Summary: The Sixth Sermon in the 2008 Sermon Series God is.
(The sermon began with the Reader’s Theater piece ‘Open Arms’ published by Carson-Dellosa Christian Publishing.)
(Slide 1) What is the most valuable thing in your life right now? Is it is a family heirloom? Is it a treasured memory? Is it your children or your spouse? Is it something that some one important did for you? Or, is it something that some one important taught you?
The fifteenth chapter of Luke is a chapter in which Jesus’ words about valuable things are recorded in three stories. The first story in verses 3 through 7 is about the loss of a valuable investment – a sheep.
The second story in verses 8 through 10 is about the loss of a long held treasure throughout human history – money. The third and final story, our text for this morning, is about the loss of something that is, frankly, for some people less of a loss than money or an investment – a human being.
However, to Jesus it was the most valuable and important story because He came not help us find our lost investment or money but to help us find our way home!
This passage has been called the Prodigal Son for a long time. Have you ever wondered what prodigal meant? According to Webster’s dictionary, to be prodigal means to be ‘extravagantly wasteful.’
(Slide 2) Another title given to this story over the years is ‘The Lost Son.’ This title ties in with the other two stories of ‘The Lost Sheep’ and ‘The Lost Coin.’ (In one version of the Bible I consulted this week the title given to the story is ‘The Parable of the Compassionate Father.’)
But what does it mean to be ‘lost?’ To be lost means to be ‘misplaced,’ ‘gone,’ ‘gone astray,’ ‘off course,’ ‘disoriented,’ ‘confused,’ and ‘baffled.’
Used in the context of our evangelism efforts over the years a person who is ‘lost’ describes a person who has not ‘been saved.’ But, do people who are not Christians believe they are lost, or not?
Here is a short video clip from the ministry of Off-The-Map, whose purpose is to help Christians with some newer and different ways of helping people come home to God. (Slide 3)
What did you think? Are ‘lost’ people ‘lost?’ Remember what Katrina said, to be lost is to not be able to function. That is where the lost son, the impatient and younger son, ended up before he ‘came to his senses.’ (Today we might say, ‘he had to hit bottom.’)
Suddenly, a young man who had much had nothing because of his pursuit (and it is truly no different today) of pleasure and things that we are all lead to believe can really satisfy our deepest longings. His identity was tied into his wealth and his ability to have a good time and make it possible to have a good time. When that was gone, who did he become? He became a farm hand, just like his father’s servants.
Now working on a farm and working with your hands and doing manual labor is important stuff but this son was there not because he was looking for work. He was in a survival mode. He was hungry, he was not at home, he was broke, he was not functioning like he had once function. All of the bad choices he had made, finally caught up to him and he was lost.
However, one day “he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger!” (Slide 4) He was hoping that he would be welcomed home.
The title of our summer series is God is. Last week we took a long walk through the gospel accounts regarding the calling of the disciples. What might we conclude about who God is from that episode? Let me suggest this morning that we conclude that God is our leader who calls us to follow Him no matter where, no matter what.
What might we conclude this morning about who God is from the story of what I call the impatient and younger son? I suggest this morning that the most important thing we conclude about who God is from this story is that (Slide 5) God is our father who welcomes us home!
In his book, Mid-Course Correction, Gordon MacDonald, reviews the history of Ancient Israel, and their constant struggle to remain faithful to God. As he does so now at the age of 60 he says, ‘The stories of Israel that I have related in the last two chapters have left me shaken. I have known them all my life – at least I thought I knew them – but now in my older years as I write about them, they enter my hidden life with a brand new force.’