Thanks to my friend Paul Palumbo, I have an idea for a sermon on the parable assigned for Sunday. Most of what is here was gleaned from a phone conversation this afternoon.
The parables of the Prodigal Son and the Dishonest Steward have several things in common:
- Both main characters squander wealth. The word is exactly the same in each story. (It's only other use in Luke is when Mary says that the Lord has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.)
- Both main characters use an internal dialog to narrate their own strategy for getting out of trouble: "I know what I'll do…"
- Both main characters seek to be welcomed home.
- Both main characters receive unexpected regard from the alpha dude in the story (father/master).
I think the welcome home theme might have some preaching potential. Maybe Jesus is saying, "Look, even the children of this world understand forgiveness (as in the forgiveness of part of the debts owed to the master). Why aren't you disciples getting it?" A father understands welcoming his son home; business partners understand welcoming one of their own into their home. Folks outside the light get this. How much more should it be clear to us religious insiders (like disciples and Pharisees) that regardless of whether the welcome everyone receives is fair, the house is open and there's an extra place at the table.
At table with Zacchaeus, Jesus says, "For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). The prodigal and the manager are both squandering their resources. Jesus is doing the opposite. He is gathering up lost human resources. That gathering is his reason for coming, his reason for being. God is a shrewd enough householder not to write off the losses but rather to seek always to gather them all back under the same roof. It's just good for business (according to the parable of the Steward). It's also good for family (according to the parable of the Prodigal).