Homesick

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 15:17-19

We call him “the prodigal son.” Everywhere in the world he’s known by that name. Listen while I tell you His story. I’m reading from the words of Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 15, verse 11:

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise 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 as one of your hired servants.”

This boy – let’s call him Asher – was not especially bad. He was young, as all of us have been, or are right now. He was a lot like you and me. He had stars in his eyes, dreams in his heart. He wanted to taste real life, just as we do.

SICK OF HOME

For a number of reasons, he was discontented at home. Maybe it was because he was the younger son. His older brother, entitled to two- thirds of the family inhe don’t know how his father felt about that. He may have pondered it a while, probably with some misgivings, but finally gave the boy what he wanted. That could have been draining for the family budget. When given in advance like this, the amount for a younger son was usually two-ninths of the inheritance. That was quite a sum of money for a young man to handle. The father probably offered some counsel about care and prudence in dealing with it. The boy listened, smiling, but all of that talk was soon lost on him. He had his own ideas about how to handle these resources.

Freedom was what he yearned for. Isn’t that what all of us want? If we could only break loose from the things that hold us down, that cramp our style, wouldn’t that be something? It looked marvelous to this son. He couldn’t wait. “I’ll put work behind me. I’ll get my family off my back. I’ll visit exciting places and meet fascinating people. I’ll be free as the wind, with nobody to tell me what to do.”

Did that ever look attractive to you? Maybe you’re a teenager, sensing some of the same stirrings inside. Or maybe you’re not so young any more, but you still have the urge to get away from it all. You wouldn’t tell anyone else you feel such things, but they’re there. Your work, family responsibilities, the expectations of others begin to seem to you like a great burden. You say to yourself: Oh, to be free again!

More than a few take that road. They’re going to “find themselves,” they say. They need “their space.” “I’m going to look after me,” they say. They’ll center life in their own wills. They’ll be their own law. They’ll manage life on their own. How beguiling that is! How welcoming it looks – the road that beckons to that far country. Who can blame this young man for launching out on his own?

HEARTSICK

For a while, it seemed to be all that Asher had hoped for. As he spent money lavishly, it seemed to win him both friends and fun. His life became one long party, with games and girls always at hand. What a life! It was so fast paced, so intoxicating that he hardly ever thought of home except to chuckle occasionally at what his big brother was missing!

Asher found a number of people who were happy to help him spend his money. Some took advantage of him. The boy from the farm was an easy mark. He hardly noticed what was happening until one day all his money was spent. He had either lost or pawned or spent everything he owned. The good times were gone now, and so were all the attractive companions. No parties, no dates, no fun. It was over.

To make matters worse, the crops failed that year. Famine stalked the land. It was hard even to find a handout anywhere. The young man faced the chilling fact that he could possibly starve. He began to do without, to go hungry, to feel the pinch of want. The deprivation was hard; the disappointment even more painful to bear.

Becoming desperate, Asher became a household servant to one of the local farmers, who promptly sent him out into the fields to feed swine. Humiliation. This was regarded by Asher’s people as the most degrading of all occupations. He found himself craving even the harsh food the animals ate. Again, in his tradition, this was the most contemptible and forbidden of foods. In all of this, Asher met with no kindness, no generosity, no loving interest or support. Can you feel with him a bit of what that was like? He was utterly desolate, filled with shame and self-loathing, tormented by bitter remorse. Once tired of home, now he was sick of heart, weary with life. Everything had fallen apart.

But there in the depths, “in the pits,” as we say, something began to happen in his life. Jesus puts it this way, “He came to himself.” That’s a singular phrase, isn’t it? It seems to imply that somewhere along the line, Asher had lost touch with his true self. One part of his life had engrosseds had brought about his misery. Asher’s people had a saying about that: “When a son goes barefoot, then he remembers the comfort of his father’s house.” Asher was going barefoot. He had lost everything. He was irrestibly homesick.

He began to think about how well treated the laborers were, the farm hands back at home. His father had always been fair and generous with them. They always had more than enough. When things went wrong for them, they could be sure that they would be taken care of. They had it pretty good, and what did Asher have here? Nobody cared a rap about him. It wouldn’t make any difference to them if he lived or died. The irony of it all struck him. The hired hands had plenty back at his father’s place, and he was about to perish from hunger. For a moment, the contrast made his misery more intense.

Then a wave of fresh feeling came over him, with a new, clear sense of purpose, “I’m not going to stay here in this hopeless place. I know I’ve forfeited any right to be my father’s son. I’ve sinned against God. I’ve broken my dad’s heart. There’s absolutely no hope that I can ever live like a son again. But at least I can be a servant to a far better master than I’ve found here. Why didn’t I think of it sooner? I’m out of here. I’m going home!”

Did you know that something like this happened once in the experience of the great Russian novelist Dostovesky? He was an exile at hard labor in Siberia when two women slipped a New Testament into his hand. He read it avidly. What touched him more than anything else was the parable of the prodigal son. “One sees the truth more clearly,” he wrote, “when one is unhappy. And yet God gives me moments of perfect peace. In such moments, I love and believe that I’m loved. In such moments, I’ve formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. The creed is extremely simple. Here it is: I believe that there’s nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, more perfect than the Savior.” On his knees, Dostovesky blessed God for sending him into the Siberian steppes. For it was there amid those stern, forbidding solitudes, that he, a homesick and penitent prodigal, found his way to the Father’s house.

When you look at things that way, sadness, defeat, disappointment – bitter as they may be to go through – can prove to be rich experiences in our lives. How tragic it would have been for this young man if he had stayed content in the far country, if he had kept on living with the illusion that his own pleasure was the only thing that mattered! How lost he would have been if he had never realized how precious family relationships are, if he had never felt a hunger for the living God! But that awareness didn’t come to him in the round of parties, while he was courted by everyone, but only in the pig sty amid the swine. Whatever turns your thoughts homeward, whatever makes you wistful for the Father’s house, whatever melts your heart in repentance, i He went through two years of mental anguish, plagued with the feeling that his life had no meaning. He had every piece of rope put out of reach for fear that he would some day in despair hang himself. He declined to carry a gun into the forest lest he destroy himself.

Then one day, walking alone, he began to think of God. Then he wondered why he was doing that. Why should the thought of God keep popping into his head? And why should hope come back when it did? “So then,” he wrote, “why look I further? This is it. The reason I can’t help thinking of God is because God is here, and the reason life takes on meaning when I think of God is simply because it’s God who gives life meaning. This is what I’m looking for. This is it.” And he said, “I will seek God and live. I will arise and go to my father’s house.”

Friends, believe this witness. What you’re seeking and yearning for is to be found in the Father’s house. You don’t have to look for it in some far country. You don’t have to break your ties with faith and family to find it. It’s all in the Lord, and in His Son, Jesus Christ. Your most desolating hours can yet be full of promise if they turn your thoughts toward Him and what He can mean for your life. Wherever you are today, in whatever circumstance, I pray that there will sweep over you such a wave of homesickness that you’ll turn your steps and your heart toward the Lord. When you do, there’s a wonderful surprise waiting for you!

Prayer: Gracious Father, make us all homesick until we turn our hearts toward You. Amen.