A MEDITATION

The truth of the Parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son is that it is in no way a commentary on our birth order in a family. For years, in a childish churlishness, I felt that Jesus got it wrong in this story because the judgmental elder brother got short-shifted through the father’s misplaced mercy. This older brother rightfully deserved more understanding than the younger.

Rather, it’s clear the story is not about which brother is more worthy. It’s about God. And clearly in the parable, both brothers needed work. That is, God dispensed necessary forgiveness to each brother separately in a lesson of equanimity. The younger brother, yes, was guilty of living a disreputable life and presuming on the father’s plans for sharing his wealth at the time of his death. The elder brother was presumption of what he deserved because of his righteousness, or more accurately, his self-righteousness.

Said in another way, each brother was judgmental about the other. The first brother thought his younger sibling should have been more respectful of the way things were in the human, early order of things, and the younger brother got more than he deserved. And no doubt, the younger brother more than likely harbored resentment that privilege and deference the first born received his whole life because of an accident of birth.

Considering the plot in a God-centric way, rather than a sinful earthly-centric way, it’s clear that both brothers think selfishly. There are different expressions of generosity, and both of the father’s sons staked their claim to something they did not own, and that is the father’s wealth prior to his death. God’s abundant blessings flow to each of us through God’s heart and not through human hearts. God’s heart is full and just; human hearts are constricted and are manifest unfairly. We should thank God for God.

Pastor Neil

GATHERING

Celebrant and People We gather together as we live our lives, in the name of the ☩ Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant Blessed be the one, holy, and living God.
People Glory to God for ever and ever.
Beloved God, as we approach your Presence, guide and stir us with your Holy Spirit, that we may become one body, one spirit in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
Joshua 5:9-12
The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.
While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the Passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.
Reader A Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.

THE PSALM APPOINTED FOR THE DAY, READ RESPONSIVELY
Psalm 32
1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
and whose sin is put away!
2 Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, *
and in whose spirit there is no guile!
3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
because of my groaning all day long.
4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
and did not conceal my guilt.
6 I said,” I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” *
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.
8 You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble; *
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *
I will guide you with my eye.
10 Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *
who must be fitted with bit and bridle,
or else they will not stay near you.”
11 Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *
but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
12 Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; *
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

THE GOSPEL READING
Celebrant The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.
People Glory to you, Lord Christ.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So, Jesus told them this parable:
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So, he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

“When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So, he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’”

“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. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in.

“His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Celebrant The Gospel of the Lord.
People Praise to you, Lord Christ.

SERMON PASTOR NEIL

THE NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Celebrant
In calling forth creation from the void, God, you revealed yourself in human form. You manifest your concern for your whole universe. Hear the world’s needs, as we bring the matters of our hearts before you.

Leader
Pour out your life-giving Spirit on your holy church throughout the world and equip its members to boldly proclaim their common faith and your bountiful blessings across the earth. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Let your Spirit move over our unruly time and heal its people broken in spirit and body. Bring peace to a weary and struggling world. Intercede and bring peace to Ukraine, Afghanistan, and the streets of Baltimore; those suffering mental illness, broken families, and homelessness. Protect Mother Earth from human neglect and continued destruction. Create a changed heart in those who say they don’t believe in climate change; and pull us away from an upcoming catastrophe. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Burn out all that is evil in us; consecrate us for holy service and empower us to work toward the salvation of the world. Give us energy and insight for the mission. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Renew the faith of all those who call you Lord, so that we may devote ourselves to worship, teaching, and prayer—all to reveal your grace, mercy, and healing to a fragile humanity. Give noble purpose to our secular leaders, and a desire to do justice in the land and in the world. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Be with those who are dying and ill, and their families and loved ones. Bless the pastoral ministries of this congregation. Safeguard immigrants and refugees. Provide solace and healing to those beleaguered by hurricanes, floods, and fires, and all other calamities. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We especially pray for those we in silence name now. (Pause) Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Celebrant
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all
things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord
of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth,
divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A CONFESSION OF OUR SINS TO GOD
Celebrant Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Silence will be kept
Minister and People Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Almighty God have mercy on you, ☩ forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all
goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in
eternal life. Amen.

THE PEACE
Celebrant The peace of the Lord be always with you.
People And also with you.

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Celebrant It is indeed right and salutary that we should in all times and in all places give thanks to you, holy Lord, Almighty Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer and in works of mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fullness of grace which you have prepared for those who love you. Therefore, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join them by saying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.

He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself,
in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole
world.

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my Body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore, we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts. ☩ Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the

Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him.

Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom. All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ.

Together: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.
And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray:

THE LORD’S PRAYER

People Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

A CALL TO COMMUNION

Celebrant The gifts of God for the people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving. This is God’s table, and at God’s banquet, all God’s children are welcome—without exception!
Celebrant will distribute communion to people in their chairs.

THE GENERAL THANKSGIVING
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE BLESSING

Celebrant Sisters and brothers, we go out into the world in peace. We live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, to hold on to what is good, and to return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.