First Lesson: Joshua 5: 9-12
Responsive Reading: Psalm 32
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
Gospel Lesson: Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Tullian Tchividjan tells the following story in his book One Way Love. A woman came into his office for counseling in the wake of her divorce. The woman was mad at her ex-husband, her anger was so consuming that it affected every relationship in her life even with her children. In this woman’s defense, she had every reason possible to be mad. Her husband was a real jerk! He had treated her terribly throughout the course of her marriage and then abandoned her when she was particularly vulnerable.
Tchvidjan, as he sits back hearing this, decides to ask whether there was any possibly of forgiveness?
“Forgiveness” the woman sneered, “He would never ask for forgiveness.” “And even if he did ask for it, I would never grant it.” The woman finally gave a tiny softening in her stance as she says “Maybe if he really changed to the point that I believed that he was a totally, different person then and only then could we talk. “We are only supposed to forgive those who are truly sorry. That’s how God works.”
Plenty of people think this way about how God works. God can only act after he’s seen the signs of transformation. God can only act once the one-hundred pounds of sin have been lost permantenly from one’s lives. Jesus is speaking to people like this today. You see Jesus is hearing complaints about his ministry. Jesus is hearing that he’s attracting the wrong kind of crowd: tax collectors and prostitutes along with all sorts of other questionable sinners. Jesus is hearing all sorts of doom and gloom scenarios about what might happen if they keep taking over the faith.
Let me suggest something this morning. Perhaps the issue this morning doesn’t lie with the tax collectors and prostitutes perhaps the problem lies with those who believe they can never be a part of the community ever again.
I want to tell you this morning the story of the Peterson Family from Saint Olaf, Minnesota- Papa Peterson, the older brother Ed Peterson, and the younger brother Jacob Peterson. Papa Peterson was a banker and the definition of a prim and proper man. Papa Peterson never had a hair out of place on his head, the top button of his shirt was always buttoned, and he would never dare to show excess enthusiasm. Papa Peterson’s personality was thought to be stiff. Papa Peterson was a kind and loving father who would do anything for his children.
When Jacob Peterson was growing up, his father was his hero. As Jacob grows up he starts wanting to fit in with the kids at school. Their approval soon becomes more important than Papa Peterson’s. Jacob got lousy grades in school. Jacob would never come home on time. Jacob started using substances for recreation. Jacob had even gotten arrested a time or two during his high school years. Papa Peterson never lost his cool with Jacob; Jacob could see the pain in his father’s eyes whenever he faced him. Finally one day Jacob had enough of Saint Olaf and everyone that he knew there. Jacob was going to leave town forever. If only Jacob could be free from Papa Peterson, then he could have some real fun! Jacob marches up to his father shouting “I hate this town, I hate you, and I never want to see you again.” Jacob in arrogant, even hostile fashion demands that his father gives him his share of the estate early. Jacob basically tells his father to drop dead!
Older brother Ed is watching this scene play out before his eyes. Ed Peterson was the model son. A star athlete who was a 4.0 student throughout school, Ed had come back from college to help and eventually take over for Dad at the bank. Ed had a great head of hair and a beautiful and polite blonde haired and blue eyed wife. No one in Saint Olaf could dare say a bad word about salt of the earth like Ed Peterson. Ed was outraged watching Jacob tell his father off. Ed was hoping to see his father snap at his brat of a son. Papa Peterson calmly gets out his checkbook, writes Jacob a check that will take care of him for life and watches Jacob storm out the door.
Jacob Peterson moves to Minneapolis. Jacob rents a fancy apartment, buys a fast car, and parties with his friend’s day and night (drugs, gambling, booze, and girls). Jacob was glad to be away from the boring town of Saint Olaf and his uptight father. Jacob’s good times could not continue. Heroin was the drug of choice. Pretty soon, hundreds of thousands of dollars was wasted. Jacob was broke by the needle. Jacob soon has to give up his apartment. Jacob soon finds himself sleeping on the street on a cold, Minneapolis night. Jacob Peterson spent years thinking how cool he was, now he was hungry, and he was lonely. Might anyone help Jacob Peterson then he began to think about Saint Olaf? Jacob knew that both his dad and brother were big deals there. Papa Peterson had retired, and Ed was now running the local bank. The family pets had more food back in Saint Olaf then Jacob currently had. Jacob believed that his life could never be what it once was. Jacob hoped that maybe his family would take pity on him; perhaps he could help scrub the toilets down at Ed and Papa’s bank. Jacob decides to try to make contact back home in Saint Olaf. Jacob finds phones to call back home. The first two times, Jacob calls he doesn’t get an answer.
The third time, Jacob leaves the following message “Dad, I’m taking a train back to Saint Olaf”. The train will get in at 3 AM tomorrow night. The train will stop for ten minutes after that. It continues to Fargo after that. I can either stop in Saint Olaf or continue along the way. I fully understand if you never wanted to see me again. I just thought that you should know. As Jacob hops aboard the train, he was fully expecting never to see either his father or brother ever again. The towns become increasingly familiar to Jacob at every stop along the way. Jacob soon looks at his watch and sees 2:45 in the morning. The sights that Jacob was seeing kept getting more and more familiar until he sees the Saint Olaf train station out of the corner of his eye. Jacob saw a light inside the station. Jacob was fully expecting to see it dark, he looked and saw familiar faces. He saw the neighbors from down the street; he saw his cousins, and he even saw a few friends from high school. Jacob didn’t see either Papa or Ed. Finally, the train stops in Saint Olaf, the doors begin to open, and standing on the track was Papa Peterson. Papa Peterson though looked different. Papa Peterson’s hair looked frazzled; his shirt was untucked, and his socks didn’t even match. But as soon as Papa Peterson saw Jacob, he threw his hands way up in the air and ran towards him shouting “My Son, My Son.” Everyone inside the train station comes out its doors. Papa Peterson and Jacob begin to embrace. Jacob dares to try to apologize for all that he had ever done and said. Only Papa Peterson kept cutting him off, saying that “the death of our relationship was in the past; now we celebrate its resurrection.” As both men, simetousley shed tears of joy. Ed Peterson could not attend Jacob’s return. Ed was mad. Ed thought that Papa was being a foolish, old man.
Ed had spent years plotting how he would tell Jacob off if he ever saw him again. Jacob didn’t deserve forgiveness! Jacob had told the kindest man that he would ever know to drop dead! Ed wanted nothing to do with this party in Jacob’s honor. He was going to deny that Jacob was his brother if anybody asked. Finally a few days pass, Ed was going to confront his father before facing his brother. At the very least, Jacob needed to help himself before Papa should help him. How could you forgive him Ed asked Papa? To which Papa said, “If we only forgive those who can change their ways according to our standards, then we would live in a world without love, grace, or ultimately salvation. The thing about love is that it will always be reckless, always be generous, and in many cases love will be uncomfortable. What was once lost has now been found.”
Ed Peterson was right about his younger brother. His younger brother was a reckless jerk. Jacob Peterson had indeed gotten all the breaks. Ed Peterson had done everything as according to the book as a person could. What Ed Peterson failed to grasp was the ways that Resurrection can change the world. We think the way that the world ultimately works through lecture and achievement. Ed Peterson is the only reasonable thinking person in this whole story, but the thing about Resurrection is that it is never reasonable. Resurrection is about taking what is dead lying in the grave and bringing it back to life.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son brings the whole Christian faith into perspective. The Prodigal Son draws parallels with Infant Baptism in that reminds us that it is when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable do we see the way of the cross. Infant Baptism reminds us that there is nothing that we can do to accept or believe. The thing that stands out so much about the Father’s response to the Son is that there were no steps between forgiveness and resurrection. Our God truly does welcome the infants, the lowly, sinners, losers, the victims, the outcasts and the prodigal sons those who ultimately can not help themselves. Amen
 The following comes from an article entitled “Lecturing the Prodigal Son(s) in the NY Times” written by Zahl, David and Will Mcdavid published on Mockingbird (MBIRD.COM) on Feburary 20, 2014.
 The story comes from Tchvidijan’s book One Way Love.
 The following is a paraphrase of Tchvidijan’s story
 The inspiration for this story comes in a few different places. The majority of the story is based on a Phillip Yancey article from Christianity Today found in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?. The illustration comes from a Tim Zingale sermon entitled “The God of Unmatched Shoes” written in 2007 found on Sermoncentral.com
 Luke 15:32
 The connection between the Prodigal Son and Infant Baptism comes from Robert Farrar Capon’s Kingdom, Judgment, and Grace found on page 297. Eerdman’s Publishing. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002.
 The following quote comes from Pastor Donavon Riley’s Facebook page on March 1st, 2016. It’s based on a quote by Preston Sprinkle “God rescues sinners, losers, and victims those who can’t help themselves.”