Wow. Just. Wow.
I love a sermon that makes me think, that adds something new to the store of knowledge I carry. Most sermons are good in the sense that they are reminders of things I already know, but forget. This one was powerful because it added more depth to a familiar story. I had a different interpretation in my last blog entry.
The familiar story is usually known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. You know, the younger son demands his share of the inheritance, blows it, returns home humbled, and his father takes him back with great celebration. The older son is angry because his no-good brother is welcomed home without any reproach while he slaves along, unappreciated. The father tells the older brother that "all that is mine is yours."
Here's what I got from today's sermon:
Reconciliation -- implies that something is not right, something needs to be fixed. Think about reconciling your checkbook and finding that you're two cents off.
The church, filled with imperfect people, offers us ample opportunities to practice the ministry of reconciliation.
Reconciliation at the human level is limited and imperfect because we are limited and imperfect. True reconciliation goes beyond tolerance or getting along. Reconciliation is like a mediated settlement, but we (humans) are not the mediators, nor do we determine the terms of the settlement.
This story could be renamed "The Parable of the Lost Sons". Both sons disrespected their father, who initiates reconciliation.
The younger son basically tells his father, "If you won't hurry up and die, then at least give me my stuff so I can have fun with it." The outrageous thing is the father's response. He doesn't tell his son to get out (get the (expletive) out, is probably how I might put it), but he gives the young man his inheritance and lets him go out into the world.
The word Luke uses for "property" is "bios", or "life." The father divided his life between his sons. Sounds familiar... like the One who gave His life for us.
The younger son squanders his money and ends up taking a job of feeding pigs, considered unclean by the Jews. He truly hit bottom here.
The older brother was also selfish. He was angry because he did all the right things, but saw his younger brother getting even more upon the younger brother's return. His focus was on himself. Doing right so he can gain something for himself. (Ouch. Sounds too familiar here.)
Neither brother reaches out to the other. In fact, the older brother failed his responsibility: to try to convince the younger brother to let go of his stupid idea of getting his inheritance and running. He didn't try to find his younger brother after the younger brother ran off.
The father (Father) is the mediator, the one who reconciles.
Unlike the older brother of the parable, we have a true Older Brother in Jesus. He seeks us out when we lose our way. He seeks to reconcile us to the Father. In Christ, God reconciles the world to Himself. We have the responsibility to spread the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:19)
The father initiates. His love is outrageous. He gives his sons their inheritance. He runs to meet his younger son when the son returns. He rushes out to plead with older son, when that son is angry and won't join in the celebration.
The theme today is "reconciliation". I find that I have to give up my idea of "justice" in order to be open to God's reconciliation. I have to accept that He has already forgiven me, and that I have to follow that example in how I deal with others who hurt me. Sometimes I'm not dealing directly with someone who's hurt me, but rather, the memory of a past hurt. God's desire is that I allow Him to heal that pain, that I let go of that over which I have no control.
How is God making his appeal through me as an ambassador for Christ? How do we show the world the reconciling power of God? Hmm... that's a tough one to write here. I don't want to get the answer wrong and steer somebody wrong. What I think is that God wants me to step aside, stop talking, and start letting go, start listening to Him. Reading His word, praying, meditation, worship, and Godly counsel are the resources He has given me to help me discern His will.
"Let go and let God," and "Be still and listen."
May your Lent continue to be holy and blessed,