish grace and forgiveness. It is a story almost too good to be true, but it is, and it’s a story I see lived out week after week.
It often begins with a simple text message, email or call that says, “can you help me?” The conversations that follow are often complex and filled with emotions, uncertainties, and confusion. The paths back home are different, the circumstances unique, but each has a resolve that always points to one truth – a longing to come home! In much the same way, Luke puts it in these words, “But when he came to himself” (vs 17). There is something in the heart of man that wants to be right with God our Father, that longs for peace and congruity. Our heart wants to invest itself in something more than passing pleasures and temporal joy. At the core of every human cry for help is a desire for God. He has placed it there and most will spend our lives either enjoying it, or trying to fill it with cheap counterfeits.
What I love about Luke’s story is he is not as concerned about the son’s bad choices and rebellion as he is about the Father’s response when the son comes home. Verse 20 states, “But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and felt compassion…” In a world where Christianity and religious beliefs are more often associated with hate and vitriol than love and grace, the Bible is quick to remind us that the heart of God is a father who loves his children, is ever-watching for them, and is moved with compassion when they turn towards home.
Not only was the father filled with compassion, Luke goes on to say, “[the father] ran and embraced him and kissed him.” The father “ran” to the son. We have no idea how old this son was, but he was old enough to live on his own, take his inheritance, and engage in all manner of adult activities. That makes his father more than likely a middle-aged man, maybe even older. The father is not the age of a man you normally associate with running uncontrollably in public. But when the father sees the son moving towards home, he “ran.” Why? Because good dads are moved with great joy and overflowing emotion when they see their son or daughter coming home. Like the father, God not only moves towards us, but He is filled with compassion and love. Luke says that after running to the son the father “embraced him and kissed him.” God not only wants us to know forgiveness and love, He really wants us to feel and experience it. There is no condemnation. No judgment. No lecture or chiding. Just compassion and overflowing love. I’m sure there were conversations and discussion about all that had taken place, lessons learned, etc., but that was for another time. On this day it was a call to celebration!
The father’s response is to free the son from his slavery to lesser things and restore his connection as son. He places a robe upon his back, a ring of sonship on his finger and calls for a feast to celebrate his son who once was lost, but now has been found. This is a picture of the God we serve, the God who gave His only son for our redemption. This is The God who loves us enough to leave heaven and join us on earth to demonstrate His love to us by giving His life on a cross for our sins. This is true Father’s love and it cost Jesus His very life. This is our prodigal journey. This is our prodigal, homecoming feast!
As we contemplated what the theme of this year’s banquet/celebration would be I was drawn to this story in Luke. Despite a culture that has completely embraced homosexuality as normative, God continues to call men and women out of the far country and back to their home with Him.
On October 17th we will celebrate these powerful, real life stories – stories of prodigals who have returned home. We hope you will join us for an unforgettable encounter with the grace and truth of a redeeming God who runs to meet us when we turn towards Him and seeks to restore us.
Maybe you need to come home, be forgiven, find that peace that passes all understanding, and be reunited with author and creator of your soul? Our Father offers forgiveness and grace. He is filled with compassion and love. He is waiting for you, watching and eagerly anticipating your return. Won’t you join us as we come home and celebrate a prodigal feast!
Tickets are on sale now and limited to 500. Tables are $400 and individual tickets are $45 and can be purchased here. Deadline to purchase tickets is October 9th, midnight. Come to the prodigal feast and be blessed!