Midweek Lent 2
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
(Delivered at St. John Lutheran, Seward NE)
Luke 15:11-32; 1 Cor.10:31 Sermon
February 25, 2015
Hymns (from Lutheran Service Book):
418 "O Lord Throughout These Forty Days"
843 "Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive"
427 "In The Cross Of Christ I Glory"
697 "Awake, O Sleeper, Rise From Death"
GLORIFY GOD IN CONFLICT
TEXT: (vs. 28-32) “But [the older brother] was angry and refused to go in [to the celebration]. His father came out and entreated him; but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
1 Cor. 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son is a lesson that is widely known. I'm guessing that you have heard it before, so this evening's chancel drama came as no surprise to you. You knew the ending right from the start.
In this parable, a forgiving father seeks to restore not just one, but both of his sons. The younger son demands his share of his father's inheritance, and then he squanders it on wild living, and you can use your imagination as to what that involved. In desperation, the younger son returns to seek a servant's position with his father; but the father restores him to full status as his son, and the celebration begins. When the older son becomes indignant, the father seeks to restore him as well. That's the thumbnail sketch.
We know that there is a whole lot of conflict going on here. The older son is in conflict with his father for basically rolling out the red carpet for his prodigal son, and the older son is in conflict with his brother for his lifestyle and his sheer audacity to show up at his father's house after all he had done. It's in these three characters that we see a whole gamut of different emotions.
For starters, let's look at the word "prodigal." Do you know what "prodigal" means? It means "wasteful." Some people make the mistake of thinking that "prodigal" means being "wayward" or "wandering," which certainly describes what the prodigal son did, but that's not what "prodigal" means. So if there's one thing that you can remember from this sermon, is that "prodigal" means "wasteful."
Being wasteful was certainly the primary reason for the conflict going on here with the older brother. The younger brother asks for his share of his father's inheritance, and then he leaves home and squanders it all away. He wastefully spends his father's inheritance. His recompense is having to take a job feeding the pigs, and foraging for his own food from what the pigs were eating. Knowing that his father's servants were far better off, he goes home hoping that there can be some sort of reconciliation so he at least can have something better to eat.
So how does the father treat this prodigal, or wasteful son? He pulls out all the stops. There's a ring, a robe, a fatted calf, and the other sundry items it took for a huge celebration to happen.
The older son objects to all of this on the basis of his brother's wastefulness, and not on his brother as a person. In fact, he doesn't even want to acknowledge him as a brother. "That son of yours" is what he says to his father. He has "devoured your property with prostitutes!" Now, how could a father ever overlook something like this?
But money and property don't even factor into how the father reacts. He isn't standing there with a pad and pencil figuring out all that his prodigal son had wasted. It didn't matter that he had deserted his family and set out to do his own thing in the world. The pain and insults and tears were all things of the past.
The only thing that mattered to him was that his young son was home, safe and sound. In verse 20 of our text, it says that "his father saw him, and felt compassion." Saying that he "felt compassion" is really an understatement. A literal translation of the Greek is that he felt "an intense churning in his entrails," which is something like what we would call a "gut-wrenching experience."
This whole scenario went way beyond dollars and cents, and that's the lesson the father was teaching the older brother. In the last two verses of our text, the father says, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."
The Apostle Paul has this same idea in mind when he records these words in 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." It's time to get rid of all the things of the past that cause earthly conflicts, and focus upon that which gives God the glory, and not the trivial things that Satan uses to try to divide us and pit us against each other.
The parable of the prodigal son should cause us to look at the two sons in this story and see ourselves. Haven't we wandered away from our Heavenly Father many times so we could do our own thing? Haven't we been guilty of being wasteful with the blessings of God? Haven't we been guilty of putting earthly money and wealth ahead of God? Haven't we felt anger and jealousy at times when we have had no right to feel that way? Haven't we condemned others according to our own sinful standards?
When we see the love of the father in the parable of the prodigal son, we can get an idea of how much our Father in heaven loves us. Nothing is more important than our relationship with him. It matters little as to what we have done or not done in the past; what matters is that through Jesus our Saviour, we are now reconciled with God.
It hasn't been too many weeks ago that we sang the words, "Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled." This is the theme that we have carried over from Christmas into Lent. The reconciliation that Jesus brought about that started in Bethlehem's manger now comes to fruition on Calvary's cross.
As forgiven sinners who have a faith relationship with Jesus, the words Paul records in Romans 8:38-39 are especially comforting: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Because we live in a sinful world, we will experience conflict in various areas. There will be those that come into our lives that will make things difficult for us. And because of this, it will be difficult to regard others in the same way that God does.
We need to look past the trivial things of this world, and see others the way God sees them, and the way he sees us. Christians are those who have a faith relationship with Jesus their Saviour, forgiven sinners who have been justified freely by God's undeserved love, which is by his grace alone. Therefore we can proclaim with the hymn writer: "Today thy gate is open, and all who enter in, shall find a Father's welcome, and pardon for their sin. The past shall be forgotten, a present joy be given, a future grace be promised, a glorious crown in heaven...No question will be asked us how often we have come; although we oft have wandered, it is our Father's home." (TLH 279:2 & 3b)