Summary: Being lost creates a strong sense of anxiety and often fear.
March 31, 2019
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Finding a Way Home!
Most of us are very familiar with today’s gospel reading which is inclusive of the parable of The Prodigal Son. One commentary that I read entitles the reading: “Lost and Found”. Because the prodigal son is such a familiar parable, I choose to share some true lost and found stories.
There is a central theme to this entire reading, and it is LOVE.
We first read that the Pharisees and scribes spoke against Jesus because He welcomes sinners and eats with them. (verse 2)
Let’s try and understand why Jesus so often attracted sinners and outcasts. Why is that? Are we to emulate Jesus the Christ? Should our churches and circles be inviting to sinners and outcasts?
Jesus never shared watered down weak messages when it came time to talk about sin. Did He? No, Jesus came to save sinners not shun them! Jesus welcomed ALL without distinction. Does your church? Do you?
I have shared the following story many times but here we go again. A couple of years ago, our church gathered in a storefront building on a major thoroughfare here in Jacksonville. One Sunday, just as we were about to close our service, a parishioner stated that there was a shabby looking guy walking back and forth on the sidewalk looking intently at our “church”. Finally, he approached the door. I greeted him and invited him in to join us. I am not exaggerating when I say, he withdrew and let out a fearful moan and groan. He said no, I am cursed, and I am retarded.
I sensed his fear and trepidation, but I was also led to calmly respond by saying, “sir, I do not believe that you are retarded, nor do I believe that you are cursed. You are welcome here. He withdrew even further but not before handing me a contribution of $40 and simply disappeared down the road.
We immediately prayed for this disheveled man and asked God to protect him and lead him to a source of encouraging ministry. The next Sunday, he was back again and only to make another contribution, still refusing to join us. The following Sunday, I was actually able to have a conversation with him. He had a speech impediment and we talked for a minute. He came in and sat in the rear for the rest of the service. After church, I offered to shake hands and he withdrew and moaned loudly. I did ask him who told him that he was cursed and retarded. I was almost dumb struck when he said it was the people at the last church he attended. Equally dismaying when he said that he had been turned away at the door of several churches before coming to us. Some of these churches are very prominent and popular churches in Jacksonville. As he left, I told him that I would not extend my hand to him again but if he was inclined, I would welcome his handshake anytime and anywhere. Well, we did shake hands the next Sunday and before long, he was exchanging hugs with everyone.
It took several weeks before we really got to know him. He was a resident at a local facility for victims of violent domestic abuse. His last partner had shot him and told him that if he did not do what she told him, she would kill him. That bullet remains in his body and any attempt to remove it is too dangerous for him. His childhood was one of being shuttled from one foster home to another.
In one foster home, he was the eldest at about thirteen. The lady put a can of soup on the counter and told him to put it in the microwave at lunch time for the kids to share. He did just as he was told. He put the can in the microwave and turned it on. Of course, it exploded and created a big mess. When the lady returned, she beat him and turned him away.
This man became one of our most faithful church members and contributed greatly to our fellowship. He began a ministry at the center for residents of the victims of violent domestic abuse. That ministry grew rapidly with this man being asked to help start similar ministries at various chapters around the country.
He has since moved on and joined a larger and more traditional church. He received treatment for his speech impediment to the degree that it is totally undetectable today. He is now happily married with an adopted daughter. He is highly respected at his place of employment and continues in his ministry.
I think we can say that he was lost; LOVE brought him back. Yes, we love him, but it is the LOVE, GRACE and MERCY of the Lord that brought him back.