Pope Francis was right when he said that man has never has so much rest and pleasure as today and yet man has never experienced so much emptiness as today. (5th Sept 2018. ICN) So many of us are so eager to experience as much of life as possible but like the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, the danger is we might instead end our search for life, empty handed and worse off than before. The writer of Ecclesiastes had all the resources and riches to spare himself nothing so that he could experience what life was all about. He tried all forms of pleasure…ranging from the satisfaction he derived from mega building projects to the sensations of sexual pleasures. However he concluded that everything was meaningless and nothing that he had done was worthwhile.
The story of the prodigal son ended in a celebration when he turned his heart back to his father who bedecked him with the finest of robe, a signet ring and sandals that befit the son of the house. This was despite the son has wasted a third of his wealth (In Jewish culture, the oldest son gets double the inheritance so this younger son must have received 1/3 of the father’s inheritance) and came home with such a sense of shame and unworthiness that he could only request his father to make him a hired servant.
This story gives much hope to those of us who have experienced failures in life and fallen short of God’s standards as we journeyed through life. We often feel so ashamed to pray or to come to church but this parable tells us that despite our unworthiness, God will welcome us into his arms with gladness and compassion. In fact, the parable tells us that the prodigal son’s father ran to him, embraced and kissed the son.
There are at least two lessons that we must learn from this parable. Firstly, our journey in life must be a journey to our Father in heaven who will welcome us with open arms no matter how unholy we feel. Secondly, we must remain in the father’s house (stay in his presence) if we want to experience the abundance of the kingdom. The parable ended with the father throwing a celebration and telling us that ‘everything I have is yours’. This should be our goal- to stay daily in the presence of God and receive all that God has for us and celebrate life and God’s goodness daily.
Pastor Ron Hee