It’s Friday, the end of the working week for many, and we also come to the end of our podcasts on Luke Chapters 14 and 15. Our student church leader, James Brown, will be continuing to journey through this Gospel next week, but before that we conclude with a Bible reading from Luke Chapter 15 v11-32. It is the Parable of the Prodigal, or Lost, Son.
This story is so well known, and is full of such depth and powerful analogies, that it is difficult to know what to focus on for a short podcast. Should I write about the repentant son, the disgruntled older brother, or the ever loving and forgiving father?
However, I felt God prompting me not to write about any of the characters, but instead to think about the party. Throughout Chapters 14 and 15 Jesus told 6 stories, and whilst the characters in each one were different, having a party, feast or celebration is the common theme or event in each of them.
The party that the father throws for the prodigal son is not a half hearted affair. It is a full blown, no expenses spared banquet, with the lost son dressed head to toe in the finest clothes and his hand adorned with an expensive ring. Bearing this in mind, let’s focus on verse 32:
“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Parties are important to God, and they should be important to us too. Here’s why:
We should note the fact that verse 32 begins with the words “we had to celebrate.” In this Bible passage the loving father obviously represents God. So God is saying we have to celebrate. It is not optional. He doesn’t say, “It would be quite nice to have a party” or “Maybe we should have a little celebration.” No – he says “we had to celebrate.”
As Christians, we are called to do the will of God the Father, and the Father says that we are to be party people, a people of celebration.
Secondly, if we look back to the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin in yesterday’s Bible reading, we see that there is “rejoicing in heaven” and “rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God” when sinful people repent and are found.
Heaven is having a party. Every day, all over the world, Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer. In it we say “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” If we want to know what God wants the earth to be like, we should find out what is going on in heaven, and then seek to do the same. Otherwise we are just praying empty words. If we want to help create the kingdom of heaven here on earth, then we will be having a party!
Thirdly, it is through the party and the celebration that the Gospel is spread. The farmer, the woman, the father; all invite others to join them – to hear the good news of being found, saved, and rescued. In the same way the man hosting the party in Chapter 14 says to his servant to “compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” He literally wants people to be dragged in off the streets so that they can experience the banquet; so that they can meet with Jesus.
Do we have the same urgency or compulsion to invite others to party with us?
Do we understand the ways in which celebration and evangelism are linked?
Do we explain to others why we are celebrating, the reason why we are party people?
I was reminded of this on Sunday evening, whilst watching the BAFTAs. Letitia Wright is a young British actress who won the Rising Star Award. If you don’t know her, she is in the film Black Panther, which smashed box offices records left, right and centre last year. Letitia Wright is experiencing the party of her life right now. And right in the middle of it, in the midst of the celebration, she stood up in front of all the guests, and said this:
“I identify myself as a child of God and I can’t get up here without thanking God. A few years ago I saw myself in a deep depression and I literally wanted to quit acting. The only thing that pretty much pulled me out of that was God, my belief, my faith…..I just want to thank God….. I want to encourage young people – matter of fact you don’t even have to be young, you can be any age. I just want to encourage you, anybody that is going through a hard time or something in their soul that they have lost their light. God made you and you are important……I just want to say that God loves you and let your light shine.”
Letitia Wright is partying, and she is celebrating…..and she is telling people why she is.
Earlier this week, a lady from Community Church sent us an email. Despite being in the midst of a challenging time, she has set about organising a street party for her neighbourhood. Last week she met with 2 non-Christian neighbours to plan things – there will be food, music, activities for kids….a real celebration. At the end of the planning evening for this fantastic community party, one of her neighbours asked if she could come along to church.
God is already at this party, before it has even happened……..all she needed to do was make herself available and be a party person.
It has been lovely to spend the last 5 days sharing some reflections with you from Luke’s Gospel. The podcast will be back on Monday, but in the mean time have a great weekend – why not have a party? Whether it is a small soiree or a grand affair, find a reason to celebrate and tell someone why you are a party person!
Heavenly Father, thank you that you love to celebrate. Whether we feel like the life and soul of the party, or whether we feel in the midst of difficult times, help us to find a reason to celebrate and be thankful in the coming week. Amen.
READING: Luke 15:11-32
Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.
‘Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.
‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.
‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
‘Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”
‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
‘“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”’