A long gospel reading today. There are three parables. One lost sheep out of a hundred. One lost coin out of ten. And one lost son, or should we really understand both sons are lost? It is interesting that the three parables are put together. The lectionary allows the pastor to read the first parable and stop there. Maybe it is good to ask the question why were the three parables put together?
Let us think of this reading then as having some purpose to have three parables. In the first, the lost sheep, it is not logical to leave the ninety-nine to seek the lost but that is what happens. Why would a shepherd do that? Because that is what a shepherd does. He loves his sheep. He knows each one in his flock. He does not want any harm to come to any of his sheep. And to find a lost sheep is difficult. They can move from one place to another. By themselves they can get into more trouble. The shepherd desires to bring the lost sheep back into the fold.
It might be a little easier finding a lost coin. And a coin is not as valuable as a sheep. But to the woman the coin has value, so she searches for it. With the sheep and the coin, when found there is great rejoicing. Perhaps that is why we are given these two short parables to help us focus on the Prodigal Son.
It is not just the younger son. He wishes his father dead to have his inheritance. The older son is selfish and has no respect for his father. Yet the father desires to have his sons with him. The father’s love is for his sons.
In first century, Israel the people would recognize the younger son to be the sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, themselves. The father welcomes them into the banquet. Pharisees and scribes recognized themselves as the older son. The people God wanted to shepherd his sheep. But they did not.
The father invites them also into the banquet. We do not know if the older son ever entered the banquet. We know many Pharisees and scribes chose not to enter. It remains to be seen. Will you enter the banquet?
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen