Wandering Lost and Finally Finding Home

300px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_ProjectOn Sunday we explored the first of three sermons on the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). In this sermon we looked at the prodigal son and how we are often so much like him. How we too have left home, and left God in so many countless ways. What is remarkable is that it is God’s love that allows us to leave.

Henri Nouwen puts it this way: “The Father couldn’t’ compel his son to stay home. He couldn’t force his love on the Beloved. He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself. It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost. It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it….Here the mystery of my life is unveiled. I am loved so much that I am left free to leave home.”

We are loved so much that we are free to leave. Sometimes the leaving is harsh and sudden, like in the story. Sometimes it’s slow and subtle. But it happens nonetheless.

Again Nouwen writes: “Anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are the obvious signs that I have left home”. This is true. These are all signs that we’ve left the home of the Father full of grace, acceptance, and love. We’ve left home for a distant land where we become used, abused, and neglected. This is what the prodigal son experiences and he comes to his senses. And decides to return home. This decision though is often so difficult because when we leave the Father’s side we walk into darkness and confusion. Nouwen again wisely writes: “The farther I run away from the place where God dwells the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in manipulative power games of the world.” This is true, the further we run from God the more difficult it is to hear his voice in a world of competing voices.

Yet the son does hear the Father’s voice. He remembers what it was like at home, whereas now he is left alone, struggling, and abused. He decides to walk home and seek to earn back his position not as a son but as a slave. A hired hand. Yet the Father sees the son while he was a long way off…because he was looking. The Father didn’t move on because he didn’t want to move on. He isn’t content till all those who have wandered find their way back home. So he runs to his son not caring that it isn’t dignified. He doesn’t care what other people think, he cares about his lost son. The son shares a speech but the father doesn’t care. Because the father isn’t about what can be earned, but what he can give, which is acceptance, hope, love, and assurance.

So on Sunday we ended by reflecting on how at so many times and places we have been like the prodigal son. That we drift, slide, and move away. On Sunday we ended asking a simple but profound question: will you let the Father accept you? We often say yes quickly but it’s not that easy. Because we need to give up all our speeches, our ways of fixing things (i.e. being a hired hand), our ways of earning love and instead to simply accept the gift before us.

So today I want to ask you the same thing. Will you accept the gift of God’s grace before you? Remember the Father’s focus isn’t on your past or what you’ve done, the Father’s focus is on you.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Love and acceptance are found at “home”

Take Aways…

  • The son leaving is a sign of dying
  • You are loved so much you are free to leave home
  • The Father divides up his life for his sons
  • Away from home people use, abuse, and neglect you
  • “Anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are the obvious signs that I have left home”. Henri Nouwen
  • “The farther I run away from the place where God dwells the less I am able to heave the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in manipulative power games of the world” Henri Nouwen
  • The Father saw the son because he was looking
  • The Father hasn’t moved on, because he doesn’t want to move on.
  • The Father doesn’t care what other people think, he cares about his son
  • God isn’t about earning, gaining, or achieving. God is about giving.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? When have you “left home”? Is there any places where you have bee leaving home, slowly and subtly? How can having God’s assurance of love change who you are? How does it feel to be accepted by God? How might you share your thanks with him today?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and sit down with your kids and talk to them about today’s message. Share with them the story of the Father and the Son. If you can promise them the same type of love, that is modeled in this passage. Talk with them about how you love your kids in the same way with acceptance, forgiveness, and a willingness to reach out.

Challenge for this Week:

Receive the Father’s acceptance

 

Finding and Seeing God in the Midst of a Mess

Bob Goff is a really brilliant guy. He’s the type of brilliant person who writes short simple sayings that are really deep. Here is a tweet he shared the other day:

“When we keep asking God to show up at places He’s already at, He isn’t mad, He probably just figures we didn’t recognize Him”

This really got me thinking…

How often am I asking God to show up somewhere and he already is but I don’t have eyes to see it? How often am I missing Jesus all around me?

And as I started to reflect on those questions I realized…I’m missing him probably more than I should…

The reality is that in really difficult situations, relationships, and even places, it can be hard to find God. When life is messy we ask God to show up, but the way God shows up in a mess isn’t to clean it up. The way God shows up in a mess is to enter into it and to start changing it from the outside. This type of involvement is slow, it is subtle and it is the most powerful.

This is really seen during Christmas which we just past. The world was broken, it was a mess, and people asked God to show up. So he did in the person of a baby, in the forgotten place, mostly alone and definitely in the dark.

The point is that we are often asking God to show up when he might already be there, working from within, and giving glimpses of grace. So for me personally I’ve moved from asking God to show up, to asking God to give me eyes to see him. That little difference has made all the difference…now I’m not waiting in God’s absence, I’m searching for his presence

Where I Saw Jesus this Week…

This week at church we had an amazing Sunday. We celebrated the anniversary of our church, and celebrated the volunteers in our church. Really they aren’t volunteers in the church; they are the church – demonstrating it by how they give. And so as we took time to recognize and thank them I saw Jesus in the little things on Sunday…

  • We had so many people stand to be recognized by how they give in both small, and great ways here at church. They give through their time,and effort, and don’t ask for a reward in return. We gave them a Wunder bar because of how “wunderful” they are. They even laughed at our pun. This is Jesus.
  • We have an amazing administrator here who gave so much and took no credit for a great Sunday. She organized it, got it together, picked up supplies, called people, cleaned up and did it all with a smile. This is Jesus.
  • I was given a hug on Sunday by someone who said this is for you simply because you deserve it. This is Jesus.
  • I have a mom who on Sunday’s when I am busy, and seeking to connect with people comes to me and asks, “Andrew can I watch Hudson for you for a bit?” That’s Jesus.
  • There we people who stayed behind to wash dishes with me laughing and trying to figure out the dishwasher. They served, gave of their time, and their friendship. This is Jesus.

So where did I find Jesus this week? I found him in people, his church. I found him in you. This is a beautiful thing.

So this week if you’re looking for Jesus you don’t have to look far. Look to the people who are walking with you. Pay attention and I bet you’ll find him…Because he isn’t hiding…He’s just so close to you sometimes he’s hard to see…

Hide and Seek with Jesus

On Sunday we talked about joy, and you can listen to it here. We talked about how joy is connected to finding Jesus. Because when you find Jesus, you find someone special. You find a person who is God, and yet just like us. You find a person who knows what it is to struggle, yet overcomes. You find a person who knows everything, yet just wants to get to know you…

This is a person worth finding.

And when you find him and connect with him you get connected to joy, hope, peace, and love. Because Jesus is each of those things. He doesn’t give us joy, we find our joy in him as Paul says. And so key to finding and holding on to joy in our lives is finding and holding onto Jesus. He is our source. Finding Jesus means finding joy, peace, hope, and love that lasts. It lasts because he lasts, he is steady, he is true, and the story of Christmas is that he is here. The invitation to the shephereds in Luke 2 is that Jesus is findable, “meetable”, and here.

So how do you find him in your life? Simple. Just do what the shepherds do…they start looking.

Each week I write a post called “Where I saw Jesus this Week…”. And maybe this week you should comment or write your own post titled “Where you found Jesus this week…”

Because he is ready and willing to be found…and with him comes joy, peace, love, and hope…

The question is are you looking?

And if you find him, I’d love to hear how and where…