The Fourth Sunday in Lent March 31, 2019
Text: Luke 53:11-32 ILCW Series C 19:2120
Theme: My Father Is Always There For Me
“You can’t go home again.” Some people say that. Do you think it’s true, that you can’t go back to where you started and have it be the same as you once knew? I think it’s true, sometimes, maybe not always, but people change, places change; it’s just not the same.
Years ago, I went back to my childhood home; it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t there anymore. The house had been demolished and in its place was a track for runners. I watched from what used to be our yard as sprinters ran through “our kitchen,” except it wasn’t there anymore. The runners had no idea; they didn’t understand how it felt for me to see them running through the place where memories of childhood filled my head. It seemed so irreverent. This was my home, where I grew up, but it was no more. My parents are gone; the Lord has taken them; the memories are fading. Sometimes you can’t go home again.
I wonder if the younger son in the story felt that way. He would have felt it for different reasons than I did. I couldn’t go back home because my home wasn’t there anymore. His was. In fact, his father later said, “I am always here.” The son could go back. But he hesitated because there are other reasons for thinking one can’t go back home. Sometimes it’s because they have alienated and estranged themselves by what they have done to those who are there. Did the younger son feel that way? I’m sure he did.
I. Sometimes I’m like the son who ran away.
He was the “give-me-what-I-want” son. Strong-willed, self-reliant, self-centered, the “I-want-to-do-what-I-want-to-do” kind of person, guided by his fleshly desires. Instead of being grateful to his father for all that the father gave him in life, he came and demanded, “Give me my share of the inheritance.” When he received it, off he went to do what his flesh drove him to do. Planning to never come back, he gathered up his belongings and set off for a distant place.
There he foolishly spent all that his father had given him, satisfying the cravings of his flesh. When nothing was left, his friends deserted him. Then a famine struck the land. Alone, hungry, desperate, humiliated, he landed a job feeding pigs, longing to eat the pods they ate, but he was not allowed. He hit rock bottom. That’s the
strong-willed, self-reliant, “give-me-what-I-want” son who ran away.
Sometimes I’m like that son. I run from God and that which He has laid out for me to be and to do. I want things my way; I want to have what I desire. Stubborn, strong-willed, I depart from God and His ways and become a slave to the world. I’m the son who ran away. I try to hide the truth, but like David said, “I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me” (Ps.51:3). I may try to hide it from others, but I can’t hide from God. He “watches and does not acquit me of my iniquity” (10:14). I can be like the son who ran away.
Lord, will you still be there for me when I sink so low? I think of You and the place I call home by Your side. But why would You want me? I’m not even good enough to be one of Your servants living in the house. If I came to You, would the door be open – the door to Your heart – or would it be closed — forever? What would You think? What would you say? What would You do to me? I want to come back. Can one ever come back home to You? Sometimes I feel so embarrassed and estranged, like the son who ran away.
II. Sometimes, I’m like the son who stayed at home.
And if that’s not enough, then there are the times I’m like the son who stayed at home. He’s the “you-never-gave-me-what-I-deserved” son. Angry, resentful, self-righteous – he’s the kind who thinks that others aren’t good enough to match him and that God owes him.
I’ve caught myself being that way too. “I’m a pretty good guy. I surely haven’t been as bad as that guy down the street. I haven’t squandered things away; I’ve done everything You told me to do. Look, all these years I’ve been slaving for You and never disobeyed You. Lord, You owe me.”
Such thinking fits with many of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They weren’t people living wildly like the tax collectors and sinners were, or like the son who ran away. They stuck it out at home and thought God should be happy with them because of all the things they did for Him.
If, like the second son, I ever think God ought to love me and save me because of who I am or what I do on my own, then I’m really no different than the prodigal son was. The same thing was true of both sons. In both cases “it’s all about me.” It wasn’t about the father and His ways; it was about themselves and fleshly desires.
You see, the son who ran away and the son who stayed at home were really quite similar. They showed their rebellion against their father differently in their lives. One was self-willed, the other was self-righteous. One practiced no restraint, the other prided himself on his goodness. One dishonored his father, the other was resentful and dishonored him, too. They both sinned against him. Two lost sons! How would the father react?
III. But the Father still loved them.
They weren’t there for him. They were out for themselves. But always the Father was there for them. In mercy, He still loved them. Sadly, only one of them came to his and in humble repentance approached his father.
I can hardly imagine the thoughts that surged through the mind of the prodigal as he trudged home. Would his home still be there? Was his father there? What would happen when he got there? He would never know unless, despairing of himself, he would throw himself on his father’s mercy.
So, he did just that; he made a trial of his father’s love. And we are told that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him…..He said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Get out the best meat. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate. The father was still there for him.
Lent reminds me that My Heavenly Father is still there for me. If He didn’t want me back with Him, there would be no Lent in the first place. But He wants me back; He wants both sons back. Each day He steps off the porch or He comes to me in the field and looks for my return. As I fall in repentance before Him, He lifts me up, hugs me closely, and returns me to His family. When I argue with Him, He gently, yet lovingly points me to the wonders of His mercy and grace for all – even me.
No matter which way I go, if I’m like the son who ran away or the son who stayed at home, My Father Is There for Me. He still loves me. There is love aplenty in the Father-heart of God.
To that end He sent Christ to die and pay the price for my sin. “Christ died for all,” the Righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us back to God (2Co.5:15). “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. He has removed our transgressions from us” (Ps.103:13,12). What comfort to know Him! What joy to hold Him in faith!
Here is grace; this is the Gospel. In Christ My Father Still Loves Me and celebrates my return. With Him I always have a home, now, and later in the mansions above. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.