Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock that belongs to you,
which lives alone in a forest
in the midst of a garden land;
let them feed in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
show us marvelous things.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over the transgression
of the remnant of your possession?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in showing clemency.
He will again have compassion upon us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our ancestors
from the days of old.
Psalm 103: 1-4, 9-12
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: Then Jesus said, “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.’”
The scripture today tells of the Lord’s infinite mercy. “As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.” Jesus brings this statement home in the gospel when he tells the parable of the prodigal son in the gospel. He tells the story for the benefit of the tax collectors and sinners in his company as well as the scribes and Pharisees looking down on him. In the story of the prodigal son, the deviant son chooses to return to the father after disaster strikes the land and he is left destitute. The son did not have to return to his father. He could have felt the crushing weight of shame and regret for his choice and chosen to die hidden in his sin and misfortune. The important thing, though, is that the son chose life. Of his own free will he chose to be reunited with the father and be restored to life and health.
In life, it can be tempting to imagine God as the angry parent who is going to punish us when we do something wrong or yell after finding out we broke a vase, or disobeyed the rules and got hurt. In reality, though, God is the father in the parable who is overjoyed when his children come back to him. He disregards their past sins and welcomes them back with his whole heart. When we return to the Lord seeking reconciliation with him instead of running from him, he removes out transgressions from us and welcomes us fully back into his kingdom. It is up to us though to choose life instead of death.
Today, where are you struggling to turn to the Lord? Do you feel held back by the shame and weight of sin and wish to hide? Remember that the Lord is just waiting for you to come back to him so he can welcome you back into communion with him with open arms. He will not judge you. He will not condemn you for your sins. Instead, he will rejoice that you have returned home.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you that you remove my sins from me so that I can be united with you in heaven. Please help me overcome my fear and shame that keep me from bringing everything to you. Lord, I do not want to keep anything hidden from you but desire to return to you with my whole heart and be close to you forever. This Lent, please draw me closer to your heart and cleanse me from anything that would keep me from you. Amen.