Summary: Real life Experiences lead to deep faith when we surrender.

Last week we began a new message series entitled, “Spring Training.” We learned that spring training for baseball has a long history going back to the early 1870’s. We also learned that since the beginning, spring training has always been about spending time on the basics of the game: hitting, throwing, catching, pitching, positioning and even sliding. Spring training is more individual in that it’s not about winning and losing but about refining the player’s skills. If you are new player, it is all about showing what you’ve been blessed with, making the squad and getting ready for the season ahead. If you are an established player, it’s about making sure you still measure up to the new guys as well as showing you are ready to play. If you’re a team manager, it’s about identifying the talent and how you can get the most out of them. In all three cases, it’s exciting to think this could be the year.

Lent is very similar to “Spring Training” in that it is a time of both individual and corporate training and renewal. It too, is about practicing the basics – the basics of faith. It’s about praying, mediating, fasting, confession, almsgiving, solitude, serving and worshiping. It’s a time of hope for the future and breathing new life into the game of life we play with Jesus.

However, even if we practice all the time, we sometimes mess up. Baseball has some interesting terms for messing up. They have the strike. That’s when the batter misses hitting the pitched ball. They have the foul ball. That’s when the batter hits the ball out of the field of play. They have the error. That’s when the fielder misses a play he should of made. They have the out. That’s when the batter or runner cannot advance to the next base and is no longer allowed to play. I think a lot of us Christians think just because we don’t nail the ball out of the park every time we bat, we will never get to bat again and that is simply not true.

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Read the scripture from Luke 15:11-32

Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But 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. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. '"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

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