God’s unconditional love and embrace leads us to a ministry of reconciliation with our siblings in Christ.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
The Fourth Sunday in Lent, year C
Texts: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
God loves you, no exceptions.
You are welcome here, no exceptions.
This is the message of the father to both of his sons in our Gospel reading for today. It is the unconditional love and embrace of the parent who rejoices that his family is together again. It’s the unconditional love of God who welcomes and embraces you, and me, and the people we embrace and the people we turn away from.
One of the biggest lies the world tells us is that God’s love is conditional. The world wants us to believe that if we sin, we are unworthy. It wants us to believe that we have to earn God’s love and that there is a scarcity of love.
It suggests that if one person receives love and forgiveness, it will somehow take away from the opportunity for us to experience the same love and forgiveness. These lies divide us, and they destroy relationships and communities.
But the father in our Gospel story today doesn’t fall captive to this lie. The father shows us that God’s loving embrace is unconditional. The father doesn’t use his power to favor one son over the other but rather unconditionally loves and embraces both of them.
He doesn’t suggest that loving one son unconditionally will take away from the love that he has for his other son. The father loves both of his children with all of his heart and celebrates that his family is together again.
This is a story of reconciliation between a son and a father, but it isn’t a story of reconciliation for a whole community. The unconditional love and forgiveness is healing for the younger son, but it upsets and challenges the eldest son.
When the story ends, all we know is that the eldest son is upset and perhaps confused by his father’s actions. We don’t know if the eldest son attends the celebration. We don’t know if the brothers reconcile with each other.
This is where the Gospel story ends and our story begins.
We know that God’s children are divided and it is our calling to join in the work of reconciliation so that all may receive the love and forgiveness that comes from the Triune God. Our calling is to act out of the unconditional love and grace that we experience so that all may know that they are loved and embraced by God.
But just like the ministry of reconciliation between the sons cannot and will not happen unless the father unconditionally embraces both of his sons, we cannot begin the ministry of reconciliation unless we experience and trust the unlimited and unconditional love that God has for all of God’s children.
We have to trust and hope that God’s love for us is enough to break down walls of fear and hate that divide us to see the love of God that is within all of humanity and creation.
We have to turn away from patterns that convince us that we have to do more or be more or have more. Patterns that convince us that our gender, sexuality, skin color, work ethic, wealth, or possessions change the love that God has for us and our neighbors.
And when we turn away from what divides, we turn toward what unites us which at the bear minimum is that we are unconditionally loved and forgiven by God. The ministry of reconciliation begins with our relationship to God, and it quickly turns to our relationships with our neighbors.
As siblings in Christ, we have to figure out how to reconcile with each other. We have to love unconditionally and forgive unconditionally, especially the people we don’t expect or want to see in God’s embrace.
Because the reality is that no matter how much someone hurts us, or challenges us, or confuses us, God has already reconciled with them just like God reconciles with you today.
God’s love for you has no exceptions.
You are welcome here there are no exceptions.
Now this life saving and healing work of reconciliation is up to us, so that all people may know the unconditional love and embrace of God. So that all may feast on God’s grace and mercy together, now and forever.