"But whilst he was still a long way off, his Father saw him, and filled with compassion, ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him" Luke 15:20.
I was chatting to the postman at work this week, and discovered that he has recently - after many years - been reconciled to his father. He eagerly told me of how his sister had brought it about, facilitating an opportunity for them to initially talk on the phone, and how that one conversation changed everything. He'd learned how he'd been lied to about his father, how that father had, in fact, made huge efforts over the years to reach him and re-connect to him, but how it had all been deflected to ensure that his perception of his father had become warped and misconstrued. He discovered that his dad, who had been quite ill, longed to be reunited with him.
It was wonderful to see the sheer joy in this mans face as he told me of the wonderful day he had then spent with a Father he'd not known, purely because of the lies and deceptions weaved to keep them apart. There was a delightful assurance in his rediscovery of this bond which he had thought would always be lost and equally an eagerness to see it nurtured and given the means to grow, especially to make up for lost time. I rejoiced with him in what had happened.
We so often have the very some circumstances when it comes to our relationship with God.
This past few weeks, I have seen Stephen Fry's anger at God for such a cruel and capricious existence, his cry for justice and his demand that a God who could make such things be de-throned, but this is requiring the God who is truly there to remain silent - incarcerated in the "guilty as charged" manacles of our miss-placed suppositions about Him and the state of the world.
In Jesus' telling of the story of the Prodigal Son, we see how it's the desire and intention of the sons themselves, not their Father, where the real fault lies. God readily grants what they desire, even though it grieves Him to be separated from them as a result, but His longing is for reconciliation and renewal of what is lost - He is the one who is constantly looking for the first signs of our return, so he can rush out and meet us.
The biggest problem we so often have is the 'god' we create - stern, harsh, judgmental, eager to punish and to exile, but that is the god of our own alienation - we don't want to know someone who totally, deeply, unconditionally loves us - that's beyond the scope of us. Notice the way the prodigal deals with this problem when he realizes he has no choice but to go back home - I'll promise a measure of servitude, and behave accordingly (somewhat like his elder brother, perhaps) - clearly showing how he didn't know how much he was loved. We all do exactly the same - we think we can perhaps merit something by what we say or do, but in truth all we can learn is that, at our deepest point, we are all hungry and in need of something that what's around us cannot satisfy - a love that will make us truly rich, because it is pure mercy, pure grace that clothes our poverty.
The 'god' that most people say they (might) believe in is distant - in another place, and very remote from the one Jesus tells us is eagerly awaiting our return. Are we prepared to be totally shocked by the warmth, the joy, the richness and the intimacy of His love for us. So often, even as Christians, we seem to head back to the pig sty, but His love is still there - His arms are still open, His delight in us, as His children, never ends.
Like the postman who has re-discovered his dad, we can all do the same, if we look away from our miss-conceptions, and into His reconciling love.
The parable ends with some wonderful words - 'and they began to celebrate'. I like to think that the son who had been so wayward AND the son who thought he'd been so proper (because the Father shows him as well that he's free to revel in his Father's love) both came to realize how stupid they'd been in NOT seeing just how deeply they were truly loved, and that this allowed them to revel and rejoice like they never had before. That's what we all need.
God wants us to come to just such a moment - to not be bound by fear, or prejudice, or our pasts, but set free, purely and entirely by his love. That is why Jesus came (John 3:16).
That is a reconciliation worth everything, because it means that all of life can then truly become valuable.
Today is the day we can become re-untied to just such a love.