Luke’s story of the prodigal son, coming as it does in the very middle of the Gospel, and at the end of three stories about loss, is central to the message of the whole gospel. We all know what it’s like to lose someone or something that is precious to us. I was always losing my keys and wasting time trying to find them until I came up with a simple solution: always put them on the hook in the kitchen when I first come home. I lost my contact lenses, once in church and found myself down on my hands and knees in the aisle looking – I did find it. It would have been effective as an illustration of the parable about the woman losing one of her ten coins.

Losing contact lenses involves temporary problems with sight, but the more serious is when that sight goes completely, or our hearing, or when we lose someone we love through death; that loss touches us more deeply, and it can take a lot of time for us to learn to live with that loss and to live well. For that we need the support and understanding and care of others, as we learn to bring our grief to God and find once more the fullness of life God gives to us. I have found the prayer book within the Bible, the book of Psalms, to be a wonderful resource given to us to sustain us in prayer, especially when we put some of these poetic prayers to memory.

However, the stories Luke tells are not just stories of loss, they are more correctly to be seen as stories about discovery; stories about being found.

We all know the relief or even joy of finding something we have lost, and the stories of the shepherd finding the sheep, the woman finding her coin, and the Father finding his son, touch us all. For me, naturally the third story about the re-union of the father and son touches me most, for our intimate family relationships mean so much to us, and as parents we long for good, happy and healthy connections with our children. Of course the father in this story also has to deal with the older brother and Luke deliberately leaves that up in the air, because he wants to draw us into that story in a personal way and ask us – what would we do as the elder brother; what will we do?

In and through all these stories of lost and found, Luke weaves a picture for us of God, and it is in many ways a surprising one. God is revealed in the form of the father who allows his son to make foolish decisions and hopefully learn from his mistakes. There are a lot of risks in this approach, but clearly God believes the risks are worth it as we come to see what and who is really important in our lives, and most of all come to love the One who loves us. But there is also the open-hearted joy and welcome the father offers his son, and no ‘I told you so!’ There are no recriminations, rather wholehearted and genuine delight and embrace.

What a wonderful portrait Luke holds before us of the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.