Monday, March 15, 2010
Sermon - Lent 4 - Luke 15:11-31
March 14th, 2009
Reckless behavior. That's what sin is. It doesn't care about the consequences or whom it hurts. When you sin you even hurt yourself, but you aren't thinking about that usually. Sin doesn't make sense. It never has. But we do it anyway. It's reckless. Senseless. Foolish. Selfish and short-sighted.
Take the prodigal son. He squandered the inheritance in “reckless living”. Wine, women and song. Drinks are on me. Prostitutes. Gambling. Party hardy. But then it was gone. He hadn't saved for his retirement. He wasn't shopping for bargains. He thought only of himself and his momentary pleasures. He was reckless.
But the recklessness began long before he made it to the foreign land. How bold, how brazen, to ask for his inheritance – long before dad died! Father, I want my money and I want it now. I wish you were dead. Just give me what's coming to me. Reckless with his father's feelings, he cares only for himself.
Reckless – in setting off for a foreign land. Away from the protection of his father's house, to a strange place. He didn't care. All that was good about home and family – he must have thought it was a drag. It kept him from doing what he REALLY wanted to do. Living the high life. He didn't plan it out, he just goes. No GPS, no AAA maps. Reckless. Careless. No thought for tomorrow.
What a picture of sin. What a picture of our sin. We want what we want, and we want it now. We don't care who we hurt. We don't think about the consequences. Or maybe we do, and that doesn't stop us anyway.
Reckless living doesn't just mean sex, drugs and rock and roll. It means rolling the dice with our very soul. It means turning away from the true and sure and perfect word and will of God. It means biting the forbidden fruit and well, maybe God wasn't serious about that dying stuff. It means sin now and pay later. No thought or care for the wake of destruction that will follow.
But we all do it. And we can see what it brings.
The prodigal ended up in the pig-pen. And we too, wallowing in our filth, often find ourselves there too. How did it come to this? How did I get so low? Only at the rock-bottom do we see how good we had it. Only when our chickens come home to roost, only when our sins stand bare and bold before us can we clearly see what we have become. Worse than the pigs. More filthy and disgusting are our sins. We wish we could be those pigs instead. And the hunger begins.
The prodigal son “came to himself” or “came to his senses”. He began to see what his recklessness had wrought. He began to turn, to change his heart and mind, to repent. He started out again for home, to a father he hoped would show him one last kindness – not even forgiveness, but at least a meager job. He didn't even deserve that. It was begging time.
But the prodigal son isn't the only one who is reckless.
The father – he too – reckless. Not in sin and selfishness, but in love and selfless-ness. For what father would grant such a request, “give me my inheritance so I can go spend it!” What father would welcome his son back after he spent it? What recklessness – he might do it again, hurt him again, dishonor him again!
But the father is reckless in his love. He “wastes his time” waiting for his son, and sees him coming from a distance. He must have neglected other duties around the estate. And when he sees him, he runs, recklessly – embraces and kisses his wayward boy. He doesn't care who sees him or what they think of him. He makes a fool of himself.
And he lavishes gifts on the poor boy. A ring, shoes, a robe, a feast. Reckless giving. The son's reckless living didn't matter anymore. He was home, safe and sound. In the loving arms of his father.
The parable is clear. God, our heavenly father, loves us with a reckless love. Though we are reckless in our sins, he loves us abundantly, egregiously, ridiculously. So much so that he gives us what is most precious. Not a ring or a robe, but his only begotten Son. He doesn't kill the fattened calf, he sends the Lamb of God for the sacrifice.
And he does prepare a feast for us prodigals. Each time we come to our senses, with repentant hearts... each time we approach our Lord in confession and faith – he feeds us. He gives us of himself. Body and blood, given and shed for you.
It's lent. Calvary approaches. The disciples say, Jesus, don't go to Jerusalem, it's too dangerous! The Jewish leaders are out to get you! Peter tries to rebuke Jesus. The others just don't get it.
But Jesus sets his face like flint. He his reckless love says, “I know I'll die. Better me than you. This is the plan. That I am about to be arrested and tried, condemned and crucified. And on the third day rise” No thought for himself. Only, always, for you.
His reckless love makes amends for your reckless living. God's own Son for every prodigal son and daughter that ever wallowed in the muck of sin. A love which forgives and forgets – no questions asked, no hoops to jump through. Jesus sinners will receive.
So celebrate with him, and with all of us, the foretaste of the feast to come. And live now as a son or daughter of the Father. All his blessings are for you, in Jesus Christ. Amen.