In Luke, the younger son behaved badly, and in a foolish, short-sighted way, then, in desperation, went home. The son was ready to confess his sin to his father and ask not for complete restitution but for only a job. That is, in both these readings, someone has left home for what seemed to be a better deal but wasn't. The son was willing to grovel; the Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness.
And both were restored.
In both Joshua and Luke, a feast celebrates the restoration.
Others have sinned --and still others still are. They--we--can anticipate restoration.
Psalm 32 begins "Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven."
The Israelites were not happy in Egypt--not after the Pharaoh who knew Joseph died. After some initial amusements, the son was not happy sleeping in the pig pen eating their leftovers. We just cannot count on sin to keep us happy. The psalm expresses a similar situation: "As long as I wouldn't admit my errors, I suffered. But, when I confessed my sins to the Lord, I was forgiven."
Lent's a good time to review this process. To reflect on our choices--the ones we have already made and the ones that it is time to make. We need to stop doing what we shouldn't even have started doing. We need to confess and to ask forgiveness.
And confession and forgiveness are not the end of the story according to this psalm. Once we have gotten right, we need to stay that way. "Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, who needs to be curbed with a bit and bridle."
The alternatives are stark, according to this psalm: The wicked will live in torment, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. We are being asked to change our ways so that we can live out the command:
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.