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It’s time to come home: A sermon on Luke 15

It’s Time to Come Home

Luke 15:1-10

In Jesus Name

 May the grace, the incredible love, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you confidence and desire to let Him joyfully carry you home!


You are the One:

When you compare the epistle and the gospel lessons this morning, there is a conclusion you can draw that is pretty simple.

Paul didn’t see himself as one of the 99.

He saw himself as the one, the one who wasn’t just lost, but in the process of being destroyed.

He saw himself as the one who was as notorious a sinner as any, yet he realized the incredible patience of God, who searched for him, and found him.

The challenge isn’t thinking we are the ones who get to celebrate Paul’s return, but the fact that we, like Paul, needed to be rescued.  For we like Paul, find ourselves broken, lost and in need of a savior.

And when we trust Jesus, and He joyfully carries us home… then there is a party like none we’ve ever seen.

To get there – there are a few challenges

It’s not “them.”

The first challenge is realizing who we are.  There are two groups mentioned in the gospel.  The first group who work and sincerely dedicate their entire lives to following God’s law – to living as He commanded.  The second group is our group – the group that is notorious sinners.

Now I need to let you know what a notorious sinner is.  It’s not as bad as it sounds…

It’s actually kind of worse.

One of the ways the word is defined in Greek is one who falls off the path, one who can’t stay on it.  We understand that the path is narrow, but I don’t think we realize it is a bridge like this one, with ditches that are about 1000 feet deep to each side.

Sort of like this path in China that they call the glass path.

Here’s another view.

Sin is simply deviating from the path.  It doesn’t matter whether it is using God’s name in the wrong way, murder, adultery or gossip.  It is sin, and you and I fall into it, far too often.

Even as the Pharisees stand there, judging the tax collectors and notorious sinners, they are sinning, denying the very grace of God, the grace they were entrusted with, the grace that should have inspired them to help others come to hear Jesus.

Jesus realizes this, and there is a gentle jab at the Pharisees when he says the shepherd leaves the 99 in the wilderness – for he identifies that all are in the wilderness,

The wilderness – the place of nothingness, the place without any blessing from God.

The ones who determined they are holy enough, that they are truly dedicated to God, find themselves outside… while the sheep who lay dying, is brought home…

And brought home Scripture says – joyfully.

Guess it pays off to admit we need His mercy, that we need God to find us. Doesn’t that sound strange?  That those who depend on their strength are left behind, while those needy are brought to safety and celebration?

There is joy in your transformation

This is the second challenge.  We need to recognize the joy that Jesus has bringing us home and the fact that the work brings more joy to God than the 99 who are righteous. Of course, we know that none are righteous, but even so, the picture of Jesus is one with a grin on his face!

Dad, I’ve brought another one home!

Now imagine him saying it on the cross – it’s finished – Tom’s home, Al’s home, you’ve been brought home.

Remember, the letter to the Hebrews tells us that it was this very joy of getting us into the kingdom of God, bringing us to where we should be, that Jesus endured the cross.

What an amazing thing!

To think that what brings God the greatest joy – and all of heaven with Him is when we trust Him enough to cleanse us, heal us, and bring us into the presence of the Father.

That is what brings God joy, for us to become His children, for us to become His people, for us to realize, and trust the fact that He is our God, our heavenly father.

I don’t know if we understand that all too well.  That when we realize God’s grace, when we have an aha moment when His grace transforms our lives and that is seen, the joy it brings Him and all heaven is greater than our awe, and our joy!

The Feast.

It is so great – that Jesus’s parable mentions a great feast – a great party full of joy, inviting everyone to rejoice with Him.  The same for the lady who finds the reward for her work, that was for a moment – thought lost. They both throw a feast – as they recover something quite precious to them.

I often wondered- for the man who owned the sheep – what did they feast on?  What was the main course?

I mean, it would be a little odd to throw a feast like that and serve lamb chops!

I bring the sermon to a close with this; the man gave his life to bring us home, to carry us with him in His death and resurrection,

and so for this feast- celebrating our homecoming, celebrating our repentant, transformed life, is a feast where the host serves the very best – where He gives His all to us.

His broken body, the blood poured out so that we could be brought home… and this feast is on of great joy, as it celebrates this,

Alleluia! He is Risen indeed
He is Risen!  Indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore,

We are risen alleluia indeed!
And He has brought us home….

Are You Ready….. for Something Far More than Football?

Devotional Thought for the Day:
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15  I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: 16  When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17  Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 18  That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar. 1 Corinthians 10:15-18 (MSG)

Who, then, receives such a sacrament in a worthy way?

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.(1)

828      Have you ever thought how you would prepare yourself to receive Our Lord if you could go to Communion only once in your life? We must be thankful to God that he makes it so easy for us to come to him: but we should show our gratitude by preparing ourselves very well to receive him.  (2)

I’ll be the first to admit to loving watching football.
Especially watching the Patriots, who in the last 21 years, have been in the Superbowl 7 times!
I really love it when people write them off, say they are done, and they make it look like child’s play in the playoffs.
Tomorrow, I hope they beat the Seahawks, and I hope they come back for one more, next year.  B

Yet, if the game started at 9:50 here, rather than at 3:15, you wouldn’t find me in front of my television.  There is something more precious, more meaningful, more important to life where I am a spectator, and yet, am a full participant.

The Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, Communion.  the Feast that is a foretaste of the feast to come.

St. Josemaria above puts a perspective on it….what if tomorrow was the only day, the only time you could receive it in your life?  What would your thoughts be today?  What kind of expectation would be building?  what would get in the way?

is a Superbowl big enough?  is the need for sleep?

If tomorrow was the only day you were able to commune with God, what would stop you?

If the answer is, ‘nothing”, then apply the question without the frequency, is it the same/  should it be/

This is a hard question, because to ask it could promote shame or guilt, or harden you against those things.

It will also make you examine what you think the Lord’s Supper is, and how it benefits you….. strengthening your confidence in the Lord’s love and presence in your life, healing you from the brokenness of sin, relieving stress and anxiety, and mostly giving you the rest and peace that comes from knowing the Lord is with you……

I am glad this is not a once in a life time thing… in fact, I am somewhat envious of those churches that provide it daily, simply because I know people who need this sacrament, this holy time, this holy meal…. more than once a week.  Or who cannot get there on Sundays…..

So are you ready?  Do you recognize your need for it?

I am!

(1)   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained. Part 6, The Sacrament of the Altar

(2)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2940-2942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Time to Go Home…& the Eucharist…

Devotional/discussion thought of the Day:

It’s been too many days away…. even though the men I am with on this retreat are fun loving guys, and there is a great sense of camaraderie among them, it is not the same as being home with my wife and son, and my congregation.  I have confidence in the vicar preaching there this morning, ( as I do in the other vicar and deacon extending the ministry this morning) but there is something about being there.

I can’t wait to get home.  I can’t wait to get back to my people.  (and out of the range of the country western stuff I was subjected to all week)

As i long for that, I think about the Lord’s Supper, the Communion feast of God and His people, the Eucharist.

It is, more than anything, the place I know I am home. It is where we belong, very consciously aware of the presence of God, the awe found in His presence, which rips our sin, our idols, our anxieties away.

I have to admit a bit of jealousy of my Catholic brothers in ministry, who don’t wait a week in between celebrating this feast, this homecoming, this little glimpse of the joy of heaven, this peace which crushes all else.

It’s time for going home… it’s time for the family to dine, the host to bless us, even as He thanks the Father for the cross that made this feast possible.

I love how St. Josemarie Escriva put it,  “As he was giving out Holy Communion that priest felt like shouting out: this is Happiness I am giving to you!”  (1)

This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, happy are those who are called to His Supper,

Lord, we are not worthy to receive, but only say the words……and we are healed….

For we are home, with God.

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1105-1106). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is your church a hot dog stand or a supermarket? or…

Devotional thought very appropriate considering today’s sermon.

Yesterday, a pastor-acquaintance and I were discussing the above question – he asked it – without the “or”.  And since I dislike being caught between two choices, I came up with a third option.  🙂

I decided, that if we are talking spiritually, I would not choose the stand or the supermarket…well – here are parts of the discussion:

Me:  How about a inner city mission’s foodbank?

Pr. J –  I was talking spiritually and metaphorically, but wonderful, brother! 🙂

Me   – Actually, I was as well…

None of us can afford the hot-dog, never mind the caviar and fine wines..  All of us get nervous and shuffle – ashamed of our need as we approach the table of mercy… And we are all served what we need to live..

Pr J   –  All right, how about in terms of outreach and mission: are you serving a limited selection to a select crowd, or drawing on a wide variety of resources to serve a variety of needs? “You” in the plural sense, of course. 🙂

Me:   Again, if I can use the mission analogy….

We are in the business of serving only one thing – the Body and Blood of Jesus, broken and shed for the forgiveness of sin.   Some are served as they are broken and homeless, desperately hungry and yet so in despair and trapped by shame… Some are served by Christ as He shares His ministry with them, allowing them to serve His body to the people, like them who are broken… and even as we serve… we are fed..as His mercy and the joy of knowing it is passed through us to others. Somehow. miraculously perhaps – we are fed and sustained not as we eat – but as we serve…

There may be different place settings, small missions and large ones, some may have old records playing while others have bands, some may have a nurse or doctor there as well, some education for the kids… but the meal is really what matters…

And it always sustains…
__________________

Now, this was an on the fly, not thought out discussion.  But I like it – and it works well with the book I am writing, and how God brings us together in a feast we are all afraid to participate in.  We are the beggers, the homeless, the ones who feel awkward in the room… then as we realize how the host has made us welcome, we welcome others.

that’s the church, whether the mega church, or the micro, contemporary or traditional (whatever those mean) or contradorary…

It is, as a prof once said – the feast that God gathers His people to, as He has for 2000 years…

So come – join the feast!

Why Church?

When the topic of my occupation comes up, I have heard one answer pretty frequently over the years.

“A Pastor?  That’s cool, but I don’t need a building to worship God.  My worship time is just He and I”

It is, in our day and time – seemingly logical.  After all, many talk about their relationship with God as if it is individual, as if God’s purpose is to help a person through life, so that he/she can survive it, and then gain access to paradise, where everything will be perfect, and then we’ll find peace.

Makes for a nice movie, and some great stories… yet.. heaven is so much more.

Scene’s like the one from Isaiah 6, that we will hear tomorrow together in church – leave you filled with wonder and awe.  The scenes from Revelation of Jesus Christ ( you know – the last book in the BIble and yes – there is no “s” at the end!)  show crowds beyond number, over and over, entering the presence of God and adoring Him. It is a grand celebration, a feast beyond compare, a celebration thrown by God our Father, because His children are finally home… 

That is as well, a description of what church is, and how we should see it – an appetizer, a foretaste of that feast, a celebration where we with the whole company of heaven – sing our praise, voice our adoration of the God.  Church is a gathering of His family, to celebrate the love that He has for us, the work, the crafting of our lives – which to some may seem hypocritical and sinful at times – yet after He is completed with it – shine in the reflection of His glory.

That’s a lot to celebrate… that is a lot to feast upon, and as the ultimate Host, may we return our thanks.. to Him, with our voices, and our lives… together!

 

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