Worship for Sunday, March 27, 2022

Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 32

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
and whose sin is put away!

Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
and in whose spirit there is no guile! 

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
because of my groaning all day long.

For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not conceal my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. 

You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go;
I will guide you with my eye.

Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding;
who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.”

Great are the tribulations of the wicked;
but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.

Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord;
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.   And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.   He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We have all heard our Gospel reading for this week called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” our entire lives. But I think we have the name all wrong. The name we have been using totally misses the point of the parable.

This parable is needs a new name – a better name – a more accurate name.

We should start calling this parable: “The Parable of the Faithful Father” or “The Parable of the Doting Dad” or even “The Parable of the Man who Never Ever – Ever Gave Up!”

Because this parable isn’t really about what a misguided – messed up – sinful son does wrong. Rather this parable is about what a faithful – loving dad does right!

Jesus tells us there was a dad with two sons.   This dad’s sons are as different as night and day. As different as east is from west. As different as winter is from summer. Or as I am from any of the Kardashians or somebody else who is really cool and trendy.

A prodigal child of God (Did you know that prodigal means – spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant? It doesn’t mean shockingly sinful!)

The older son is level-headed and responsible.   He is solid and dependable. He is a rock. He gets things done on time – all of the time – every single time.

The older son is the guy you call when you need help. He shows up when you need him.   This guy is a pitcher-inner and a doer.   He comes to church work days. He is on the church council and the PTA at his kids’ school. You wish there were more guys like him in the world.

But the younger son – well – honestly – he is impatient – impulsive – and irresponsible. You wouldn’t call him if you needed help – because he wouldn’t show up.   He would never come to a church work day. He always has an excuse.   He is selfish and self-centered.   His life is all about him – all of the time.

The full extent of the younger son’s selfish – self-centered character is revealed the day he goes to his dad and demands his inheritance immediately. Basically – he tells his dad he is tired of waiting for him to die. And he wants his money right now.

A couple more prodigal children of God – saved by God’s grace!

With a heavy heart – the dad agrees to give his younger son his inheritance. And a few days later the younger son packs his bags – takes his money and heads out of town – without looking back.

Soon the younger son is busy living it up.   He parties and plays and quickly squanders his inheritance right down to the very last penny.

And once all of the money is gone – his so-called friends disappear.

Then a famine strikes.

Soon – he is so desperate he takes a job slopping pigs. A job no good Jewish person would ever consider. Before long – he gets so hungry the pigs’ slop looks yummy to him.

The younger son is all alone – far from home – penniless – and starving.

Meanwhile – back at home – the dad tries to carry on – but you know he carries on with a really heavy heart.

Another prodigal and his prodigal pastor – both saved by the grace of God!

This dad is a realist. He knows his son got tired of waiting for him to die. He knows his beloved son loved his money more than he loved his dad – his home or his family.

He also knows what his son has been up to.   He knows his son didn’t wisely invest his inheritance in a farm or in a small business. He knows his son isn’t feeding the hungry – clothing the naked – or caring for widows and orphans.

Nope – his son is squandering his dad’s hard-earned money. This father isn’t naïve or clueless. He gets it. He knows what his son is up to and what he wanted the money for.

But this knowledge doesn’t harden this dad’s heart. He doesn’t stop loving his child. He doesn’t plot revenge while licking his wounds.

Rather Jesus tells us – this father spends his days hoping and praying his precious son will come home. He longs to be reunited with his beloved child.

This dad waits with his eyes on the horizon.   His eyes search the road for any sign of his son. He waits with his eyes peeled and his heart full of love for his lost child.

Prodigal daughters of God – smiling because they know they are saved by God’s grace!

Until one day – it happens. The longing of his heart and the answer to his prayers appears on the horizon. His son has come home. And when he does – Jesus tells us – “the father was filled with compassion. And the father ran” to his long lost son.

Yes – the father drops everything and runs to his beloved son. Then he pulls his beloved boy into his arms and gives him a great big bear hug and a noisy – smacking kiss as tears of joy stream down his face.

His boy is home! Thank you – Lord!   A moment of heaven right here on Earth!

This father’s heart overflows with love and joy.   He rejoices that his lost son has come home. His joy knows no bounds.

This dad doesn’t make his son beg for forgiveness.   This dad doesn’t welcome his son home on a trial basis. Nor does he demand a truly sincere apology. He does not seek revenge. Nope – not this dad. This dad is all about unconditional love.

A whole family of saved prodigals!

This dad throws a great big party and invites everyone he knows to help him welcome his precious boy home!

And this is why I think this parable should be called “The Parable of the Loving Dad” or “The Parable of the Faithful Father.”   Because this parable is way – Way – WAY more about a dad whose love knows no bounds than it is about an ungrateful – selfish – misguided son. This parable is about a dad who loves his son no matter what.

This parable is about a love that is so deep and so passionate it will never fade. It is about love with no strings attached.

The father in this parable isn’t just any father.   This is our own heavenly Father.  This is how much God loves you.

Smiling because of God’s grace!

God’s love for you is bigger than your own brokenness and your sins. God’s love is more enduring than your rebellion and more passionate than your willfulness.

God loves you in spite of all you do to push him away.

Our God loves you – passionately and fiercely.   One might even say that God loves us in spite of ourselves!

Your sin – your rebellion – and your selfish behavior won’t stop God from loving you because God loves you with a love that will endure forever. With a love that will never give up on you. With a love that knows no limits. With a love that will last for all eternity. Truly this is very Good News. AMEN.

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