S-1176 03/14/10 4SIL/3C (O) #245; (S) #326; (L.SS) #175; #314; #419 LSB; (C) #279
Texts: Isaiah 12:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Theme: “What A Mess…What A Message!” (Luke 15:12, 31-32).
Question: “How many times have you made a mess?”
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our 4th Sunday in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: “And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me’… (15:12). And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found’” (Luke 15:12; 31-32).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved daily we hear in the news of people who make a mess of their lives. Here are few examples: Democratic New York congressman Eric Massa had to resign his seat because he is accused of groping a male staffer in the shower. What a mess! Few months ago, the slick and sheik image of Tiger Wood was blemished with the news of having 15 affairs. What a mess! And John Edwards a former presidential contender had to resign because he fathered a child out of wedlock with a news reporter. What messed up life some people lead.
But we don’t have to look at the rich and famous to consider their messed up lives. How about us? How often do we make a MESS of things? We get ourselves in places and situations that we could avoid if only we listen to the advice of our loving heavenly Father. We make a mess of things by doing it our way. We make a mess of things when we think we know better than God. We make a mess of things when we ignore His Word, and listen to the devil who entices us to elevate ourselves above God and think of ourselves as gods.
In this chapter Jesus tells a story that hooks the people who were listening then, and the people who are listening today. The story is of a father and two sons. The parable from Luke 15 is such a familiar story that we dare not go over it quickly without unpacking the jewel that is within it.
The evangelist Luke always writes passionately about the life of the Savior. Today, we meet the Author of Life telling a story—a story of messed up lives of two brothers. The younger of the two comes to his father and says: “Father, I want you to give me what you owe me’—my inheritance—NOW!” With these words the younger brother in essence was saying to his father: “I want you dead so that I can live the way I want to live.” I don’t want you to judge me. Give me what is coming to me. Ironically the loving father does exactly what the son asks. Soon afterward he leaves the very familiar life-style he grew up in and goes searching for a better and bigger life. He wanted to run his life without any restrictions or consequences, making himself his god. But what a mess he made of his life and inheritance. Everything the father gave him he squandered on loose living—prostitutes, drinking and gambling. Everything that his father worked hard for is now in someone else’s pocket. And when he attempts to correct his mistake he made it even worse.
And the older brother isn’t any better. He is fit to be tied when he hears of what his father does when his younger brother full of mud and mire crawls home penniless. The father forgives the sin of the younger son and welcomes him back to the house with a grand and glorious celebration. But this is not what the older brother thought should be done. His idea is: you made your bed now sleep in it. You wasted your money there is no more. You lived in the mud eat from that pile brother.
Certainly these two sons have made a mess of their lives. But the father doesn’t remind them of the messed up lives, but of a different message one of forgiveness and the other of celebration. What a message the loving and gracious father has for both of them. He forgives them both. He does it because He is the father. His love for his children compels him to do the unthinkable and unimaginable—to restore their messed up lives. PAUSE.
My beloved, we all make a mess of our lives and will continue to do so. But there is a message that you need to hear today from the loving heavenly Father. When we squander everything, our heavenly Father is there with a word—He comes with salvation! He comes with restoration! When sickness or death comes, our Savior is there with a word of comfort. When we return to our Lord with repentant hearts, our heavenly Father is there waiting with arms spread wide in a welcoming embrace. He deals with us according to His mercy and love.
For so long the father had been waiting for his son’s return. Day After day he scanned the horizon, yearning for that familiar figure to come down the road. And then one day came true. None but a loving father’s eye could have recognized in that scruffy wreck the son who had left home so confidently earlier. The father ran as fast as his legs could carry him to embrace his son. When the son began to stammer about his sins, the father cut his confession short. He saw the change of heart in his son’s eyes. Best of all, the father received his son back, not as a servant but as a son in full standing. The best suit of clothes, the finest shoes the signet ring were given him as sign of that sonship. A sumptuous banquet was prepared with the son as the guest of honor. All because the son who was as good as dead to the father was now alive and safely back home.
The parable of the prodigal son is really a story about the waiting father. I know who the prodigal is. It is I who so foolishly and so often have left the Father’s house. What I need to know is about the heavenly Father. Does He write me out of His will or long for my return home? Will He slam the door of heaven in my face or open His arms to me? Will He treat me like some slave or take me back as a son or daughter? Here’s the answer! Because of another Son, named Jesus, who left His Father’s house with all of its comfort and peace on the task of salvation and returned back with the completed mission, my Father will be waiting for me with wide open arms. PAUSE.
This week I got an e-mail message from my uncle in Arabic. There was a beautiful picture (the picture is in the bulletin, and to those reading it, it is on the last page.) of an older man embracing tightly a younger man whose clothes looked filthy and unkempt. Above the picture was this title: “YOU ARE MY SON and I’M YOUR FATHER” Here is the translation of the message:
“The one thing that you didn’t loose is this: “You are my son, and I’m your father”. No matter how far you move away from me…No matter how you dishonor and shame me, “You are my son, and I’m your father”… Even if you wasted all that I gave you. Even if you lost all I granted you on your desires and loose living, “You are my son, and I’m your father”… Even if you knocked on all the doors, and I am the last door you knock on, “You are my son, and I’m your father”… How long will you seek things that are empty and void apart from me? All you need is me. Why do you leave the living well and dig for yourself wells in a harsh and desert land that has no water? I am the living well. My son, why waste your life seeking the empty things that don’t satisfy? It is enough my child. Don’t spend your life in pain and sorrow, hardships and afflictions; return to me because “You are my son, and I’m your father”…
These words from the father are a constant reminder of the love God has for us—His beloved children. We need to hear them again and again, because we are no better than the people in the media or in the story before us today. We, too, make a mess of our lives because as sinful human beings, we don’t love, fear and trust in God above all things.
We may not grope people in the shower, we may not have affairs, we may not have children out of wedlock, but we have our own messes. We ignore God and go away from Him attempting to live our lives without any restrictions or consequences. Some of us get tangled in the thorns of covetousness. Another falls into the swamp of lust. A third tries to ascend the steep heights of pride, self-righteousness, and the like. And still others attempt to live JUST for themselves.
Yet, Christ seeks them all. He seeks the whole world. For this reason the only begotten Son of God decided from eternity to become a man and to lower Himself to share in the mud, mire and misery of man. He carried out this eternal blessed decree. By His blood and His death on the cross, He atoned for the sins of all people and redeemed them to bring them back into the arms of His waiting heavenly Father. This is precisely Christ’s office: to seek and to save the lost—who all have gone astray—you and me. PAUSE.
Children of God, chosen and beloved if there is anything that I want you to hear today it is this. Yes, we make a mess of our lives, but God has a message for you. If Lent is about anything it is about God’s hope for otherwise hope-less and hapless hearts. The Father of all mercy forgives our sins and helps us to celebrate life anew. We are welcomed to His home again with wide open arms. Today, there is a celebration banquet taking place. Today YOU will dine as the honored guest at the table of the Lord feasting not on a fatted cow, but on a beautiful slain Lamb. Today, YOU will know that deliverance has taken place. Today, YOU will hear from the lips of the Father the joyful message: “Take eat, take drink this is for the forgiveness of your sins. “You are my son, and I’m your father”… Is there any grander message to hear? Amen.
Now the peace of God… SDG