The “Father’s” Church


This past Sunday, I wrapped up my sermon with talking about the story of The Prodigal Son. If you missed it, watch it HERE.
Also, if you’re not familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son, take 2 minutes and read it HERE.

This is perhaps one of my all-time favorite parables of Jesus, especially as it shapes how we “do Church.” Thanks also to my friend Tommy Sparger who lit the flame of love for this parable in me. There are 3 primary characters in this parable: 1. The Father (represents God the Father with a heart towards his creation), 2. The Younger Son (represents pretty much all of humanity, selfish and wanting to be in control of our own lives, ultimately in need of the Father), and 3. The Older Brother (represents the Pharisee in original context, and the heart of critical, entitled, self-righteous, religious people, etc).

Basically, the younger son comes to the Father asking for all of his inheritance, wanting to go his own way, be in charge of his own life, even willing to give up his connection to his Father’s House. The Father, without reservation allows the son’s choice of rejection to play out, and grants his request. The older brother isn’t in the story quite yet.

It didn’t take long, and the younger son had spent his entire inheritance on reckless living (which is the meaning of “Prodigal” by the way – lavish spender, not wayward or backslidden), and found himself sharing the food given to pigs. If you’re not aware, jewish boys didn’t have much to do with pigs. This was the lowest of the low for him. Recap: He rejected the family, asked for all he was owed, left home to be in control of his own life, blew it all, and was at the absolute bottom.

Then, he realized that being home with his father is his only option. So he starts to write his “I’m a failure, I’m the worst, I can’t believe what a loser I am” speech. With pig poop and mud all over his body, he begins the journey home rehearsing his speech.

Then, Jesus said that the father sees the boy while he’s still a far way off. HOW AMAZING!! Remember, the Father is showing us the heart of God towards us. The Father sees the boy WAY BEFORE he gets there, and WAY BEFORE the son sees the Father. His eyes were looking for his return! Awesome…
Next, the Father has compassion, takes off running towards the boy, wraps his arms around him, begins to kiss all over him, throws a robe around him, shoes on his feet, and puts the family ring back on his finger! Talk about a surprise welcome! What’s really cool is to see the son try to give his speech, but the father never really lets him finish. He basically interrupted the son and started his welcome. Notice, he didn’t require the son to clean up first, that came later…
Finally, the father calls for a huge party to be thrown in honor of the son. “Kill the fattest cow, we’re having STEAK!”

Now, the Older Brother wasn’t happy. He hears the party going on and asks what’s up. That tells me he never noticed the incredible family reunion in the field, much less the fact that his own Father was running past him to get to the younger son. Perhaps he was a little… pre-occupied, busy, self-absorbed.
He hears about the party and gets furious! He refused to go in, throws a hissy fit, tells the dad how unfair this all is, basically calls the younger brother a bum and condemns him for his past decisions, and won’t even acknowledge that his brother is home. In fact, he look at his dad and calls him, “That son of yours.” What a guy. (I’m sad to say I’ve been that guy before)

Thankfully, the Father’s Heart is revealed: The son was dead, and now is alive. He was lost, and now is found. The Older Brother didn’t win the argument. His pitching a fit didn’t sway the heart of the Father.

So, here are a few reflections about this story, and an encouragement for how to be the church!

1. Loving Fathers have an eye for Who’s Missing, while Older Brothers have an eye on themselves.
I think the Church should act like Loving Fathers.

2. Loving Fathers lead from a Context of Forgiveness, while Older Brothers lead from a Context of Shame.
I think the Church should act like Loving Fathers.

3. Loving Fathers throw Parties when the Prodigals come home, while Older Brothers throw fits.
I think the Church should act like Loving Fathers.

So, what if began to care for who’s missing? What if we had our eyes on the hills watching the missing sons & daughters coming through their walk of shame? What if we stopped them from trying to explain themselves, and just put a ring on their finger and said “Welcome to The Father’s House?” What if we stopped waiting on the cleaned up to show up, and we started acting like the Loving Father? What if we repent of being self-absorbed “older brothers” and stop caring about our agendas and what’s owed to us? And what if we never throw another fit and start planning parties for those who are coming?

All of Heaven rejoices when people turn to God. I think we should too.

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