Our journey through the Old Testament has taken us from God’s promises to Abram, to His plan of deliverance given to Moses, and now we come to a moment of fulfillment. The Lord speaks to Moses’ successor, Joshua, now arrived with the people in the Promised Land, telling him, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” The Israelites encamp at Gilgal and keep the Passover for the first time in the new land, celebrating their new life. They no longer eat the manna God has provided in the wilderness, but rather they enjoy the produce of their new home. Their work is not done, but they have reason to rejoice, and they do so.
Likewise, our gospel lesson focuses on rejoicing. The familiar parable of the prodigal son is actually the third in a series of parables that Jesus tells to demonstrate God’s joy in finding what has been lost. The preceding parables of the lost sheep found by the faithful shepherd and of the lost coin found by the diligent sweeping woman are told along with this one to the religious leaders, who have been grumbling that Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners. They (and perhaps we, the already “blessed”) are compared to the elder son who has been working for his father all along, but who receives nothing like the celebration offered for his returning wastrel brother. They and he and we have already received God’s generous love. What God longs for is to share it with those who have been separated from it, for whatever reason.
This Sunday we will look upward and outward and forward, giving thanks for the “new creation” that we have been made through Christ. And we will ask ourselves how we be open to, welcome, and receive those around us whom God wants to embrace.