The Three Prodigals

Sermon Summary for Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

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The Very Reverend Richard Pocalyko officiated the final Eucharist of Mother Mary’s sabbatical on Sunday.  His message was based on the Gospel lesson in Matthew 16:21-28 in which Jesus’ message is that God the Father’s primary desire for us is to love one another as He loves us. The story Jesus tells in this passage is commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Fr. Richard’s opinion is that it is more a parable of the loving father, who despite the religious and social mores of the day welcomes his lost son with open arms and grandly displays his love for him.  According to the traditions of the religious elite of the day, the prodigal son would have been dismissed as “dead in their eyes” and the father considered spiritually remiss for taking him back.  The third main character in the story is the elder son who is enraged that the father would throw a party for his wasteful, disobedient younger brother after he has spent his entire life as an obedient and trustworthy worker on the estate. To further demonstrate the central theme, Fr. Richard reminds us that during the complete discourse with his disciples Jesus tells three parables – first is the the lost sheep, the second is the lost coin, and the third is the prodigal son.  In all three, Jesus wants us to understand the extent to which our Heavenly Father will go to save one of his lost children from sin and death, thus emphasizing his limitless capacity of love for each one of us.

The definition of prodigal is recklessly or wastefully extravagant spending.  Fr. Richard’s idea is that all three main characters are “prodigal” in their own way.  The younger son was prodigal in the traditional definition of the word by wasting his inheritance on lavish, wasteful spending. The elder son was prodigal in the extravagance of hate he displays for his brother as opposed to recognizing his father’s love for both sons and celebrating with him in saving his brother’s life. Fr. Richard says the most prodigal character of all was the father by showing his extravagant love for both sons.  Not only did he celebrate the return of the lost son, he sincerely and gently responded to his elder son’s outrage by pleading with him to join the celebration and understanding the purpose of it.  After all, he reminds him that all his possessions have always been his to have.  The father in the parable is a perfect illustration of how our Father in heaven loves all his children and does not want to lose a single one.

What is our takeaway?  God loves the sinner; He seeks the sinner; He patiently waits for the sinner to come to him for love and redemption.  It is the Gospel in a nutshell.  God loves us with a love our human minds cannot comprehend.  We are to acknowledge and give thanks for God’s love and are called to share it as best we can at all times.  It is the very definition of the two greatest commandments - to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Who is our neighbor?  It is every child of God on the earth.  While we cannot possibly help every child of God on earth, we can help the ones whom God puts in our path.  When He does, God calls us to respond with all we can to live out the love with which we are so lavishly blessed.