“Loving and Forgiving are you O Lord”
(Jos 5:9a, 10-12; II Cor 5: 17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
Let us Pray: “Thank you Lord for the rain to quench your creation. Thank you for the Sun to brighten our days. Rejoicing with you and the rest of your creation, visit us always with your love and grace.”
Today’s parable is so famous that song writers, book writers and biographers write and publish similar stories of many men and women. This is the story of human kind. A story of Jealousy, of selfishness, of Love and Forgiveness.
Jealousy is everywhere, in the animal kingdom and in those in power.
In the Old Testament, the story of Cain and Abel relates a jealousy that ended in tragedy when Abel’s offering pleases God more than that of Cain’s offerings and as a result, Cain was indignant and killed his own brother. This passage is where the famous saying came, “Am I my brother’s keeper” where one denies the existence of another and chooses hate rather than love.
Jealously among the disciples of Christ in the New Testament was also very evident. In many occasions, Jesus rebuked his disciples because of envy and jealousy among themselves and those who do similar power of healing Jesus does to the people.
In the history of human kind, Leaders of Nations go against leaders of other nations because of jealousy and envy of powers.
In human families, greed, envy and jealousy often end up in tragedy and broken relationships and kept themselves in perpetual distance.
In our Church and every other Church and religious groups, there is jealousy and envy over leadership and accomplishments. There is selfishness where one tends to grab more attention and disregards others. It often leads to destruction of one’s personal life such as the saying, “Divide and conquer” to destroy one person or groups and use the name of God in vain to protect their image and to support their reasons.
We have forgotten about the Love of the Father and the presence of forgiveness that the Father has expressed in the story. The prodigal son may have spent all he had but after realizing all that, he repented and asked his father’s forgiveness and wanted to be loved again.
Most of the time we criticize someone who had done similar things and not realizing that we are pushing the person or persons against the wall, giving them no choices but to feel guilty and outcast. Each of us somehow have had our wrong decisions in life, but we don’t need another guilty feelings inflicted upon us. We have forgotten about love and forgiveness. For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. If God has forgiven us all of our sinfulness, how much more should we forgive others.
The other side of story in the Gospel can also be seen this way:
The end of the parable story is incomplete because we never knew if the older son celebrated with his brother and father. The loving father says, “We must celebrate and rejoice.” One may think it was a happy ending. Another thinks, in the end, there was a perpetual distance between the two brothers.
The unclear ending of this parable draws attention to the decision which the older son must face. The choice whether to celebrate or not celebrate with his brother becomes a key to unlock the meaning of the parable. The decision of the elder son which is left hanging in the air suggests that this parable is about the willingness to accept the brother who has come home. It asks us: Are we willing to rejoice in the good fortune of others?
When someone comes to our midst and contribute good things that glorify God, don’t we celebrate and rejoice for that is a sign that the presence of God is in our midst?
The parable then clearly invites us to avoid jealousy in our own lives. But if we can not avoid that, we must understand the root cause of jealousy. The parable gives us the answer. The older son is unable to accept the love that his father has for him even when it is clear that the father loves him when He says, “My son, you are here with me always and all I have is yours.” And yet, for some reason, this elder son will not believe in the father’s love. Because he will not accept the gifts that flow from that love, he ends up being jealous of his brother.
We can surely avoid jealousy in our own lives if we only accept the love God that has for us and the gifts that God has given us. Even though our gifts might seem less than the gifts of others, we need to accept that the gifts that we have been given are valuable and important.
Even then, sometimes we think: If God loves someone so much, there will not be enough love left over for me. But the parable clearly says this is wrong. The father is excessive in loving, prodigal in loving. The parable assures us that with our God there will always be enough love for all of God’s people.
This story invites us to claim the love that God has for us and the gifts that God has given us. It invites us to be thankful for our gifts and to accept, whatever those gifts are, they are a sure sign of God’s unfailing love for us. If we can be thankful for the gifts we have received, we can avoid jealousy in our lives. When we claim God’s love, our response to someone’s success or exaltation will be joy rather than envy. We will be able to celebrate with them, because no matter how much someone else can be blessed, we will know that we are never left out. With our God, there is always enough love to go around. Let us all be new creations and be ambassadors of Christ. Let us always be loving and forgiving. Let us not waste our time and life destroying anyone’s life just because we always want to be the center of attention. Let God be glorified always and not our selfish ways. Let us be welcoming and rejoice when you see new and old faces that come our midst, for they were sent by God.
We are so blessed to have elected members of the Bishop Committee and have appointed chairs and co-chairs for our various ministries in this Church. I have seen compassion and dedication in their hearts just as those who have served in those capacities in the past.
These leaders know the needs of the church and the people, and are resolved to be more welcoming, giving of their time, talents and resources with a goal that all our members feel a part where they belong and able to shine the lights that were given them and in the years to come, become a self sustenance, self reliant, self governing Church. I ask you all therefore to always be loving and forgiving and roll up your sleeves and be ready to plant the seeds of love and forgiveness in this God’s Holy Place and People. Amen.