Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

“Who is the prodigal?”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 6 March 2016,  the Fourth Sunday in Lent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.

Opening prayer
God of eternity, thank you for your gracious present. May your Word inspire us. The Holy Spirit guides us and draws us closer to your love through Christ. May the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable and pleasing to You. Amen.

Today I would like to focus my preaching on the gospel story from Luke. It is a parable about a prodigal son.

I can imagine this is a familiar story to many of you.

It was a parable told by Jesus when he was challenged by the Pharisees and the Scribes. These grumbling religious leaders criticized Jesus because he welcomes sinners and eats with them.(Luke 15:1-2) 

In the prodigal story, the loving and forgiving father represents God the Father and Mother in heaven.  The prodigal son represents the sinner who repents. The older son represents the attitude of the Pharisees in not desiring sinners to turn to God. Jesus was defending his right to associate with sinners for the sake of the gospel. To Jesus, the gospel is for sinners. This was his mission to call sinners to return to God.

We have entered into the season of Lent. The prodigal son story is timely for us to reflect on our spiritual journey of repentance and returning to God. 

In the story, the younger son is the prodigal who repents and returns home to his father. He admits his mistakes and is willing to take his responsibility and pay the cost for his wrongdoings and his own choice. He was once wandering in a distant country and outside of his father’s home. But now he is back home and restores his relationship with his father.

The son who was once outside home is now in. On the contrary, the elder son who has been inside his father’s home, when the younger son is back home and having a party to celebrate his return, he is on the outside. He refuses to enter in because he is angry. In the conversation between him and his father, we find that his heart is filled with jealousy, bitterness, resentment and anger.

This elder son is the lost son, the hidden prodigal son.  He does all things a good son is supposed to do externally. But internally he has wandered away from his father. He does his duty, works hard every day, and finishes all his obligations. However, he is unhappy and feeling unfree. He said he is a slave and is upset because no recognition has been given. Very sadly he does not feel the love and presence of his father all along.

The loss of the younger son is clear. The loss of the elder son is not easy to identify. The younger son is the seen prodigal son who left home physically. The elder son is the unseen prodigal son who is psychologically and spiritually separated from the home of his father.

How does the elder son mirror our current life and relationship with God? Are we physically at home and yet spiritually has wandered to a distant place where we are outside the home of love where God dwells? Are we physically at home and yet we are psychologically outside the home of love where close relationships dwell?   

From the story of the prodigal son, it is obvious that the father forgives his younger son and accepts him unconditionally when he returns home. It reveals that God values every lost one. Through Jesus Christ, we know that God treasures those who are regarded as unimportant, no good or even sinners by the majority and the powerful in the society. Jesus calls them to return to the home of God and receive God’s love and forgiveness.

The way the father listens and speaks to his elder son while he is grumbling and complaining reveals his compassionate love to him too. As the elder son, he does not see his privileges as the eldest to receive more than his younger brother. According to the ancient Jewish law, the eldest son is given two third of his father’s possession/inheritance. From an equal distribution point of view, this practice of course can be criticized. But it is not the main point here. What I would like to highlight is the elder son is somehow blind to what he already has. But the father shows his kindness and acceptance to him by going out from the house to speak to him (as he refuses to go into the house) and assure him his love for him. He said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Very importantly, he explains to him why he celebrates and rejoices for the return of his younger son. He said, “this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” He points out a fact - this brother of yours – the younger son is not only his son, but also the brother of this elder son. It is the restoration of relationship that this father matters. It is the reconciliation between the father and the son, and also the reconciliation between the two brothers that are important.

The story does not tell how the elder son responds after speaking to and hearing from his father. Is the elder son touched by his words and thus return to his home like his younger brother? Would he begin to remember his good time with his father in the past? Would he realise he has more than he thought? Would he recognize the fact that this younger son is also his brother that is close to him? Or is he still angry and unhappy and refuse to come home? We don’t know. The answer is left open. The answer is a choice that is left to the elder son to make. It is also up to us to create.

At the end of my sermon, I would like to invite you to spend some moment to meditate on the ‘the Return of the prodigal son’, a painting of Rembrandt, a Dutch painter from the 17th century.  You see the father embracing his returned younger son who is kneeing on the ground on the left. On the right is the elder son who is standing a bit distant from his father and his brother.  

How would you relate yourself to these three characters in the story of the prodigal son – the father, the elder son and the younger son who returned to the home of his father?

How would you respond to the father who represents the forgiving and compassionate God. This God is tenderly waiting and welcoming our home coming. 

I will finish this silent session after a few minutes with the sound of the bell. (we now start)

Let us pray:

God our heavenly father and mother, we thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for calling us once again to come home where your compassionate love dwells. May we live as the return of the prodigal son, to repent and receive God’s forgiveness and grace. Gracious God, grant to us faith to trust. Give us hope and strength for the reconciliation with you and with others. May we bring you joy by finding the lost and restoring their lives from the death in your presence.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our redeemer and liberator. Amen. 

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, March 06, 2016


May 2004|July 2004|September 2004|November 2004|December 2004|April 2005|July 2005|August 2005|September 2005|October 2006|November 2006|December 2006|January 2007|February 2007|March 2007|April 2007|May 2007|July 2007|August 2007|September 2007|October 2007|November 2007|December 2007|January 2008|February 2008|March 2008|April 2008|May 2008|June 2008|July 2008|August 2008|September 2008|October 2008|November 2008|December 2008|January 2009|February 2009|March 2009|April 2009|May 2009|June 2009|July 2009|August 2009|September 2009|October 2009|November 2009|December 2009|January 2010|February 2010|March 2010|April 2010|May 2010|June 2010|July 2010|September 2010|October 2010|November 2010|December 2010|January 2011|February 2011|April 2011|May 2011|June 2011|July 2011|October 2011|November 2011|December 2011|January 2012|February 2012|March 2012|August 2012|September 2012|November 2012|December 2012|January 2013|February 2013|March 2013|April 2013|May 2013|June 2013|September 2013|October 2013|November 2013|December 2013|February 2014|March 2014|April 2014|May 2014|June 2014|July 2014|August 2014|September 2014|October 2014|November 2014|December 2014|January 2015|February 2015|March 2015|April 2015|July 2015|August 2015|October 2015|November 2015|December 2015|January 2016|February 2016|March 2016|April 2016|May 2016|June 2016|July 2016|August 2016|September 2016|October 2016|November 2016|December 2016|January 2017|February 2017|March 2017|April 2017|May 2017|June 2017|July 2017|August 2017|September 2017|October 2017|November 2017|December 2017|January 2018|February 2018|March 2018|April 2018|June 2018|July 2018|August 2018|September 2018|October 2018|November 2018|December 2018|January 2019|February 2019|March 2019|May 2019|June 2019|July 2019|August 2019|
Archived sermons by the Barksdales

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?