Summary: A sermon based on the parable of the Prodigal Son.
"Rebel Without a Cause"
A young woman writes: "My dad kept a coin jar on his dresser.
Every night when he got home from work, the first thing he did was head upstairs to change his clothes.
You could hear the familiar jangling of coins as they spilled from his pocket and he set them in the jar.
When I was about nine years old, I decided his coins should be mine.
Over time I pilfered a few nickels here, a handful of pennies there.
Before I knew it, I had successfully swindled my dad out of his loose change, and he never even noticed.
Sometime later, guilt gripped me.
I knew that what I'd been doing could only be considered stealing.
I had no way to explain away my behavior.
With a pounding heart, I penned an apology to him, confessing my sin and asking him to forgive me.
I tucked it under his coin jar along with a pile of pennies as restitution.
I waited anxiously for my dad to confront me.
Day One went by, and he didn't say anything.
Another day passed; still nothing.
And then another, and another.
Eventually, I forgot about the note.
Then one day out of the blue, my dad stepped into my bedroom and said, 'Mary Anne, I got your note and the pennies.'
My heart raced; my throat felt like a marble was lodged in it …. I was expecting punishment, but … he seemed on the verge of tears.
But that didn't make any sense.
I had wronged him.
He had every right to be mad and punish me.
Instead he said, 'Thank you.'
And then he gave me a hug.
And then he left.
We never spoke of it again.
I stood there dumbfounded.
Why, when I fully deserved my father's wrath, did he instead show me mercy?
I didn't deserve it; I hadn't earned it.
I felt like a criminal let off scot free!
This was my first powerful lesson on judgment and grace.
Since then I've never gotten over the way grace feels.
It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never does.
It's experiencing utter relief and humility in the face of guilt because you know how bad you can be, but God (or your daddy) chooses to love and forgive you anyway.
It is truly God's riches at Christ's expense."
There is--quite simply--no farther down a first-century Jew can sink than to the place where the unhappy young man in our parable finds himself.
He has slammed right into rock bottom with a huge "thump"!
He's like Jonah, trapped in the belly of a huge fish at the bottom of the sea.
He's burned every bridge behind him.
Why did he do it?
He had been raised in an extremely loving home.
His family was rich, and there was no doubt that he would continue the tradition on until his death--as he would one day inherit part of his father's great wealth.
But, for some reason, he rebelled.
He wasn't happy with the great things he had.
He wanted to live life on his own terms.
He wanted to do his own thing.
He might have "looked down" on his father for living such an upright and gracious lifestyle.
"I want to run with the wolves," he might have thought.
"I want to party with the devil."
"I want to experience all the lusts of the flesh.
I don't want to be a part of my goodie-two shoes family any longer."
He thought that the grass would be greener in another country--far, far away.
He's not exactly a very likable character is he?
There really isn't much difference between the Prodigal Son and the first humans God created--Adam and Eve.
God had created them out of love, in order to love and be loved.
He walked with them in the garden.
He provided them with everything they could want.
But when the temptation came to "rebel" and possibly become like or take the place of the Good Lord Who loved and created them--they jumped at the chance.
Paradise just wasn't quite "good enough."
And so, in all reality, they kicked themselves out of the Garden.
But God, the ever-loving Father is always waiting for His children to return.
God created us to be in a loving relationship with Him, each other and all of creation.
That is the bottom line.
And it is God's dream to renew, reconcile, repair, and restore that relationship.
And that's really what the parable of the Prodigal son is about, is it not?
The father in the story represents God.
The land represents paradise.
The son represents the human race...
...all of us--you, me, and all the rest.
For a people who can't seem to get along very well, the human race sure has a lot in common.