What struck me about this story - something I had never seen before - was that the father in the story ran to his son, not just because he missed him so much but because he wanted to protect him from the abuse of the villagers. The villagers would undoubtedly have taken up the offense for the father and would be quick to meet the boy at the city gate to discourage him from returning. It's amazing, isn't it, how unkind and vengeful religious people can be. Maybe you've been on the receiving end of this kind of hatred.
But the father beat his way through the crowd and made it to his son before they did, saving him from the humiliation and the shame. The father didn't care what people thought of him. He wasn't looking to preserve his reputation. His only concern was the welfare of the son. What a picture of God's protective love for us. And isn't that what we see in Jesus bearing the shame of our sin on the cross? No mere mortal could have ever conceived of a god like this!
It's worth some time to consider how we might be like that village crowd with the "sinners" in our midst. And it's worth some time to see how we might be more like the father by embracing them, welcoming them back into the faith community and even giving them the "seat of honor" at our banquets.
(By the way, the audio file won't be uploaded until the end of this week but the text file is ready to go.)