Lent 4 2016: Rejoice!

Laetare Sunday

 

Check in for Lent:

Did you give up something? Add something? How is that going?

How can we, your faith community and family, help you keep your commitment in the next two weeks?

 

With the kids:

We just heard a story about a son/brother who ran away from home. (Did you ever want to run away? Tell us about that.)

 

God always loves us

Puzzle with missing pieces

Vs.

Whole, completed puzzle.

God keeps us, protects us, teaches us, counsels us, all while keeping us in God’s sight; we are protected.  For the faithful, for those who trust the Lord, and for the righteous, there is steadfast love.

What about the rest of us?  We love the Lord, but Lord, we just cannot get everything right: not right with ourselves or our families or our friends or in our giving or in our prayer; what hope do we have of getting things right with You?  And yet, you say “rejoice.”

 

Our parable in Luke

The problem with something so familiar is that we sometimes stop hearing it.

 

Because we have heard these words so many times, we may dismiss the parable with a quick “oh, I know that one.” But God’s word is living, alive!

 

the story:  There is a man with two sons and one begs for his inheritance while his father is still living.  This son squanders the money, loses it all (lottery and Vegas, we think), and comes home after a job of feeding pigs, to ask to be his father’s servant forever.  The older son is really mad.  We hear that the younger son messed up big time, repented, and came home.  The father (God) loves us so much that he threw a big party, gave his errant son the very best; welcomed his son with open arms.  How great is the mercy of God!  All is forgiven.  Rejoice.

 

The father runs to meet him.  Patriarchs do not run.  It is not honorable.  It just isn’t done.  The father runs – leaves the table and runs!  Remember: the son did not come home because he was sorry.  He came home because he was hungry.  It is the father who reaches out and breaks all the rules, breaks the honor code in so many ways, in order to reconcile with his son.

 

Do you hear the difference?  Repentance, or lack thereof, versus reconciliation.  The father risks his standing in the community, in his world, to reconcile with his son.  Rejoice.

 

We know that when we are righteous, God loves us.  The older brother in this parable shows us that truth.  We try hard, and God loves us.

 

The younger son shows us that even when we squander ourselves, our lives, God pursues us.  God loves us.  God cares nothing about who is supposed to get the best coat or the finest banquet.  God is going to show up anyway.  God will meet us.  But we have to want to come home.  We have to walk, finally, in the best way and the best direction that we can.  Even when we’re broke.  Even when we’re broken.  Even when we come home, into our Father’s arms, for the “wrong reason.”  However we get here, we are home.  We are protected.  We are loved beyond measure.  We are reconciled with our Lord.

Rejoice, my friends, rejoice.

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