The Ministry of Reconciliation

The Ministry of Reconciliation

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Is there injustice and inequality in this life? Yes, of
course! You’ve experienced it, and I’ve experienced it. Either at the hands of
someone else or at our own hands where we have seen and endured inequality or undue
justice. But what do we do with it…that inequality and injustice? What do we do
with it especially when such inequality and injustice happens to our person?
It’s very interesting isn’t it? Because it all depends upon how we view whether
we deserve it or not.

Growing up in a family, you know as a sibling if your sister
or brother, either younger or older, got away with something you didn’t, you
would quickly point out the injustice and the inequality. “It’s not fair,
mom and dad. It’s not right, mom and dad.” But after we have left home,
whom do we appeal to? And what do we do with such inequalities and injustices?

Hence, the parable of the prodigal son. Now the very first
three verses of the text talk about two groups of people both of the same mind
who view what Jesus is doing as inequality and not right. What is that that
Jesus is doing that they would view so harshly and negatively? Jesus eats with
and draws and receives sinners. That’s what He does.

From their perspective, the Pharisees and scribes who are
very religious people…it’s not as if these people weren’t…if you were to look
at the sinners of whom they are speaking and look at the Pharisees and scribes
of whom He is speaking, comparing the two, the sinners would definitely look
far worse in their outward actions and lifestyle than would the Pharisees and
scribes. So it makes sense. “God, why are You spending so much time with
these sinners? Why don’t You spend more time with us who are so religious and
so concerned about things of God?”

In the parable of the prodigal son, you and I love to see
ourselves as the prodigal son, the one received back by God, and rightly so,
because all of us have been received back by God. Not just once in our life,
but many times, and over and over again, as we come back to Him and say,
“I have sinned against heaven and against You. I am no longer worthy to be
called Your son.”

Now unlike our earthly parents who would probably fold their
arms across their chest, look us in the eye, and say, “Well how do I know
you’re not going to do it again? How do I know you’re not going to turn around
and show me again that you cannot fulfill what you are saying?” God the
Father does not ask such things of you. He opens His arms and receives you back
time and time again.

But isn’t it interesting? In receiving us back so
frequently, do we ever stop and say, “Wow! This being received back from
God is … why it’s kind of an injustice? It’s not fair is it? Why should He
receive me back when I don’t deserve to be received back?” But we don’t,
do we? We don’t think in terms of just dessert. We only are thankful, and that
is a good thing, but the problem lies in this: when we receive in our
person something that we perceive as being unjust or inequality, we cry
out to Him, “Why, O Lord?” But let us receive such grace and
forgiveness, which has no merit and no deserve, we only give thanks to God.

You see the younger son comes back and is received back, and
the father receives him as such and says, “This son of mine was once dead
and now is alive.” And we can relate to that one. But the one whom we need
to think about and consider is the older son, which we have a lot in common

Here is why: when the older son sees the younger son brought
back, the older son sees the injustice. “Why should my father receive back
this brother of mine who completely squandered his inheritance? Why should my
father receive back this young man who completely ignored his father and me his
brother, lived his life as if we didn’t matter? That is not just, and that is
not fair.”

You and I cannot put down the older brother. He got it. He understands
inequality and injustice, and he is right! For if there was a reason that that
father received back the prodigal son, then the prodigal son would be received,
not because of grace and forgiveness, but because of something within him. You
see for grace to remain grace and forgiveness to remain forgiveness, there
can’t be any dessert for you, meaning you can’t deserve it. If you deserve it,
it no longer is forgiveness and it no longer is grace. It’s the proper payment
for your work.

In the collect, if you heard pastor pray it, it said that we
only deserve His wrath and punishment. There is what we deserve. Hmm. So what
do we do with injustice and inequality that we experience in our life since we
will never be able to escape it in this world? It happens in school. It happens
in jobs. It happens to us. And there is only one Person in control of it all,
and you and I know who He is. It’s God.

So why does God choose to allow injustice and inequality to
occur in this life, and why does He then allow it to occur to you and me personally?
We’ll never know why. God does not reveal such mysteries to us, but He does
reveal this in this parable. In verse 28, the older son is angry and refused to
go in to the father’s house and rejoice with the father. He is out back
stewing. “This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. If he was really a loving
father he would put him out on his ear. He would tell the whole village, ‘This
is how you handle forgiveness. You don’t give it unless they deserve it.'”

But look what his father does. The father does to the older
son exactly what the father did to the younger son. The father went to the
older son. He entreated him. Now that is one difference. The father didn’t go
looking for the prodigal son as he was a whoring about doing all kinds of
things of which we do not know. He waited for him there, but did not go looking
for him. In the older son’s case, he goes, and looks for him, and finds him,
and entreats him. “There, there. Please come back,” he says.

“Look, these many years,” the older son argues
with him. Here is the injustice, “I have served you. I’ve never disobeyed
your command, and you’ve never celebrated me. You’ve never done anything
to show me that you think I’m grand and perfect and wonderful. But when this
son of yours who comes who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you’re
all excited, and you kill the fattened calf for him. And it seems as if there
are no consequences for his actions.”

Well are there any consequences? Lest you and I forget the
consequences of our actions, let us be reminded of Paul’s letter to the
Corinthians in the epistle reading. God made Him who knew no sin to be your and
my sin. There is the justice and the consequence of your and my life.

The older son has forgotten. The older son has become so
hardened in his life of living out his faith, minding his p’s and q’s, and
dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s, he has forgotten that he, like the
prodigal son his brother, has been brought back from death to life, has been
made to see who was once blind. And all he focuses upon is what he has done.
And that is the temptation of you and me whenever we’ve received injustice.

When we’ve received injustice, we cry out, “I don’t
deserve this! This isn’t right for me to experience this. There is no rhyme or
reason for me to have endured this.”

You look at the Cross with me, and you tell me where did He
deserve my sin? Where did He deserve my punishment? The abandonment on the
Cross the Father gave to Him, why did He deserve it? He was perfect, and I’m
not. How dare I think I don’t deserve such things!

But in the midst of all of this, whether it’s deserved or
not, the greatest inequality and the greatest injustice happened in His death
for me. That is what Paul is saying. For our sake, God the Father made the Son
to be sin, your and my sin, and all that goes along with it, the guilt, the
shame, and the consequence, so that in Christ we might become … the
righteousness of God? That is not just and that is not right, nor fair, nor
good! But again, grace remains grace and forgiveness remains forgiveness when
it’s undeserved and unmerited, otherwise it’s no longer grace and no longer

The younger son in being received back is overwhelmed with
such forgiveness and grace. The older son has become hardened to that and forgot
the great gift of grace and forgiveness. At times you and I are like the
younger son who is overwhelmed with such grace and forgiveness, being received
back by the Father, and at other times we think, Why do we need God? We’re
doing so well,
like the older son and forget we too have been brought back
from death to life, that we have been brought back from blindness to sight,
deafness to hearing, frailty to strength. This is the gift of Christ being sin
for us that we might become His righteousness.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.