In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Lost sheep. (Luke 15:3-7) Lost coin. (Luke 15:8-10) Lost son. (Luke 15:11-32) He was dead, but is resurrected. (Luke 15:32) Utterly lost, but has been found. Found through coming to his senses (Luke 15:17) A change of mind. A turning of his reckless direction. Which is also known as repentance. He comes to his senses and knows he’s done wrong. But he can’t dream of his father forgiving him. (Luke 15:18-19) He's just looking for a way to survive. (Luke 15:17) A way to eat. (Luke 15:16) To fill his stomach after he told dear old dad, “I wish you were dead. (Luke 15:12) I want my inheritance—what is owed me. You owe me dad." What a good for nothing, little runt!
What kind of child does that to his father? Certainly not a child who has any right to his father’s wealth. And no right to his father’s forgiveness. And that is one of the great points of these parables: forgiveness makes no sense. God’s grace is senseless. It is not what a sane person does. You don’t forgive this kind of betrayal. You cut your losses.
Let me illustrate that for you. A child like this is the most spoiled, most indulged, most horrible sort of kid out there. That child is a terror. The kind whom every one around them rolls their eyes at when they walk in the room and whispers about behind his or her back. And breathes a sigh of relief when that child leaves. It’s often the parents’ fault when such a child exists, because kids tend to only get away with what parents let them do. However, the older brother seems to have turned out fine. He never said, “Dad would you die already so I can have your money?” He kept diligently working in the family business all those years. (Luke 15:29) Which suggests that maybe dad was especially long lived and maybe the older son is already well past mid-life—kind of like Prince Charles, 69, and still waiting to inherit his throne. So maybe this isn’t dear old dad’s fault. Maybe the fault is entirely in the younger child? We don’t know. But its clear, no one is happy to see this guy except for his good-time “friends,” at least as long as he’s got money. And if he weren’t spoiled enough already this brat pulled the ultimate. He tells dad to drop dead. (Luke 15:12) And dad indulges him! He gives him his half. So that all that dad has is now the older son’s inheritance. (Luke 15:31) And the brat wastes it. Ain’t nobody in that town wants to see that wastrel again. This is not the kid you forgive. No sane person does that. (Though some might argue love for a child is not sane).
But think also of the lost coin and sheep. These stories don’t make sense. What shepherd wouldn’t leave the 99 in the wilderness. (Luke 15:4) Alone. Untended. So that whole flock might be attacked by wolves? No one does that! The sensible shepherd cuts their losses and says, “If I don’t have a spare man who can watch the flock till I get back from searching for my sheep, well, I just have to face facts. Oh well. That’s cost of business.”
And what woman wouldn’t spend all night searching for a small coin she’d lost? (Luke 15:8) Maybe if she’s out of money and has no job, and no prospects, and can afford the loss of a whole night’s sleep and an unproductive work day for the next day or more. But in those days lighting a lamp and burning the mid-night oil, let alone having a party afterward (Luke 15:9) wastes more money than would have been saved by searching through night? That’s the point. Which one of you wouldn’t do that? None of you would do that. It doesn’t make sense.
What does make sense is the older brother’s attitude. (Luke 15:28) “Dad, how could you? You’re being taken AGAIN! By this good for nothing “son.” (Luke 15:30) You can’t even call him your son, he said you were dead to him. (Luke 15:12) He doesn’t even want to be your son. He just wants to feed his belly and not be hungry. (Luke 15:16-19) If you must let him be around, let him be a hired hand; as someone I don’t have to look at and pay attention to. After all, all that’s left of the business is mine. (Luke 15:29, 31) You are wasting my inheritance to throw this party. It’s MY money that’s clothed him in the best robe we have, (Luke 15:22-23) put a ring back on His finger like he can transact business on behalf of the firm and seal deals!” Any one of us living through this would be seething. You would be spitting mad. You would be telling everyone who would listen how idiotic your “brother” is and what a fool you dad is to forgive him.
Which is the point: Jesus’ Father is a fool to forgive sinners. I know that most of you here have never been traitors to our nation—as the tax collectors were considered. Nor likely have many of you been prostitutes, or had too many dealings with them. Maybe even not that many of you have had drug or alcohol addictions, though statistically there's a pretty good chunk of you who probably have, even if others here don’t know about it.
The point is: we are like the pharisees in verse 2 of Luke 15. (Luke 15:2) We murmur and grumble about people like that. We claim we are not like them. But you know just how perverse your heart is. Even if you have not acted on any of those urges, not a single person here can honestly say they have not had those sorts of hateful, lustful, greedy, vengeful, back-stabbing thoughts. Unless of course you lied when we all confessed that we have “sinned in thought, word, and deed.”
But the good news for you is that it is not your coming to your senses that saves you. Or has even given you enough wisdom to be a hard working “older brother” who has always been with His Father in His Father’s house, basking in the ease and comfort of the Father’s roof and table. It is the Father who runs to you when you come to your senses. (Luke 15:20) It is the Father who clothes you in the royal robes of His house though you don’t deserve it. (Luke 15:22) It is your mother, the Church, who sweeps the house and searches for you while you are lost. (Luke 15:8-10) and rejoices over you when she finds you. It is Jesus, your good Shepherd, who seeks you when you’ve wandered from the safety and security of the flock; when you’ve become so lost and so scared that you’ve lost control of your bodily functions and soiled yourself by sitting down in it, just as sheep are wont to do when they get caught in a thicket of sin. And your Good Shepherd searches you out. (Luke 15:4) He places you on His shoulders. (Luke 15:5) Repenting you. (Luke 15:17) Turning you back into the path of life by carrying you back to the flock. Stinky, soiled, heavy sheep that you are. For you are not the cute fluffy lambykins whose beauty makes you desirable. (Luke 15:4a) When He finds you you are covered in your own feces. Ruined by own choices. And yet he cares for you.
No, His forgiveness makes no sense. His mercy which drops dead for you and gives you riches beyond belief which you squander daily makes no sense. Which one of you wouldn’t do these things? None of us would search, sweep, or run like this. But He has done it. (Micah 7:19) He does it over and over again. For you. That you might belong to Him and “live in His kingdom in everlasting innocence, blessedness, and righteousness.” (Explanation to the Third Article of the Creed) For you are his Son who was dead, but in repentant faith you have been resurrected. (Luke 15:32) You are he who was lost, but has been found by your saviour who has given you faith in Jesus.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.