John and I spent last weekend visiting the kids and enjoying some fall color at UVA. It was Homecoming Weekend, and the excitement in the air was palpable. Friday night traffic was thick, and restaurants were packed. On Saturday, passions ran high for the football game, and the strains of the marching band and game announcers could be heard from just about anywhere on grounds. That UVA lost the game to Pitt did not dampen the celebratory tone at all. By the time Sunday morning arrived, added proof that the alums were happy to be back “home” was evident in the sea of blue Solo cups that washed over the lawns and in the animated line that snaked out of Bodo’s Bagels and down the sidewalk.

Witnessing the enthusiasm of the crowds at every turn reminded me of another homecoming, one where a father patiently but eagerly waits for the return of his son. In this parable from Luke 15:11-24, a father is faced with a young son who insists on taking his inheritance prematurely and going off on his own. The father makes the decision to give his son the freedom to do as he chooses, perhaps wisely knowing he would return some day, or at the very least hoping he would.

Surely enough, in time, the young man squanders his inheritance and finds himself alone and destitute. He takes a job feeding pigs, thinking he might be able to collect some of the scraps left behind for himself to eat.

Hungry and with no way out of his desperation, the son realizes that he has disrespected his father and on a deeper level – God and God’s expectations for him. The young man decides to go back and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” Luke 15:18-19 (NLT) Before he reaches home, his father meets the son on the road, and he repeats his apology to him. The father, jubilant over his son’s homecoming, instructs his servants to bring the finest clothes and shoes for the young man and to prepare a feast. “…let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:23-24 (ESV) Can you just hear the rejoicing in heaven over that homecoming?

Isn’t this at times our plight? Our Father in heaven is a good father and gives us life, breath, and abundant blessings, and yet there are seasons in our life when we are ungrateful and turn away from Him. But for those of us who truly believe, the victory has already been won for us by Christ’s sacrifice. So in those times in our life when we are wandering in the desert seemingly lost and alone, the Lord is steadfast in His love and mercy and awaits our homecoming. He fills us with His Spirit to guide us back home as we embrace His love once again in faith and trust. God isn’t looking at the number of times we fall short, but He is paying careful attention to the homecoming of our heart. Choose God! Choose faith! Make this the best homecoming ever. Heaven will rejoice!

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