Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.
Lent 4c, (March 6, 2016)
TITLE: “My Two Sons”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter fifteen.
Once upon a time there was a man who had two sons. They were both good and bad, each in their own way. Now the younger son was all fire, full of vim and vigor. When he wanted something, he wanted it now! He didn’t want to wait, and he certainly didn’t want his father or anyone else telling him what he could or couldn’t do. The older son, however, he was ice. He was willing to work, to wait in the shadows and in the quiet, because he knew that sooner or later, he, too, would get what he wanted.
Now the father, he loved both his sons. But each of them seem to have forgotten what it meant to be a son. What is a father to do? Neither happy, both working, but things were about to change. “Father,” said the younger son, “I wish you were dead! I want my inheritance now! Why do I have to wait for you to die when I could be living the good life while I’m young? Give my my inheritance, and I will be gone from this foul place and you will never see me again.”
What was the father to do? If he refused, his younger son would hate him all the more, but if he said yes, then his son would take the money and run.
The father gave in to his younger son, and gave him his inheritance. The son went off to a far away land, and wasted it all on living the so-called “high life”. But money is never enough, and soon enough this younger son didn’t even have that. He found himself lost in a faraway land, with no money, no possessions, no family, no home. His only companion were the pigs, and there was no Wilbur in the lot of them. Disgusting.
Eventually he came to his senses. Eventually he recognized that his father may still have some feelings for him. Perhaps he could negotiate a position in his old household? At least he would not be sleeping with the pigs.
As this younger son was on his way home, the father saw him afar off, and in a way that was very undignified, he want down through he fields to meet his lost son. It seems the love of the father had never stopped, after all. When the son came to him, he said, “Father, I have been a jerk to both God and to you. I am not worthy to be called your son.” At this point the father could not contain himself anymore. He took off his robe and put it over the son’s rags. “Dress up my son like he belongs here!” he called to his servants. “Kill the fatted calf, get out the best china, we’re throwing a party like this house has never seen before!”
But the older son was not happy with this situation. He was still cold as ice, but even ice can burn hot with anger and jealousy. Why should this reprobate, this unfaithful one be let back into the house! He’s made his bed. His life is set. I have remained in this wretched place, waiting for the day when I can do what I want with my friends. And so he remained outside, and would not go in to the party.
What is the father to do? He loves both his sons. But they have each forgotten his love and mercy in their own way. It is as if the words of the Lord from Isaiah 29 have come to life:
“…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV)
When the Father heard the complaint of the son, he said:
“…‘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 15:31–32 ESV)
So the first question for you is this. Where do you see yourself in this story? Are you the younger son who sowed his oats in his youth and now comes back in repentance and faith? Are you the older son, ever faithful, ever measuring, ever watchful of the time when you will get what is rightfully yours? Or are you the merciful father, who only wants to love and be reconciled with his children?
There are ways in which we can see ourselves in this story in so many ways. Foolish, self-righteous, merciful, these words fit in so well with different parts of our lives. But remember how Luke started this whole thing off:
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”” (Luke 15:1–2 ESV)
What this parable is here to teach you is that this man, Jesus Christ the righteous, receives sinners and eats with them. That means you. He receives you, warts, sins and all. He sets you up at His holy table, and eats and feasts with you today on His own body and blood. This fellowship, this divine meal puts you in the place of honor. You. It is not because you deserve it somehow. It is because “this man receives sinners and eats with them.”
That, beloved, is the very essence of the Gospel. No matter your sin, Jesus receives you as His own. No matter how broken you are, Jesus receives you as His won. No matter what your past, Jesus receives you as His own. Shame and guilt, sorrow and regret, they all have consumed you in their own way. But Jesus receives you as His own.
I want this to sink into you for a time. Those words drip into your ears and cleanse your very soul. They are light and life and hope in a land of darkness. They are HIs words to you this day. God the Father loves you, sends you His Son, and now because of Him you have a place at the Table, not just for now, but for all eternity.
Come to the Table. It is set for you. Everything is ready. All is forgiven. You have a place here. God loves you and sends His only Son into the wilderness to seek you out. Trust in Him, the God of your salvation.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn