6 June 2012

Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

"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." (v. 20)


Today's story is so familiar that we sometimes find ourselves only half listening when we hear it read or even read it for ourselves.

Here we have a father and two sons: one solid and reliable working the land alongside his father, the other an adventurous soul who wants to see the world. The accounts are prepared, the proceeds shared out and off goes the young man, aiming to make his fortune but it doesn't work out that way. It would seem he gets in with the wrong crowd, and his nest egg disappears. He is left destitute and forced to look for work wherever he can find it, even to the extent of caring for unclean animals something which would be an anathema to a good Jewish boy. Finally he comes home and is received with love, and, despite his brother's anger, I suspect lives happily ever after.

Last night I went to a somewhat unusual theatre. It was held in a church centre and all the actors were from an inner-city homeless community. This theatre company has been going for around four years, and through their workshops and productions lives have been changed. The play told the actors' own stories, of marriage breakdown, drug addiction, the things which had driven them to dereliction, and how they had found new hope and new life through the love which came to them from this somewhat unusual mission opportunity.

The actors could all relate to the prodigal son in the story; the love they have found is through a committed Christian community willing to accept them for who they are without judgement, and with arms open wide to receive them.

In contrast, I was waiting for a bus a while ago when a man with mental health problems came and joined the queue. A bus came in and he got on. The bus left and the person next to me said, "I could have got that bus but I couldn't travel with someone like that." There was no compassion or love - so sad.

To Ponder

How do you react when you see the homeless alcoholic in the street?

Are you prepared to think, there but for the grace of God go I?

In what ways can the Church be the open arms of God to those in need?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.