A son once left home against his parents will and went to live in California. You know, the California everyone dreams about, the beaches, the movie stars. The California that is in movies, and you hear about in songs. Well, then there is the real California. Soon he was out of money, out of friends, and out of options. He had hit the bottom, he was at the end of his rope, he did not know what else he could do..
So, he wrote a letter home to his parents. “Dear Mom and Dad, I'm sorry for what I've done. I don't have any excuse. There's no reason for you to love me or welcome me back home. But I'm at the bottom of the barrel, and if its okay, I would like to come home. I am hoping that you'll take me back. I have been given a ticket for a train, a ticket to get me back home. The train comes past our farm just south of the city. It comes around the bend and right past our farmhouse. If you want me to come home, please put a white towel on the clothesline, out in the back yard near the tracks. If a towel is there, I will know that you want me to come back home. If there is no towel there, I'll know that I shouldn't come back home.”
The young man sent the letter, got on the train, and started out on his trip home. As he came closer to his destination, he became more and more nervous inside and was pacing up and down the center aisle of the train. As the train came closer and closer to his farmhouse, he couldn’t bear it anymore. He said to the man sitting next to him, “Sir, around this next corner, around this bend, there is going to be a farm house on the left. A white house with an old red barn behind it. Its got an old dilapidated fence. There will be a clothesline in the back yard. Would you do me a favor and look and see if there is a white towel hanging on the clothesline? I know it sounds strange, but I can’t bear to look.” The train came closer and closer and it started to go around the bend, and the young man’s heart was racing as fast as it could. The man said, “Well, it looks to me like ... um, yes, look, open your eyes!” When the young man opened his eyes, he looked out the window to see that the whole clothesline was covered with white towels. The barn roof was covered with white sheets, the trees were all covered with white sheets, The old fence was covered with white sheets. There were white towels and sheets everywhere. And in that moment, the young man knew that he was welcome home.
Now you may be thinking, or at least I hope you are thinking, that sounds like the Prodigal Son story that we read about in Luke chapter 15. And it is close, but this week that story has some special meaning. This week our scripture focus is found in the book of Romans, chapter 8. Let’s read it again.
Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
The young man that went to California, disregarded what his parents told him. Forgot their years of hardship, their sleepless nights, their love for him, completely. He wanted nothing more than to take what was his, and go see the wild life, for himself. What did it get him? Nothing, but at the same time he learned an amazing lesson. That nothing, absolutely nothing was able to separate him from the love of his parents. Did it matter if he wasted all of his money? Nope. Did it matter if he came home hurt, or disabled, or blind? Nope! Did his parents care about anything at all, except to see their son come back home? NOPE!
Do you know why?... Let me remind you with some words you heard a few minutes ago. These are the same scripture verse from earlier, but from a different book. “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture (Romans 8:35-37, The Message).
I want to tell you another story about a little girl. Has anyone ever seen the TV show MASH? That show was about the Korean War. Well it turns out, a true story that came out of that war was a young lady who started dating an American soldier while he was stationed there in Korea. The problem was, she got pregnant, and the soldier didn’t want to take her back to the United States with him when he left. So, a few months later, he went back home, and this woman tried to go home to her family. They rejected her. In their culture you are not allowed to even date people that aren’t Korean. And you certainly aren’t allowed to get pregnant without being married. So, she was forced to live on the street. She had the baby, it was a little girl. When the girl was 6 or 7 years old, the mom was so tired of being spit on, being called names, being mistreated and ignored, she left her little girl in the street one day and ran away. The little girl wandered around the city, lived off of scraps of food in garbage cans, drinking water out of puddles. One day she found herself behind an orphanage, looking for food. Someone invited her inside. The food wasn’t very good, but it was food. The beds were barely more than a few blankets on top of each other on the floor, and they had no new clothes for her. She continued to wear the same rags she had been wearing for more than a year. No showers, no baths.
One day she saw the little boys lining up in the main room and asked what was going on. It turns out, an American couple was coming to adopt a child. SO, whenever this happened, the boys were usually chosen. So she walked over into the dark corner to stay out of the way, in her cut up rags, and dirty face, she slipped into the shadows. As the couple came through looking at the little boys, the man noticed her sitting in the dark corner and walked over to her. He bent down and touched her face and said, this is the one. This is the child I came looking for.
Now you may be thinking, this is the real dad who returned to find his baby. You would be wrong. This was just a guy and his wife looking to love a child from a poor country. You might be thinking, this is a dream come true, she went with them and lived happily after ever, but again, you would be wrong. This is what really happened.
When the man bent down, stood face to face with her, and cupped her little face in his hands, …. She first spit in his face, then bit his finger, and ran away. You see she had never been loved, never been accepted by anyone, only rejected by every person in her life that she cared for. And yet, this couple, refused to let it go. They extended their stay in Korea, came back day after day to visit with the little girl, until she was comfortable enough with them, to go home with them. Weeks later, they took her back to their home, where she continued to have problems accepting their love, no matter how much they tried. It took years, for her to grow to love them. It took years for her to realize they were never going to forget her or just walk away. But she did. She now lives here in California, married, with children of her own. A person who knows acceptance because it happened in her own life.
You can be the little girl when it comes to your Heavenly Father. You may have done bad things, He doesn’t care. You may have thought bad things, He doesn’t care. You may be the boy in the beginning that ran away to California and didn’t know if you were welcome back home. Your family in Heaven doesn’t care one bit what you have done. That is because to every boy and girl, every young lady and young man, to every man or woman , aunt or uncle, grandma or grandpa, God makes the same promise to each of you.
Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you”. He promises that nothing in this universe is as powerful as His love. He promises that He will listen to you, to give you hope and a future.
The only thing you must do, is love Him back. You have to show Him that you love Him back.
If you want to do that, if you want to be loved no matter what you have done, no matter where you live or how messed up your life can get, you just have to love Him back. If you want to have that kind of Dad in Heaven, just pray with me.
Dad, Father God, we are here in your house today, realizing that you never give up on us. Some of us are realizing this for the first time. We ask you for that love that always cares for us, no matter what we have done. We ask you to show us that we are a part of your family, no matter what we thought, or what we did. We ask you our Dad, our creator, to cover us in your love. Share with us , your children, how much you want to see us succeed, how much you want to spend eternity in the most beautiful place we have ever seen. Tell us how you will protect us, tell us how you will show us where to go and what to say and who to talk to God. In every part of our lives, show us how to love you every day of our lives. For that we are forever grateful. Love us and show us how to love you. In our brothers name, our Savior Jesus Christ, we pray these things, Amen