Prayer for God's Grace
(traditional Pakistani Christian)
O Creator and mighty God,
You have promised strength for the weak,
rest for the laborers, light for the way,
grace for the trials, help from above,
unfailing sympathy, undying love.
O Creator and mighty God,
help us to continue in your promise. Amen.
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a homily based on Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
by Rev. F. Schaefer
I think all of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son.
In a nutshell: the younger son of a farmer asks for his inheritance,
leaves his fatherís house, lives like all get-out, spends the entire
inheritance, hits rock bottom, and returns house only to be welcomed by
the father and be clad in royal attire. The composer of our good
old favorite hymn "Amazing Grace" seems to have composed the hymn under
inspiration by the parable of the prodigal.
"Amazing Grace how sweet the sound..." When I volunteered for the
pastoral service at Philhaven (a local mental institution) I often
helped lead worship on the adult unit. Amazing Grace was being
requested by at least one patient every time I remember leading worship.
One day, I remember Anna, a 35 year old patient who had been a patient
for quite some time at that point in time. When we were about to
sing the old hymn once again, she blurted out: "You know, when you sing
that song as much as we do here, after a while, it is not that amazing
any more!" I didn't know whether I succeeded in holding my
amusement in. I was certainly laughing on the inside.
This morning, I intend to take Anna's remark seriously. Here is
the question I would like to raise: is God's grace really so amazing?
Why does Jesus' parable end in a way that the prodigal comes out
smelling like roses and the responsible son as a "party pooper?"
What if we were to look at this parable from the perspective of the
responsible son? The older son, according to the Law of Moses, was to
inherit a double portion. For good reason: he was the one who was
expected to keep the farm going after his parents retired, he was to
take care of his parents in their old age.
In this light, the younger sonís request for his share wasnít unusual
in first century Judea. He was the one who had to start his own
business, trade, or farmstead. What is outrageous indeed is that he
spends all of his money partying, drinking, and womanizing instead of
starting his own household and providing for his family. He squanders
his entire inheritance, and when he hits rock-bottom, he comes to his
Historically, the rock-bottom experience of the prodigal has been
interpreted as a moment of repentance. But did he really repent?
It doesn't really say it specifically in the text, nor even that he was
sorry for his lifestyle. Instead, the story line expresses that he came
to his senses, questioning "what on earth am I doing in this pigsty?
I am from an honorable house. I don't have to live like this."
. . .
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