When a child is learning to ride a bike, training wheels are a good idea.

They make the bike safer and more stable.

They give the child a greater sense of security and encourages them to ride without the risk of falling.

But you can’t keep them on forever.

You can’t ride to high school with training wheels.  Or complete a triathlon. Or compete in the Tour de France.

There comes a time when they have to come off.

What about you?  Do you still have training wheel on. . . . .   Are you still playing it safe?

Have you become dependent upon removing all possible risk of falling or failing?

Are you living your life at half-pace with the training wheels still on?

Or – are you flying – with the wind in your hair and the exhilaration that comes from going as fast as you can despite the risk of falling or failing?

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced and kissed him.”

I hope by this point in Lent – you have taken some time to look at the various pictures depicting people in this story of the Prodigal Son – placed at the Baptismal fount.    My favorite is this one of the father —

With the wind in his hair and the exhilaration that comes from going as fast as he can despite the risk of falling or failing – the father RAN to his youngest son, embraced and kissed him.

The Greek word for RAN used in this parable – is trexo:  which means “running wide-open”  it conveys intense desire to get to the goal as quickly as possible.

It means to run like an athlete competing in the ancient Greek games – moving forward with full effort and directed purpose.

Trexo is used 17 times in the whole New Testament – only 3 times in the Gospel of Luke – once here – as the father has intense desire to get to his son as quickly as possible to forgive him.  

Another time—  when Peter runs from the empty tomb of Jesus to spread the good news of the resurrection.  

And once more — when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus run back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard – Jesus, who made himself known in the breaking of the bread.

Let’s let that sink in for a minute — the father ran to his son — with the same reckless abandonment – definitely no training wheels on his bike — as those who were running to spread the news that Christ had been raised from the dead!

The father ran to his son — with the same reckless abandonment — as those who were running to spread the news that Christ was risen!

What does all of this have to do with us?  

That connection is found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians where we read:  “God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given to us the ministry of reconciliation.  >>

God, not counting anyone’s trespasses against them has entrust to us the message of reconciliation.  So we are ambassadors for Christ.”

The father in the story is God. And God is just waiting for us to “come to our senses” and return to him from our sins.  And God will run to us with intense desire to get to us as quickly as possible to wrap his arms around us in welcome. . .  God’s running is as enthusiastic as God’s loving — it is done full throttle – with no misgivings or regrets – with no fear of failing or falling. . . .

AND THE FUNNY THING IS, THAT JUST LIKE THE GARDENER IN LAST SUNDAY’S GOSPEL — GOD EXPECTS US TO BE LIKE HIM —  

for God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.  God has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation – God has made us ambassadors, that is representatives,  of Christ!!

Now I don’t know about you, but I do know about me – and I usually don’t go running toward someone as if I am an athlete competing in the ancient Greek games — advancing speedily with full effort and directed purpose – to throw my arms around someone to forgive them.   

NO, if I go at all – which I am ashamed to admit —  I usually go kicking and screaming, cautiously moving for fear of falling or failing – as I move toward someone to reconcile with them.   But that’s NOT the way God wishes me to be. . .

Let’s come to our senses.  Let’s come to know that God wants us to be reconciled with one another rather than carrying around the weight of grudges – for the weight of those grudges will keep us from trexo:

an intense desire to get to the goal as quickly as possible – running with as much abandon to forgive — as God wants us to run spreading the good news of the resurrection.

Isn’t it time we took our training wheels off when it comes to reconciliation??  Not worry about failing or falling — not even worrying about what we are going to say —- but just go do it!   And the funny thing is — God is just waiting to help us. . .

Merciful God, help us to “come to our senses” and to admit we are not always the people you call us to be.

We fail at so much – and yet you still love us!  

Like the father in the Gospel today – you are watching and waiting for us to turn from our sinful ways back to you – so you can wrap your arms around us and welcome us home.

We the help of your grace, may we be a little less critical and judgmental  — and more forgiving and merciful to those who don’t always live up to our expectations.  Help us to be ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of Christ.

Sing #480:  Refrain – Verse #2 — Refrain