Sunday Message for 31 March 2019 (4th Sunday of Lent): “Progressing Prodigals”
Posted On February 28, 2019
Today’s message combines two key passages from the lectionary readings, complimentary passages covering the themes of reconciliation with God (Luke 15:1-3,11b-32) and the newness of life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
The theme of reconciliation begins with the iconic story of the prodigal son in Luke, revealing four interrelated processes: repentance, redemption, restoration, and reconciliation. Jesus framed all these interrelated processes within a parable, which is a story designed to illustrate principles.
The setting for the prodigal story is a family, wherein the father had two sons, one older and loyal and the other younger and rebellious. The younger brother demanded and received a share of the father’s inheritance (legally, the young son had no right to this). The petulant young man fled with his inheritance and, after a time of ruinous living, the defeated son returned home hungry and desperate. The father embraced his estranged son and graciously provided a coming-home feast. Meanwhile, the loyal son was disgruntled and resented the lavish celebration for his estranged brother.
Like the prodigal son, all of us are far from perfect. A person can run away from God, from their family, from all that should be dear. People can even be given-up for dead and shunned by those who should love them. Regardless of other peoples’ bad choices, don’t allow people’s harsh reactions to control your life. Avoid negativity and defeatism because hope is not lost. When you regain your bearings, God is there to welcome you back even if others don’t. Take comfort in knowing that you can discover God and leave the past behind. The key is to make a decision to take a new, positive direction. Embrace God’s promise of repentance, redemption, restoration and reconciliation.
How wonderful that God can empower your journey to a better place in life. Whether in ancient or modern times, prodigals still walk the earth. Many haven’t been awakened to their sad plight and are still wandering and wallowing in darkness. As you find God’s direction you can compassionately help guide the lost. From your experiences you can relate to prodigals or other wayward souls and embrace them on their return to wholeness.
You may encounter obstacles on your journey toward spiritual health but don’t give-up when people reject you. The first-born loyal son in the biblical story was blinded to his wayward brother’s repentance. Rather than rejoice with his father over a lost sibling, the older son nursed anger. This reveals a self-righteous sin, one filled with pride and unforgiveness. Unfortunately, some people around you will not accept a new you because they refuse to change their minds. Accepting a new you is perceived as too much work by critics who are satisfied to feed their original opinion about you. Thankfully God does not work this way. One divine, loving embrace releases the shackles of past shame and suffering and you start over with a spiritual rebirth.
Now comes the 2 Corinthians passage and the theme of newness of life in Christ. It is a beautiful process that once you have restoration, God will help you to help others. Life can wear anyone down, and God knows that you and everyone else need support. You can help spread the news that it is never too late; the time is now for a renewed life. Accept God’s transformative love for a wondrous new existence. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Once you begin a new life, you’re ready to assist other people accept God’s promises and possibilities. Years of hard living can wear people down such that they feel forlorn and hopeless, washed up and defeated. Life’s wearisome routines grind people’s aspirations and render many cynical and jaded. Time to partner with God so that you can help rescue these spiritual refugees from whatever is holding them captive. Time to do your part as people seek the same life renewal you are experiencing.
As you follow God, you will feel drawn to assist others. In doing your part, you become a representative of God’s kingdom. Brace yourself because even as you grow in your new faith God enlists you as a spiritual ambassador. In worldly terms, an ambassador is an officially appointed representative of one government to another. Similarly, a spiritual ambassador means that you represent God’s kingdom, known for love and truth. As a spiritually-awakened ambassador you have accepted a commission to receive and share the Almighty’s presence .
Welcome Mr. or Ms. spiritual ambassador! You needn’t live in a foreign embassy but wherever you reside God’s spirit of love and truth can shine through you. You may have once been a prodigal, but now you radiate hope and fulfillment. Share your blessings and challenges and other people will be inspired to become citizens of God’s country, known as the Promised Land. As you reach out, you will help people emigrate from a war-torn wasteland to God’s bountiful terrain, flowing with spiritual milk and honey.