From Luke 15: 11 - 32, the beloved Bible story of the Prodigal Son will be heard in many churches this Sunday. Ralph Waldo Emerson called it the greatest story in or out of the Bible, and Charles Dickens agreed. Parables are full with characters with whom we can identify...each one here.
The younger son: eager to get away, abashed by our mistakes, willing to do almost anything to get back to our old lives. The older brother: hardworking, diligent, and then resentful at the undeserved gain or unpunished wastefulness of another.
The father: desperate for a sign of a long-missed loved one, overjoyed by his or her unexpected return. This story seems to reveal that God is just so happy, so overjoyed by our return, regardless of the motivation. That concept is very hard for we humans, which is only one reason why God is God, and we are not.
Here, Jesus reveals a glimpse into the country of God. A visit into another country. Another land. One that feels, smells, tastes different...and why?
In God’s country, nobody counts things here. No tracking billable hours. No counting the days until school lets out. No marking debits on the balance sheet. No cries from the backseat of “Are we there yet?” No counting old grievances and grudges. No dredging up past wrongs or unsettled scores.
For whatever reason, people in this country of God’s have lost track of all that, and cannot remember why anyone would keep count in the first place.
But in this world, we NEED to keep count, otherwise we lose track of what we owe each other, and cannot know the value of anything. If we do not weigh it, measure it, assess it, JUDGE it, and everything, and everyone around us, how would we....how could we...figure how we are richer, better, smarter, etc. than the other guy or girl? Tribalists, each of us.
But in this different country...the country of God...there is value in everything and everyone. We all matter, in and of ourselves. We just do.
Jesus paints a picture of a world of unmerited grace. The mercy we hear of, the grace that we are pointed to, the help that allows us to endure all the counting and measuring around us, all through the loving and merciful God who eagerly waits for us to return, running to meet us. Joyfully coming home.