4th Sunday in Lent
The Prodigal God
Text: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
I don’t know how many times I heard the story growing up. Between church, Sunday School, and my Lutheran elementary school it had to be dozens and dozens of times. But over all those years, I never understood the title given to it. Over time this story became known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I always assumed that prodigal meant lost. After all, its the last of three parables in a row about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and here the lost son.
But prodigal doesn’t mean lost or runaway or wayward. The word prodigal, which was given to this parable later on in time, means extravagant, reckless, liberal.
It surely fits the younger son. He was prodigal in every sense of the word. The story begins with the son approaching his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” That was certainly an extravagant, reckless, and liberal request. In those days the male children would receive their inheritance from their father, and the first son would always receive a double portion. In this case, the older son would receive two-thirds and this younger son one-third. Read the rest of this entry
4th Sunday in Lent
Lost in Sin . . . Found in Grace
Text: Judges 10:6-16
After all that God had done for his people! If you read the Bible books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua straight through, you will be impressed with a time period when God miraculously intervened more than any other time in Israel’s history. The accounts of God’s interactions with the Israelites during the days of Moses and Joshua are truly amazing.
You may be able to do a quick survey of stories in your head. First God sent the 10 Plagues on Egypt so that Pharaoh would let his people go. Then he led two million people out of Egypt and through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground—the same sea he used to destroy their enemies.
While in the desert the Israelites whined and complained and moaned and groaned. Yet God provided water for them, sometimes miraculously turning bitter water sweet or bursting water out of a rock for them. He dropped bread called manna and birds called quail out of the heavens for them to eat every day. He revealed his glory and might on Mt. Sinai. He defeated countless enemies. He brought them to the Promised Land of Canaan that did not belong to them and defeated all those enemies. He made the impenetrable walls of Jericho fall down when Israel marched around them and even made the sun stand still for a day so general Joshua and Israel had more time to rout the enemy. Read the rest of this entry
4th Sunday in Lent
Lost and Found
Text: Luke 15:1-3, 11B-32
There seems to be a fascination in our world with being lost. Doing a quick perusal of movie titles quickly reveals this truth: Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park: Lost World, Lost Treasure, Land of the Lost, Lost in Translation, The Lost Boys. That’s not the end of it. One of the most popular TV shows of all time is currently in its sixth and final season. This intriguing show (which you might find your pastor watching on Tuesday nights) is simply called Lost. Whether it’s finding something lost, being directionally lost, or being lost in your life, we just love a good lost and found story.
We’re not the only people intrigued by a good “lost” story. Jesus knew that, and so he used stories of things lost to drive home important points. The opening verses of Luke 15 give us the setting: “Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ The Jesus told them this parable.” The Jewish leaders couldn’t believe the kind of people that Jesus was teaching and associating with. The sick, the poor, the needy; tax collectors, prostitutes, fisherman—they couldn’t believe that Jesus would even dare to look at such “sinners.”
So Jesus decided to teach them a lesson with a few parables—a few “lost” parables. First Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep, about a shepherd who left his 99 to find the one lost. Then he told the parable of the lost coin about a woman who turned her house upside down just to find one coin. But then Jesus told a much longer parable, one that has become one of the most popular of all time. It is the basis for songs, plays, musicals, and even a Veggie Tales movie. Today we’ll explore this amazing story of
Lost and Found
Jesus immediately introduces us to the three main characters of the story. “There was a man who had two sons.” The younger one apparently had enough of family life. The status quo of being in a kind and loving family with an easy and comfortable life was no longer appealing. He wanted to go and live it up. So, “The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’” This was not the usual course of action. Just as it would be unusual today for someone to cash in on their parents’ will before they die, so it was also unusual back then. But the younger son, who was set to receive the smaller inheritance, wanted it all right away. The father obliged. Read the rest of this entry