Archive for March, 2016

He is taking the blame

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Good Friday

StMarksIn the Garden of Eden we fell into sin and to begin to understand the depth and seriousness of what happened with the tree in the Garden of Eden, we need to look at Jesus on the cross. There is Jesus, on the cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship.

He is taking the blame for people’s sin and on the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” It is the cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God. Jesus closed that gap and he still reaches out, with his arms stretched out to all the people who are on the other side.

This includes people who want nothing to do with God. It includes people who are as evil, and it includes you and me, and even enemies.

When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Our sin is destructive and it hurts God.

Looking at Jesus on the cross, we begin to see how deep and costly is the love of God for people.

The depth of God’s love reaches out to enfold his enemies. The love of God goes deeper than our sin. It reaches out wide enough to include all people on this earth. The love of God that overwhelmed the thief on the cross next to Jesus,

and it reaches as far as you and me. The love of God is a healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family.

Yet we humans are still weak. It is a one-sided relationship. God is the strong one. But it is a new beginning and it gets better as the Holy Spirit reaches out to us in the Scriptures to strengthen us. The Spirit that brings Jesus to us in Baptism, and again and again in the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit that brings us to trust in the truth. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.

At school we might have collected footy cards. Actually I never did but I have in the past several years been the financier of such a practice were cards are bought, then swapped and traded with other such parties. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us and traded not the discards for something better, but traded himself for the discards so that he could call them, call us his own.

Today is called Good Friday because we can focus on Jesus on the cross, and know that he is there for each one of us.

We know that, no matter what comes, we are loved with a love that is deeper and stronger than any of our enemies. The love of God that reaches down deeper than death. It reaches out to rescue us from the worst evil powers that might attack us. It reaches deeper than any sin that has been a part of our lives. God doesn’t say to us, “If you show a bit of good heart to me for a change, I will make it up with you.” He doesn’t even say, “If you’ve got some good intentions about spiritual things I’ll accept you back again.” No. He reconnects us to himself even when we humans are killing his son. In Romans 5, verse 10, the Spirit of God assures us, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.” God accepts you and me despite the mess we might have made with our lives. God does not accept you and me because we have lived a respectable life, but only because of Jesus.

The good news on Good Friday runs against the grain of our human nature so much that we need to hear the news again and again. The Christian faith is not about looking inside ourselves all the time. Saving faith is to look at God’s love and faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially what he did for us on the cross.

We conclude with the words of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:38 and the following verses about God’s love.

“And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.

Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.

Sounds too good to be true

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Luke 24:5

StMarksThere is a saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” and in this day and age of scams that is pretty good advice. Interestingly, yesterday when I was researching that saying on Google, I was directed to another statement or saying to that of “Opportunity knocks but once” in which alongside the English explanation of such a phrase- was an advertisement from “Charm Date.com” inviting me to date beautiful Russian girls. How in the world this saying was linked on the World Wide Web to the previous saying about being “too good to be true” I’ll never know, because if you had seen how that young lady in the advertisement was dressed and looking at me-you too would have known it was not a scam.

Obviously, I had to turn her down but at least I did reply to the email I received from a compassionate Nigerian General promising me great wealth if I gave him my bank details.

When I receive it I might send some to that girl so that she can buy some more suitable clothing for the Russian winters.

From the book of Proverbs: Chapter 31, verses 4-6: “It is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!”

And the Apostle Paul’s words to “Pastor/Evangelist” Timothy in the 1st book in his name: 1St Timothy Chapter 5, verse 23: “Do not drink water only, but take a little wine to help with digestion and illness.”

It’s like looking in a mirror: Beer for the struggling, wine for the Pastor. Twenty four hours in a day and twenty four beers in a carton: co-incidence-I think not.

Words used for myself out of context and most unlike those of the two angels at Jesus’ empty tomb who after seeing Mary Magdalene and friends looking to tend to His body greet them with a quizzical: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ and then continue with ‘He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you that on the third day he would rise again.’

And as we heard from the scripture reading: Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  But these words seemed to them ridiculous – too good to be true – and they did not believe her (Luke 24:5b-11).

We face the same challenges today.  People will believe in just about anything.
Pills that burn fat so you don’t have to diet or exercise.
Creams that make you look younger.
Ancient secrets to living longer.
People will spend money to take the risk in case it is true.  But try to tell them about Jesus, who rose from the dead and now offers eternal life to anyone who believes? I’m sure you would off heard some more than once: ‘It’s all make-believe.’  ‘I’ve never heard of such a thing!’  ‘It’s too good to be true.’

And, you’ve may have even heard other, not so nice responses to the news of the Resurrection.

Believing in the resurrection was never going to be easy.  It wasn’t then; it isn’t now.

But why?  Isn’t this what everyone wants?  And if it’s true – isn’t this then it is the answer to all of life’s concerns.

Life is full of suffering: death; grief; worries.  Knowing that at the end of this life we will experience eternal life means that the hurt is limited.  The emphasis of Paul in his writing today is that the resurrection of Jesus is victory over every oppressive power in our life, including, and especially, death (1 Corinthians 15:19-26).  The last enemy to be destroyed is death!  And so whenever we doubt or disbelieve in the resurrection of Jesus, death is still the power in our life.  That is when we and others look for anything that will help relieve the suffering, pain and death.  For many it becomes their life search – their job, their wealth, their success.  And when these fail, as they ultimately do, then so does hope for the future.

Even as Christians, these other things can all too often become the focus to bring hope and meaning into our lives.  But when we look to anything but the resurrection then the message of the angels is spoken to us too: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  Nothing in this life can bring us any comfort despite the promises they make.  When we listen to the media telling us about how to find true meaning and happiness in the idols of this world, then we are looking for the living among the dead.

Amos, the first earthly prophet announced to the Jewish people that: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.  People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east: They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.”

Words said to those awaiting the Messiah in Old Testament, and yet, Words that could be said for those looking for the meaning of life still in these days, and Words said to us when we seek the idols of our world that never stop asking for more and more of the same.

Copy a recipe from the endless cooking shows: but still hungry the next day. A world traveller: but still weighed down with those 22 countries I “haven’t done yet.” The latest and greatest gadgets: that are already outdated by the time they’re released. Good things in life that we know are gifts from God, like that of the Gift of God truth’s truth that shows that they still are only things.

Because our hope is in the resurrected life. Our hope that changes the way we live our lives from as if our earthly life is the only life we have, to a life living as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and declare with absolute joy and confidence like that of Mary Magdalene that  “We have seen the Lord.”

It’s natural to feel the pain and heartache of this life.  When we suffer, we hurt.  When a loved one dies, we grieve.  When we lose a job, we are concerned about paying the mortgage and other bills.  But it’s where we go to for comfort and assurance that matters.  Mary went to the right place, but was looking for the wrong answer.  She went to see Jesus, but didn’t understand the meaning of the empty tomb.  Mary was despaired, but was pointed to Jesus.  When we face our own empty tombs – when we face those times when we feel loss and despair, pain and grief – we are pointed to Jesus.  The empty tomb meant that Jesus was no longer in the grave but is now living with us and in us.

Jesus said before his death, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” (John 2:19).  On the third day Jesus rebuilt his temple – His risen body, His Holy Church and in His people

We are now living witnesses to the Lord. We have seen the Lord and now we share this living hope in a dying world that has put its hope in the wrong things and still looking for the living among the dead.

Proverbs Chapter 31, verse 6: “Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish.”

Yes there is an element in that proverb of deadening the pain of life, but greater the element of deadening the pain of death.

The death faced by the criminals on their way to execution on the cross who were given by  the ladies of Jerusalem a drink of medicated wine to help deaden the pain of suffering.

The wine like that offered to Jesus said to be of vinegar, gall and myrrh.  A cheap Roman wine mixed as a drug to dull the senses of the person being crucified that they may a little easier endure their cross.

The same pain relief offered to but rejected by Christ who willed to taste the full bitterness of death and suffering, that we when bearing our cross see not hope in the perishable of the world, but in the imperishable of Himself, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ here with us today as we will be with Him in eternity.

The Easter story is our story and as He has risen, forgiven in Christ so shall we.

So whether you are here each week, each month, each year – or whether it’s your first time here – let this Easter Story be your story.  Let it renew your life and hope in the living Lord, so that you no longer look for the living among the dead but become the place where others can find life. Amen.

This is a night of remembering.

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

StMarks1 Corinthians 11:23-26

This is a night of remembering. Most of us remember this text from 1st Corinthians, which is the earliest account of the Last Supper we have. We have heard it hundreds of times in the sacred liturgy and it is part of our ingrained memory.

This is a week of remembering for Christians throughout the world, a kind of mental pilgrimage. We recall the irony of Palm Sunday, the ominous last supper of Jesus with his disciples, the agony of his death on Good Friday, and the joy of Easter Sunday. There will be many pilgrims in Jerusalem these days, visiting the sacred sites, including the Cenacle, the traditional site of the Last Supper. Tonight, millions of Christians throughout the world will be revisiting this site if only in imagination and in quiet meditation.

The somberness of this night perhaps gives rise to some personal memories: perhaps your first communion, or the time you went to the altar full of doubts, participating in a ritual that meant little more than empty repetition. But irrespective of what was going on inside, you were drawn to there by Christ to receive grace and a strengthening of faith.  You may recall the last time you communed with a loved one and you may remember that time when you knelt at the altar with a heavy burden of guilt and shame on your shoulders and you went away with lighter step: forgiven, healed, given new hope.

What were the disciples remembering that night two thousand years ago? The ‘Last Supper’—the expression has an ominous ring! Something is coming to an end, and Jesus’ followers are swamped by a fearful uncertainty. Except the one thing that is crystal clear, that Jesus is playing right into the hands of the authorities. It’s crisis time-the time has come.

The disciples are surely remembering how Jesus has hinted at a painful parting from them when he has spoken of the necessity of his death. Now he eats with them in the framework of the Passover meal, which requires the death of a sacrificial lamb. And as he presides over the meal, one thing becomes clear: This is a farewell of soughts.

He is about to die.

“My body given for you…my blood shed for you. Remember me.” This dinner is prelude to a death, his own.

St Paul makes the context of our Lord’s words of institution quite clear. He begins by recalling that the meal took place on the night Jesus was betrayed and then ends his account by speaking about proclaiming Jesus’ death.

The first will be last and the last first. From death comes life and as said so well be St. Augustine:

“Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is the see what we believe. That day will come when all is made clear and we will understand the unblemished mysteries of God.

Tonight we partake in a mystery of God. A gift of God for us here on earth from heaven above.

‘Do this in remembrance of me’ does not mean that we are to cast our minds back to the distant past and remember who Jesus was. The Eucharist is not the repeated last rites for a fallen hero. We don’t remember a martyr who died for an ideal. Remembering here is not visualizing the terrible events of Holy Week: betrayal, false accusations, farcical trial, brutal torture, mockery and death.

The wonder of this holy meal is not that it represents the past, but that it re-presents the past. That is, what our Lord gained for us by giving his body and blood in death for us is made a present reality as we eat and drink. Even better, Christ the Son of God, our crucified Saviour is himself present for us.

As we participate in this sacred meal, God is saying to each one of us: I did this for you. This sacrifice is for you. You are not asked to make yourself worthy of the gift. Just take, eat…take, drink. Do nothing more than receive in faith.

Again, our Lord didn’t institute a funeral wake but a continual re-presentation of a joyful celebration of his presence with us. Even tonight, on the Eve of Good Friday, it is still the meal of joy as it celebrates not only a saving death- but a Easter life and that is why we can repeat the cry of the early church. Come, Lord Jesus!’

As we remember Jesus we are re-membered into him. We became members of the body of Christ by baptism, as the life-giving Spirit united us with him in his death and resurrection. In the Eucharist, in the mystery in which past, present and future are united, we are again membered with all the saints on earth and in heaven into the one body of Christ, his church. His past, present & future are ours.

Tonight as we eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus, so too does God the Father also remember, because in this celebration we hold up to the Father the perfect atoning sacrifice of Christ and in faith we claim that sacrifice as ours, and so yes: with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify his holy name evermore praising him and singing, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of your glory.

In faith we recognise the  glory of the one who comes in the name of the Lord and in faith, we still see that glory even in the broken body and the blood out-poured.

This experience of glory as redeeming love carries us to a fuller vision of God’s glory out in the world. The one whose story we recite, and proclaim which becomes our own story as we discern God’s power and presence in all the contradictions of life: where hopes are dashed, dreams frustrated, and when injustice seems to triumph over justice-because this through bread and wine we remember the larger vision of Christ’s return, and through His body and blood of Jesus does come the larger reality that as we remember Him, so too does He remember us-for now, and for eternity.Amen

Easy to welcome Jesus but hard to follow

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Luke 19:28-40/Philippians 2:5-11

 

Could it be true that Palm Sunday prods us to ponder that it is easy to welcome Jesus but hard to follow him?

StMarksAs we hear of this new king being welcomed to great applause, we know from our own experience that it is easy to welcome a winner. We have probably applauded the winner many times. Like when our child’s team or our own team won the grand final or or when Australia won the Americas Cup so long ago. It is a good thing to experience welcoming and applauding winners now and again!

If it is easy to welcome a winner, like they did on Palm Sunday, then it is probably quite easy to follow a winner too. If the winner is loved and has good skills and a good plan and the right intentions, then following can be done with relative ease. We are happy to jump on a winning band wagon and see where it leads.

It may be easy to welcome a winner, and even follow a winner, but it is a lot harder to welcome and follow a loser. You may have done that too; like when you are on the boundary line of junior sport or in the crowd of a production and mistakes are made and things do not go well. You have to welcome those who have not done their best and that may not always be so easy.

If welcoming a loser is hard, then following one is harder still. Remember that teacher you once had who you just could not follow but had to in order to get through? Remember that boss you worked under who didn’t always know what was going on or understand the issues, but you worked away anyway.

What about that colleague whom you just find it hard to trust and work with, but you have to anyway; that kid at school who was cruelly named the class “loser” whom you found it hard to stick up for?

It is hard to follow a person or a faith that you or others sometimes judge to be a “loser”.

What would inspire you to do this difficult thing of following a so called “loser”?

You might follow if you knew that the person was not actually a loser. That would take some attention and working through. It would take a seeking heart to find this out. It would take some application, patience, personal time and reflection to discover that your and others’ judgements about the person and their views were actually inaccurate.

You would follow a loser if you trusted that it was all for a great and noble purpose – a purpose of hope, of life, or renewal, of learning, of growing, of truly living and understanding.

You could follow if you trusted that his loss was others gain: a gift given so that good things come to us, and to a world in need.

If the loser was actually a winner who operates on a completely different scale of who is a winner and who is a loser, and if you could understand his way of winning and what it meant for the good of you and the world, then we might follow him.

What of this Jesus on the donkey? How do people in our time judge such a man on a cross and in a tomb. In our time and place, many people would regard him and those who follow him as “losers”.

Even those who profess to follow Jesus – may wonder if they have actually backed a winner when they are not held in great esteem, just as he is no longer held in high esteem by many in our community.

We may even get to the point of only following parts of Jesus – the parts that are easy and don’t confront us too much or make us uncomfortable.

An example:  we hear a lot about God’s grace. “It’s all about grace” we say. Our life is based on simply receiving the free gift of God’s grace and learning to be gracious, and so it goes. This is true, but it is also incomplete.

Jesus doesn’t really allow anyone to leave it there. Yes, he is magnificent in his lavish grace as he takes a beating from evil itself in our place on that cross. Yes he is grace personified as he is lifted up in pain and blood to lose it all so that we can gain all.

Yes, we are connected with the maker of all things in a relationship of compassion and love by the compassion and passion and love of this divine man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

But then he lays a call on us. He called  those 12 people entering the city with him that first Palm Sunday, to “follow”. In his grace – which is grace enough to overlook our ignorance and offensive ideals and actions – he calls us to “follow”. His call to us is a call of underserved love and confidence in us, and yet it is still a call to follow him somewhere or into something.

“Follow what or whom?” we might ask. Follow a lifestyle goal? Follow a code of ethics? Follow a set of values. Follow the great thinkers and theologians? Follow the church and all its teaching religiously? Follow the family tradition of Christianity?

No, not in the most basic and first instance anyway. “Follow ME”, the donkey riding, Servant King calls. “Follow me into the city; into an unknown future”.

So, we are called by this grace-filled God to follow him somewhere in the journey of life he has given us. Today he calls us to follow him into the city and the suffering and the crucifixion and death and then that life at the end of the tunnel.

So, how about it? As we welcome the winner, Jesus, will we also follow him into an unknown future? Will we welcome this divine crucified man who will win the greatest victory of all – the ability and the power and authority to overcome death, forgive human sin and heal human blindness?

Will we welcome him as he reveals the wise and divine to the foolish and impatient this Holy Week? Will we follow him into Easter and see where he leads us? Will we follow him all the way to the cross?

The opposite response to this call would be to settle for a theoretical brand of Christianity. Peter, with all his promises to practice his faith and stay with Jesus even to death, found that the practice of faith and following is more confronting and scary that the theory of it. Actually following in faith is confronting.

But imagine his life after it was all over and he was restored by Jesus to full belonging and love. The practice of following the resurrected Jesus was a joy and a light burden and a great love and fulfilment to his being!

So, will we go for more than only the theory and let Jesus lead us into the practice of being Christian, and in so doing, find that world-shaping and fulfilling life which the Saviour promises?

The time for just entertaining Christianity is over! The call of Jesus to this generation is upon us. He still calls to all of us – “Follow Him”.

Follow him to the cross and stay there with him in your spirit these holy days. Stay in the tomb with Him and wait for the stone to be removed and stand with the Son in all his glory on Easter Day.

He is calling all of us to let him love us, let him surround us with his underserved kindness. He is gifting us with a call right here – to follow him in this place with our skills, our relationships, our hopes, our plans, our whole selves.

So, we welcome the king. We ask with all our soul for this winner to lead us into his suffering and into his glorious power and light for our calling here – in this place, at this time.

Welcome the winner, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and follow him, even if for now-it may mean losing something. Amen.

How deep the Father’s love for us

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

John 12:1-8

StMarksIt’s the time of the Passover and Jesus knowing he is a marked man by the Jewish authorities, shows courage beyond belief and has walked into the lion’s den and gone to Jerusalem knowing the fate that awaits him. But this night he is sharing a meal in the home of Martha and Mary.

Martha as usual is busy working and serving others with the meal preparations. Lazarus, who has only been recently raised from the dead, is present and then there’s Mary and Judas whose actions are poles apart.

Mary in her love for Jesus has thrown human convention of thought or society standards out the window. Firstly the ointment she applies to Jesus feet was worth in today’s standards a full year’s wages. Was this a family heirloom that she has saved for her “retirement” but know sees a more worthwhile purpose. It seems a strange thing to have ”lying around the house” but makes me think of those post-apocalyptic movies where they end up using cash notes to keep the fire going. However this “pot of gold come to be”, Mary continues in her disregard for society logic and ways by wiping Jesus feet with her hair. An act is not just showing her humility and love, but has also smashed through the glass ceiling as no respectable women would ever appear publically with their hair unbound as it was considered immoral.

Then at the other end of the spectrum is Judas who having been given the job of “treasurer” by Jesus says what would seem logical, to sell the precious ointment and use the proceeds to feed the poor and if we were there and unaware of the truth that he actually wanted to take some of the proceeds for himself, this would seem a reasonable and sensible suggestion. While this is going on Martha and Lazarus are in the back ground and as the family fortune one way or another is about to leave the building, seem quite content. It is an amazing scene.

While for us to hear of the love and generosity of Mary, Martha and Lazarus is humbling, it’s also if we are honest unfathomable, because if we could truly put ourselves in that household, I’m not sure we could guarantee to be a Martha, Mary or Lazarus any more than we could guarantee not to be calculating and self-considering like Judas.

Yet right amongst this. Amongst Mary’s almost unparalleled throwing of “caution to the wind” in her love for Jesus, Martha’s dedicated work and support for all those present, Lazarus chatting with and entertaining his guest and saviour at the table and Judas, the one given the trust of and being in charge of the money yet who is pilfering of the proceeds and who will soon go one step further and give up Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. There in the centre of this condensed overview of society sits Jesus who will shortly throw himself to his accusers in the sure knowledge that their response to him will be unjust, spiteful, cruel and terminal.

He walks towards them, and towards his cruel death in his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And he walks towards them and towards his cruel death in his love for the Judas’ and his love for those plotting against him. A man who after having experienced the love of Mary and the hatred of the authorities will ask his Father, ask the one with limitless power “To forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

Yes, in times we may not know what we do, and in others we are blatantly aware. It is what it is ab whether we chose to be where we are in our lives at this moment or just seem to have fallen here is not the point. The point is that because Jesus has chosen you, you can choose to live a life irrespective of where that may be. Whether with the open love of Mary or the hidden sin of Judas, when life is seen through the grace bestowed by God the Father to us through faith in Christ alone you are free “to shoot for the stars” or free not to, because in Christ you are following your dreams no matter what shape they take.

You are not Mary, Martha, Lazarus or Judas. You are who you are and that is who Christ loves. Thinking of you as you are today Christ went to the cross, not for what you should or will be-but who you are today. So live life, walk in the rain in your shorts or use an umbrella it doesn’t matter as either way you do not walk alone. That the outward love of Mary we may not have, but the love of Christ to Mary we do have, and that’s what matters, and knowing that is living a life.

Two thousand years ago Jesus in his love for those who knew him and loved him he walked to the cross. Two thousand years ago Jesus in love for those who neither loved him nor knew him he walked to the cross and asked the Father to forgive them “for they know not what they do”.

Two thousand years ago Jesus walked to the cross knowing that a group of sinners will be here today needing to be forgiven. And as he sees us groping in the dark with our sins. Sees us make mistake after mistake and sees us in our “Judas” moments as we selfishly turn away from the need of others. Yet in hearing our cries for help and forgiveness and knowing that he is our only chance, he sees our faith like that of the precious ointment that Mary placed at his feet. That he sees us trust in nothing other than faith in him alone and risk being ridiculed by those around us, he turns to the Father and says “you know what they do, but forgive them-for you know what I have done for them”.

And so it is here for you today, washed clean, No need of regret. But refreshed in spirit for you know the truth, and that truth is Jesus Christ. And in faith in Jesus Christ-you have the most remarkable and greatest gift that truly does make a mockery of our other value systems, because in the cold light of day, when the Lord says “my grace is sufficient for thee”, we see not a man giving away his retirement fund, but see God the Father do the unfathomable as said so well in the song we are about to sing:

“How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.”

The love of the Father so great that we cannot comprehend it this side of heaven. But the love of the Father that heard His Son’s Word’s on the cross and said yes my Son, yes-it is finished-because their trust in my grace is enough.

Amen.

It was like an act of treachery.

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

StMarksI’ve seen several times, particularly in farming where a son asks for his share of his inheritance so that he can be independent.But this young man, the prodigal son (noting that the word prodigal means to “live extravagant and wastefully” )This prodigal son gave his father the greatest insult and hurt you could imagine.His leaving home was one thing,but back in those times in him asking his father for his share of the inheritance, he was effectively wishing that he-the father was dead. Itwas like an act of treachery.

Yet, his loving and generous father,much I would imagine to the disgust his local community family agrees to his requestand once received,the son promptly sets off on a long journey to a distant land and begins to waste his fortune on wild living.
When the money runs out, a severe famine hits the country and the son finds himself in dire circumstances.

He takes a job feeding pigs, and as pigs were considered unclean in Jewish society, and that he is working for gentiles, he has fallen to the lowest of the low, never mind that he is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food assigned to the pigs.

The young man is destitute and without friend, favor or future and if he still has any pride left,he would have surely felt those eyes looking,yet not looking as experienced by those in our society seen picking up cigarette butts or asking for a few dollars.
And to add insult to injury, we know as does he, that this prodigal son he has no one to blame but himself.

The shame and guilt carried that can consume a person and alluringly, almost teasingly entice further self-destruction.

This man is on the knife edge but in his desperation he remembers what once was and by the grace of God sees a ray of hope in life, that of returning home-only not as a son to the man he hurt and insulted, but to beg to be his servant.

The father who had been watching and waiting, seeing his bedraggled looking son walking towards him rushes out, stops his son in his tracks and before his son can get out his planned speech, receives him back with open arms of compassion.

He is overjoyed by the return of his lost son! Andvirtually  immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare a giant feast in celebration.

Meanwhile, the older son is not one bit happy when he comes in from working the fields and discovers a party going on to celebrate his younger brother’s return.

And dare I say could we not understand this after seeing his brother having sought his share of the inheritance, blowing it, returning with nothing only to be smothered in love by his father.

Maybe thoughts of now he will get another slice of the inheritance pie came to mind.But the father tries to dissuade the older brother from his jealous rage explaining,“You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

We are left at the end of the parable to wonder the outcome of the older brother.But it would seem, one son has returned, one is still on his journey.In our busy lives we walk past people.Stressed we have arguments and disagreements.Wronged we seek justice and when unloved we become unloving until that moment when it’s too late.

To when if only we could have that one more moment where we could take that loved one in our hand and hold them once more.Not to forgive them because that’s not even a thought,but just to have them home again and be with them is enough.Even though we are sinners, we know that love.

That love though which is miniscule and judgmental in comparison to God the Fathers who gave his own Son for you, so that you like the son returned home-so it is too you.

When the boy came home, he had everything he threw away restored by the good grace of the Father.

  1. The Robe – His Purity – Here stands the son in the rags of his sins. He doesn’t look like a child of this father. But, the father orders the best of his robes to be brought and to be put on the son. This robe would cover all the stains and dirt of the pig pen. This robe would make him look like the father. Imagine a servant walking up, who had net been there when the son returned home and seeing this boy from behind in the father’s robe. He would naturally mistake him for the father! This robe served to erase all the visible signs of this boy’s sinful past. When a sinner comes home, they also receive a robe from the heavenly Father. This righteousness is not the righteousness of good works or of human goodness. No, this is the very righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to those who receive Him by faith. When we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, all the pain and the stain of our past is forever washed away! All the dirt and the filth of a life of sin is forever washed away from us!
  2. The Ring – His Privileges – After the robe came the ring. The ring was a symbol of son ship and authority. The one with the ring could speak for the Father! The one with the ring had access to all that belonged to the father! The one with the father’s ring was in a position of great privilege! When old, lost sinners repent of their sins and come home to the Father, they are given the great privilege of being recognized as His sons, 1 John 3:1-2. They are given the privilege of speaking for the Father, Act 1:8. They are allowed access to all that belongs to the Father as well, Rom. 8:17, Psa. 24:1; Psa. 50:10. When we come to the Father, He opens the storehouses of His grace and gives us everything He has!
  3. The Shoes – His Position – The father calls for shoes to be brought for the feet of his son. Only the slaves went barefoot, sons wore shoes! This boy returned home desiring to be just a mere hired servant, but the father is determined to recognize his position as a son! In the boy’s eyes, he didn’t even deserve to be a slave, but even lower, even a hired servant. The father, however, looked at him and said, “This is my son!” The father alone determines the position and worth of his children! Saved by grace, you became a child of God! He no longer sees you as a slave or as a sinner, but he sees you as His darling child, whom He loves like He loves His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! We are right to humble ourselves in His presence, but let’s never forget that if we are saved by grace, that it is the Father Who determines our standing in the family and not we ourselves! What I am saying is this: Don’t let the devil or the flesh keep you down by telling you that you are not worthy to be a child of God. In Christ you are truly saved, you have been accepted by the Father in Heaven and He has called you His child!
  4. V. 23-24 He Found Rejoicing – Ill. The fatted calf was kept for special occasions. The fatted calf was the Father’s way of sharing His joy with all around. Instead of a wasted life, the father was celebrating a life redeemed and restored! So it is when a sinner returns home to God tb he Father! There is rejoicing in Heaven. There is rejoicing in the House of God. And, there is rejoicing in the heart of the redeemed sinner!

All that have walked this earth apart from Jesus have sinned. Yet all those that once walked this earth in faith in Jesus now truly know his love in its fullness. For us that still remain, who still sin and make mistakes Jesus says come to me for I will give you rest and bring you my father’s love, for as I spread my arms on the cross in bearing your sins, my father’s arms are still spread in love waiting for those still wandering.

I have sinned and no doubt will sin again as will we all. Yet Christ walks with us that we know of God the Fathers love. His love that has no boundaries. His love that asks us not to be saints but makes us saints. His love today that comes to us in Christ Jesus who looks at us with loving and understanding eyes and says “I know how tough it is-so come to me and rest. I gave my life for you-that you may live in peace. I love you now, as you are-know that peace because I have restored you for in me you are that younger son, and what I did for him I do to you.

Brother and sisters in Christ, you are sons and daughters of God. You have been restored. Let it fill your hearts with peace and pray for those still on their lonely way home. Amen