There was a man who had two sons.
Now you finish the rest of the story.
You know it, right? Dad, about the whole waiting for you to die thing... yeah, can I just get the money now? Dissolute living. Pigpen. Return. Hug. Fatted Calf. Angry brother.
I realized yesterday how autopilot this story is for me. I was reading some commentaries and they kept using the word "prodigal" in a way that made no sense to me. See I had always assumed prodigal meant "lost" but apparently it does not. As my twelfth grade English teacher would (incorrectly) say, "we all know what happens when you spell assume backwards." (emussa????)
But you see, prodigal does not mean lost. Prodigal means "wastefully or recklessly extravagant." The younger son is obviously wastefully extravagant in his spending, but more so in this story, I think it is the Dad who is prodigal in his giving of love and forgiveness which in turn makes him prodigal in giving up his honor.
Think about it. Son comes up and says, "Dad, you are dead to me. Give me what I'd get if you were really dead." Dad has no earthly reason to give his son the money, but he does. Can you imagine the shame upon his house as he sold cattle and land to pull the cash together? Can you imagine how awful it must have felt to answer the question, "so why are you getting rid of this anyway?" And then, when his lost son returns, the dad scoops up his robes and begins to run toward him. I'm told that running was not something a wealthy land owner did which tells us that a) dad is again being reckless with his love and forgiveness and b) dad is again willing to risk his honor for the son that he loves.
In my sermon last Sunday I said that God loves with reckless abandon, which this week would sound like, God is loves prodigally. He risks his honor over and against other gods in order to love us uniquely and unconditionally. He prodigally gave his son for us that we might be restored to right relationship with him. And he waits, scanning the horizon, ready to pull of his robes to sprint to us every time we repent and return to him.
Our God is prodigal.