Choices – Br. David Vryhof

Luke 15:11-32

There was once a man whose son wanted to make his own choices in life. Now it pained the father to let him make these choices because he suspected that his son was not really prepared for this kind of responsibility — but still he gave him the freedom he wanted. (There are times when this is a good thing for love to do.)

At any rate, his son was pleased, and he began to make his choices. He chose, first of all, to have his share of his father’s inheritance turned into spending money. Then he chose to leave his father’s home, taking all his money with him. Next, he began to choose some new friends, and together with them he chose some ways to spend his money. And with each choice that he made, that deep inner part of him, the part of him that made choices, was becoming something a little different than it was before. Until at last he found that his choices had ruined him.

That was the turning point.

One day, while feeding a stranger’s pigs (that was where his choices had led him), he remembered something. He remembered who he was and to whom he belonged . And he began to make some new choices. He chose to set aside his pride and return to his father to beg his forgiveness. He chose to be willing to be a servant in his father’s house rather than to go on being the master of his own fate. He chose to go home. And with each choice that he made, that deep inner part of him, the part of him that made choices, was becoming something a little different than it was before. And these choices were good choices for him; eventually, they brought him security, fulfillment and joy.

He was not the only one, of course, who was making choices. His father saw him “while he was still far off,” and he too was faced with a choice. He could have waited in the doorway to receive him with offended dignity — but he didn’t. He could have rebuked and scolded, demanding an apology for his son’s foolishness — but he didn’t. He could have talked about making amends or doing penance — but he didn’t. He chose instead to hitch up his robes and to race down the road to meet his repentant son. He chose to throw his arms around him and shout and laugh and weep with joy. He chose to cover him with a robe, and to put a ring on his finger and new shoes on his feet. He chose to welcome him with a feast. And each choice that he made reflected that deep inner part of him, the part of him that made choices, which had been shaped and fashioned by many, many choices made over the course of many, many years.

Now this story about a son and his choices is also about you and about me. And one of the things it means to tell us is that we are shaped by our choices, moment by moment, day by day, and year by year. Every time we make a choice we are turning some deep and inner part of ourselves, the part of us that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking our lives as a whole, with all our innumerable choices, throughout the whole of our lives we are slowly turning this deep and inner part of ourselves into something that is in harmony with God and with God’s purposes in the world, or into something that is contrary to them. Each of us at each moment is progressing one way or the other.

But another thing that this story means to tell us is that God also chooses – in fact, God has chosen. God has chosen to forgive us. God has chosen to accept and pardon and welcome us. No matter how miserable our choices have been in the past, no matter how vacillating and unpredictable they are in the present, no matter how misguided they may be in the future, God says we are forgiven. God’s forgiveness does not begin with us or with what we deserve, it does not wait for us to be very, very good so that we may be deemed worthy of it. God’s forgiveness begins with God, and with what God chooses freely to give. “God proves his love for us,” St. Paul says, “ in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us ” ( Romans 5:8). God chooses to love us precisely when we are least deserving of it, when we are least lovable. When we come dragging home in our lowest, most unattractive, most undeserving state, God runs to meet us.

This is the beauty of the gospel – that God loves us, without the least regard to what we deserve. We are forgiven.

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  1. Sandra on September 27, 2017 at 22:08

    Thank you, Brother David – thank you.

  2. Roderic Brawn on September 27, 2017 at 12:25

    This short sermon reminded me to consider carefully something I am in the process of doing. An offering of skill and time I make to my church. I will see how I can best make this offering. I may need to re-direct the way I think about this thing that is going on.
    I may need to be more open about the way I participate.

  3. Rhode on September 27, 2017 at 09:10

    This parable became a pivotal point in wanting to trust God. I still cry each time I read or hear it. This story to me is so much more about the father than the wayward son. This is about a God who watches and waits and sees way down the road our desire to be better than what we are and runs to meet us without punishment, without chastisement or lecture, covering the very evidence of our mispent life with a cloak to assure us once more of our place in his kingdom. What love. Each son, the one who fulfilled his obligations and the one who made foolish choices still needed to adjust and learn exactly who they were serving and why. That catharsis was necessary to open their eyes to begin to understand the real nature of their father and what he was providing. Gods love and his love in us through Jesus is still the greatest gift I will ever be given.

  4. Fred Adams on March 25, 2016 at 12:05

    Br David. As many times this sermon has been posted, I find something new. This time, “as difficult it is to show love and to love my granddaughter, with whom I live, I must show the same love”. Once again, thank you Br. David.

  5. Paul on March 24, 2016 at 19:42

    A big piece of me does not believe that God loves us unconditionally. What Brother David leaves out is that the son in this case first repented — he had a change of heart. For me, the jury is still out on the question of God’s forgiveness of the unrepentant sinner.

    • Jennifer on March 28, 2016 at 07:06

      I think that the father loved him all along, and was always waiting and hoping that he would come home–yet gave the son the freedom to choose if and when he would.

  6. Michael on March 23, 2016 at 12:28

    While God gives his forgivness freely, accepting it another matter

  7. Harriet on March 23, 2016 at 08:53

    I feel humble finally understanding God’s loving forgiveness. He has loved me even when I have been most unloveable. Thank you for this message!

  8. Bob on March 23, 2016 at 08:25

    Just what I needed today. Thanks. Pax

  9. Suzanne Haraburd on March 23, 2016 at 08:08

    Here is the lesson, hope, and joy of Holy Week, taught in one essential, brief writing. Thank you for orienting me on the journey.

  10. Muriel Akam on March 23, 2016 at 07:57

    I ‘ve been in both the position of the child who did not stray and been a little annoyed with the prodigal child who was received warmly on return home and the parent who has welcomed with joy my own prodigal children when they have erred and returned to the nest. As parents we can only express our genuine feelings and thankfulness for true repentance .

  11. Marta E on March 23, 2016 at 06:22

    The story of the prodigal son is always “touching”, but especially so when it is explicated in this way, allowing us to realize that we make “choices” every moment of every day which have consequences that we do not see until the reprecussions and consequences occur. Then, our Loving God forgives us our (inappropriate) sins/choices, teaching us his great Love so that we may do the same in our lives with others.
    Every moment of every day is a choice for us to live with more love, an awesome responsibility towards God in Thanksgiving for his Love, as well as responsibility towards our neighbors (partners, children, familiy, colleagues, friends, etc.) This is a great subject just before the watch with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. So we too are forgiven when we fail and given the choice to choose again.

    • Stan on March 26, 2016 at 10:33

      I am with Marta. We’ve all heard the story many times. So many times, in fact, that it’s become somewhat of an “old friend”, a “nice story” which we no longer even really put a lot of thought into. But Br. David really puts a whole new spin on it … giving it a much deeper meaning by making it personal. Now we’re thinking about it in a whole new way. Thank you for that. Too bad it took me 12 years to find it …

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  13. Ed Nilson on May 10, 2015 at 08:34

    Brother David has reminded us in a marvelous way how one choice leads to another — how we take little detours throughout life in addition to the really big trip to the far country. God as “the waiting Father” spends much of his “time” waiting for us to come back home from our addictions and besetting sins. Then all is made right again as we once again are made whole and clean by “the water that wells up to eternal life.” This is Luke’s Gospel to all of us sinners (see Luke 15:1). Thanks be to God

  14. Jennifer on May 10, 2015 at 08:16

    There is a sort of wonderful and terrible irony… that the son may not have ever experienced that level of forgiveness had he not strayed the way he did. I doubt any of us wants to go that far, but when it happens, it’s awfully humbling to feel that reception at home again…

  15. margaret nunn on May 10, 2015 at 03:19

    So love the way you put things Br David. You always hit the nail right on the head!

  16. Christina on May 8, 2013 at 09:40

    That is all well and good, but it is a story we (all – perhaps that is too sweeping a statement) all struggle with: being the other son. I/we have all been there. We have been the stay-at-home (not literally) child, who gets swept to one side when the Prodigal returns – it happens all the time, and I have to struggle to appreciate the Father’s loving welcome of the one who has chosen a different life while I stand in the shadows. Christina

  17. Don Alexander on May 7, 2013 at 09:57

    Br. David, It has taken me 62 years to arrive at the same place about God’s loving kindness and forgiveness that you posted today. Intellectually the conclusion seems inescapable and you did a wonderful job of describing the deep love of the Father that is without hesitation or scolding. The phrase “from a long way off” struck a chord with me 25 or 30 years ago and I’m starting to see, that’s how I need to model forgiveness.

    I get it intellectually. Now, if only my heart would follow and I could get out of standing in the doorway waiting with offended dignity….

  18. Ruth West on May 7, 2013 at 09:10

    Thanks be to God that he runs to meet us even when we have strayed from His Presence. Grant, O Lord, that we make good choices today.
    Thank you for this reminder, Br. David.

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