Prodigal God Week 6 – Redefining Hope: An Invitation to the Feast of the Father

The parable of the Lost Son (or as we’ve hopefully come to see, lost sons) describes two ways of seeking purpose and fulfillment in life, shows how both leave us empty and alienated, and cause us to long for and recognized a “true older brother” who is willing to give up everything to bring us home.

The idea of “coming home” is significant not only to this parable, but to the entire story of scripture.  The opening chapters of Genesis explain that humanity is not “home,” we were created for life in the Garden of Eden, but like the younger son in Jesus’ parable, humans rebel against God and go away from the place we are meant to be and the relationship with God we are meant to have.

“Home” is a powerful concept in our lives.  Most of us as adults have fond memories of home that we are always seeking to recapture.  Sadly, all to often our opportunities to return to important places from our childhood end in disappointment.  “Home” is never what we built it up to be.

C S Lewis writes about this phenomenon:

  • “Our life-log nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.”

Humans are constantly in the position of exiles.  We are constantly traveling and never arriving.  We’re never “home.”

Exile is a recurring theme in scripture. Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden.  Cain is exiled after killing his brother and forced to wander.  Jacob cheats his brother and wanders in exile. Joseph and his family are forced into Egypt because of famine. David is a wanderer before he becomes king. The entire nation is exiled to Babylon. The message of the Bible is that the human race is a band of exiles trying to come home.

The story of the prodigal son ends with a feast of homecoming. Likewise, the final image in Revelation is a feast, the marriage feast of the Lamb of God to the church in the New Jerusalem. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, offers hope for human life. The world will be our perfect home again. We will come, the father will welcome us, and we will be brought into the feast.

Why is the image of a feast so powerful as an image of salvation?

  1. Salvation is Experiential
    • Feasts are places that delight all of our senses. We experience all of the things associated with a feast
    • Likewise, we are called to experience salvation.
      • If we are filled with guilt and shame believing in the abstract idea of God’s mercy isn’t enough, we have to experience it to know it is real. If we are filled with worry and anxiety we don’t just need to believe God is in control, we need to see it to know that it is true. Our experiences, more than our beliefs, help us to know God
  2. Salvation is Material
    • When God looked at the world it was declared good, God loves and cares for the material world
    • The ultimate purpose of Jesus is not only the individual salvation of souls but the redemption and renewal of the world
      • Jesus’ miracles are a restoration of the natural order. Salvation is as much about what is wrong with the world (hunger, injustice, poverty, disease) as it is about what is wrong with us
  3. Salvation is Individual
    • A meal fuels growth. In order to survive and row individuals mus eat and drink
    • To truly experience change through the gospel we have to continually experience it for it to take root
    • Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting
  4. Salvation is Communal
    • Feasting is a communal activity. So is faith
      • We will never grow spiritually apart from deep involvement in a community of faith
    • It is through community that we come to know ourselves and each other better
      • A relationship with Jesus is the same as any other relationship, it is only truly built through community

The feast of the Lord is the final image of scripture. Homecoming is our ultimate hope. In this parable Jesus shows that it is not only possible, but the way is right before us. Through him we are able to get a taste of the feast to come, to find home again at last.

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