Monday, March 27, Lent Calendar* Invite: Read a parable of Jesus: The Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32.
Every Wednesday at Ascension Lutheran School, the whole campus gathers for weekly chapel in the sanctuary. Most of the year, we sing a song before the scripture reading that goes like this: “Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God in the highest…” It is one of those anchors that stays the same through the years while other pieces of the worship service change. There is this one preschooler who sits in the front row and he belts it out at the top of his lungs. It is delightful and makes me smile every week. But during the six weeks of Lent, we sing a different song in its place: “Return to the Lord your God, return to the Lord you God…”
Lent is a season of returning to God. It is about looking at all the ways we have strayed and coming back to the heart of God. Returning to God is also about returning to ourselves, to the original goodness of who we are and who we were created to be. When God creates humans in the beginning of the Bible, he says that his creation is very good. Yet we know that the choices we make and the ways that we behave and the thoughts that swirl in our heads aren’t always “very good.” So in Lent, we work at returning.
This is what “the prodigal son” does in the Gospel of Luke. He returns. He returns home, he returns to his family, he returns to himself, he returns to the heart of God. Returning is not easy. He has to face the bad choices that led him to the pits. He has to face his brother who, rightfully so, has some angst about his homecoming. The son has to face his father as he wonders if he will be accepted. But what does the father do? The loving and rejoicing dad exclaims, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! Let’s celebrate!”
This is what God is like because remember, parables aren’t just stories for stories’ sake. They are stories about God. God celebrates when we come home.
The story of the prodigal son reminds me of the children’s book What is My Song? This book is based on a traditional African fable. The young man in the story is called to learn and to remember his song. His song is his truest self, the person God made him to be. At one point he forgets his song and he hurts someone. As the story goes, he says, “I have forgotten that I am a protector. I do not know who I am anymore. I cannot remember my song.” In response, his village gathers around him. They help him remember. "All together, they sing my song to me," he says, and "gradually, the song fills my heart and I remember, too.”
Today as you read the story of the prodigal son, may you hear the Lenten invitation, as the old hymn “Softly and Tenderly” says, to “come home.” Ask yourself…
…are your actions in tune with what is good and true and right?
…are there any ways in which you are living falsely?
…are you living true to “your song” - to the special and unique person God has made you to be?
If there is any bit of “no” in these answers, then “return.” And perhaps you can help someone else return, too, as you remind them of their own song. As we return home, God will be there to celebrate.