The Movement of the Father

Yesterday I preached on the Prodigal Son. I noticed something interesting that didn’t make it into the sermon, so I thought I’d post it here. There are two verses that really caught my attention.

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. Luke 15:28

Both verses emphasize the movement of the father. The father moves out to embrace the sinner, and he moves out to embrace the bitter firstborn. What does this tell us? This father isn’t passive. This is a father who won’t let his status stand in the way of reaching out to those he loves.

There can be no doubt that this is a reference to the God Jesus prayed to as Father. He reaches out to the flagrant sinner; he embraces the bitter hardworking firstborn. He does this all on the terms of those who are lost, rather than on the terms of his own status.

So, who are we called to be? We’re called to be those who “go,” and this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, from Abraham to Jesus, God’s people have been called to go. Abraham was called to go and form a new nation blessed to be a blessing, and Jesus calls his disciples to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them (Matthew 28:19). A missional God will lead to a missional Church.

9 thoughts on “The Movement of the Father

  1. Nice. Now what you do is save those “after-sermon aha’s” for when you have to preach some mid-week Lent service.

    And here’s a title for you: “Go, Go, God!” Whaddaya think? No, don’t tell me.

  2. Sounds like a good idea. You should know me better than to think I’d be systematic enough to save ideas! And yes, I did refer to myself in the third-person on your blog. Deal with it! 🙂

  3. Thanks for this helpful post. I wonder, if in addition to the ‘go’ portrayal of the father in a missional sense, there is also something here of the father’s spirituality in motion. He is filled with compassion for the one son and pleads with the other – status notwithstanding. Called to ‘go’ and called to to be spiritual people, as in the picture of the father.

  4. Greg, I’m honored to have you stop by. Your blog looks very interesting, and I hope to read some of your writings soon. Thanks for your comment. Spirituality in motion seems to suggest spirituality being far from a disembodied ethereal thing, which I think is a key insight.

  5. Delightful insight, dear friend. Last Sunday I held a casting call for the parts in the little drama, but didn’t stop where I have before at casting only the bad-son-come-home and the good-son-behaving-badly parts. I invited people to find themselves in the God-Father-longsuffering-yet-active-love part. Sacrilegious? Probably. It may have been good that my D.S. was not present that morning, and that no wandering Bishop happened in the door.

    I do believe that God’s activity among us is more often than not through human agency; to me that means that “mere Christians” do get cast in the “God part” of many a relational drama, as sacrilegious as that is to more sophisticated theologians than I.

  6. What do you make of the fact that the Father never speaks to the younger brother. He disregards his apology and speaks directly to the servants. Do you take that as God already knowing his heart?

  7. Hmmm…I think we have to shift into thinking of this parable in terms of God’s inclusion of the gentiles ( a la N.T. Wright). So this may be just an overflow of the jubilee debt forgiveness of Jesus, rather than a commentary on God’s omniscience. What do you think?

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