Sermons
Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

The Lost Son - September 2, 2018

Luke 15:15-32 When I went away to college, I received a number of gifts and scholarships. Most of them came in the form of cash or checks directly to me. And, somehow, having that new money and that new freedom, it burned a hole in my pocket. I manage to spend a good chunk of money and then rack up some credit card debt on top of it. Then, when the credit card bill came, I didn’t have the money to pay it. As a young adult out on my own for the first time, I managed to bung it up well without really thinking through what might happen later. I had this debt, and

this bill, and this huge sense of guilt for having spent my school money on clothes and things. And I didn’t have a lot of options.

And then my dad came to visit. He took me out for a nice lunch and just wanted to spend time with me. And I was sick over it. Literally sick. You see, when I was younger, when I got nervous, I retched. My dad was relaxed and enjoying time together. I was anxious and stressed and worried how i would tell him and how he would respond. And I was running to the bathroom. It was special.
Finally, after coming back from the bathroom with a splotchy face and watery eyes, my dad asked, “What is wrong with you?” And I confessed. I told him about my spending and the debt and my inability to pay. And do you know what he did? He laughed. Yep, he laughed at me. Not a mean laugh. Not a demeaning laugh. But a, “is that all?” Laugh. And in fact, those were his words, “Is that all?” He wasn’t harsh or critical. He didn’t finger wag or tell me all the things I already knew I had done wrong. He loved me and offered me grace.
Now, I didn’t spend my inheritance, but I spent a good bit of money. And from that experience, I can seek to understand a bit more of how the younger son felt. He was young and wide eyed. He was ready to leave the farm and head to the city. He wanted new things and new experiences and he was ready to have them. I imagine he couldn’t see the cost of what he asked when he asked for his inheritance. He wasn’t just asking for money. He was asking his dad to go to all their friends and family and say “My youngest thinks he’d be better of somewhere else, he wants his inheritance, do you want to buy some sheep? Or would you rather have some land?” And when the dad sold his properties to be able to give cash to his son, he wasn’t just selling things. He was facing a reality that his son would basically have his dad dead so he could have his money, than have him alive and have a relationship. It wasn’t just dollars and cents. It was pride and reputation. And then son didn’t just go away, he dragged his dad through the mud first.
And he took his money and ran and did a little of this and a little of that…not really worrying about what would happen next, until he ran out of money. Then he couldn’t explore, or buy new things, or impress the people with a feast or great drinks. So he did what he had to do—he went to work. And work meant feeding the pigs. And work meant long hard days without really anything to show for it. And work meant a hearty helping of humble pie…seeing what he had done, what he had wasted, and likely what he should have done, but what he really didn't have the power to change.
He grew hungry, and weary. And he started thinking it would be better to eat the slop from the trough so he didn’t have to be so hungry. Slop from the trough. Decent enough food the first time around, but after everyone else had eaten off of it, or cut off the fatty parts, or thrown the trash into the slop bucket…and he thought that might be better than what he had in his pocket? He was in a bad place. And he knew his dad had something better….even just for the workers…it was better. So he packed up his shame and whatever remnant he had of his spending and he walked home.
I can imagine it was a really long walk. Not just for the distance he had traveled. But for the tongue lashing he gave himself. For the ways he beat himself up for not thinking it through, for the money he wasted, the so-called friends he had made, he weren’t really friends at all, the things he had said to his dad. The shame his dad had to endure. His father’s selflessness in even selling all that property just to heed his son’s wishes. In retrospect I imagine he could see his dad didn’t have to do that. How foolish. How short-sided. How selfish. And yet his dad obliged. He gave him his share and let him walk away. Owing nothing to no one and showing no gratitude. What an entitled, self-indulgent jerk he had been.
And now look at him. Broke. Weary. Hungry. Having worked as a slave and ready to eat slop. Boy was his dad gonna be proud of him! He couldn't even imagine his father looking him in the eyes. Not after what he had done. I mean, really, he barely wanted to look himself in the eyes…to see his own reflection, see the man he really was…he’d rather not.
Yep, I can imagine it was a painful walk home trying to write his apology in his head…trying to find the words to even begin to show how grateful he was for what his father had done and how ridiculously ashamed he was at his own action.
Finally the son gets close to home, and he is walking up and his dad is outside and sees him and runs to him and embraces him. This might seem like a simple thing…a natural thing even, to run and hug someone you felt like you had lost. But there’s implications for it too. Pulling up his robes to run was a shameful thing to do. Dignified men didn’t do that type of thing. But he lifted his robes, exposed his ankles and ran to his son. He held him and welcomed him and his son started his apology….acknowledged his wrongs, told his dad he knew he had no rightful place there, that he only wanted to work with the servants. But the dad stopped him, said, “Go get my robe. Go get my ring. Slay the fatted calf. My son is home!!”
It was pure celebration, of course, except for the older brother, who felt short changed and forgotten. But for today, we are focusing on father and younger son…the dynamics of shame. The struggle for purpose and connection. The sins. The wastefulness. The selfishness. And then the grace….the love and forgiveness and hospitality offered. Not after the son had been vetted. Not after the father was sure he was really penitent….but on contact.
And this isn’t meant to be just some parable…just some story about a really great father full of grace. It’s a story about who God is with us….us who walk away. Us who demand it all from God and have no real concept of what God is sacrificing to give it to us. Us who take what we feel entitled to and waste it. Us who are not careful. Us who are not grateful. Us who land ourselves in a hard spot and only then can we see we should have handled things differently. Us who see a little too much, a little too late. And then we decide maybe it’s worth turning around and going back to God. Not that we deserve a rightful place, but that God is generous and good and merciful and might show mercy to us….allowing us a lowly place, but at least a place.
We who take the long walk. Recounting our wrongs. Shaming ourselves for what we did wrong. For the ways we were selfish and self absorbed. For the ways we failed to care. The things we failed to see. Imagining our apology speech. Sucking it up to eat some crow. And so we skulk up to the altar….saying to God, I’m sorry I know I failed you, I don’t deserve to be here. I’ll work for the leftovers. I don’t need more.
And what does God do? God runs to us with open arms. Embraces us. Interrupts our apologies and says “I’m so glad you’re here!!” We have our list ready….of our failings, our wrong doings, our misgivings…and God says, let’s feast. That’s who our God is….loving and gracious and kind to us.

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