Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sermon - Easter Sunday - Luke 24:1-12

Luke 24:1-12
The Resurrection of Our Lord
April 21, 2019

So often historical things happen, and people don’t truly understand the significance and the implications until well after the fact.  Sometimes, these events aren’t even well-known to the public. 

Take, for instance, the attempted assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933.  "Joe" Zangara, an Italian immigrant, and an anarchist, fired his handgun at Roosevelt, who was in Miami giving a speech.  But Zangara was only 5 feet tall, and needed to stand on a wobbly metal folding chair to get a good look over the crowd and aim at his target.  His first shot missed, and as he was then grabbed by the crowd he got off four more wild shots.  But that first shot instead hit another target – Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago at the time – who later died from his wounds.

Had Zangara been a little more accurate, or perhaps a bit taller, and killed his intended target Roosevelt, it’s hard to imagine how history would have been different.  Had Roosevelt been assassinated, his conservative Texas running mate, John Nance Garner, would most likely have come to power. "The New Deal, the move toward internationalism — these would never have happened," says one historian, "It would have changed the history of the world in the 20th century. I don't think the Kennedy assassination changed things as much as Roosevelt's would have."

We look back, today, on a much more important event that is far more well-known and changed far more of the course of history.  It is also a life-and-death story, or rather a death-and-life story.   We mark, of course, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And it is just as real and historical as any other thing that has truly happened.  The body of Jesus was never found.  There were hundreds of eyewitnesses to the risen Christ.  And his followers spread the news of it to the corners of the earth, at great personal cost and often in the face of their own persecution and death.  People don’t become martyrs for a lie.  Large groups of people don’t share hallucinations. The resurrection really happened! Christ is truly alive, truly rose from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  Christ is risen!

And oh how the world would be different today if Christ had not been raised!  No Christian Church with all of the blessings that it has brought through the ages – advances in science, social improvements like the abolition of slavery, the establishment of hospitals and schools, much, maybe even most, of the fabric of Western Civiliation owes its existence to the Christian church and its people.  But more than that.  It’s not just history on the macro-level.  It matters to each of us, individually. It’s quite personal.

St. Paul interprets the resurrection in his letter to the Corinthians, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

In other words, if Jesus isn’t alive, if he didn’t rise from the dead, then:

Your faith is futile.  It’s useless.  We might as well burn down Notre Dame completely and all the other Christian churches.  Make them something more useful.  Throw away your bibles.  Pastors will have to go find a job at Home Depot.  We can all find something better to do on Sundays like go fishing or sleep in.  If Jesus isn’t alive, none of this matters.  But you are here today.  At that means that on some level, it does matter to you.  And whether your faith is strong or flagging, whether you are an every Sunday Christian or not so sure or committed… Jesus Christ is still alive, and the faith is not futile. 

Paul goes on to say, if Christ hasn’t been raised:  then you are still in your sins!  See, the whole point of Jesus dying on the cross was to pay for, cover, take away your sins.  All the things that you do that break the rules, offend God and hurt your neighbor.  It’s a long list, friends, if we could even begin to count our sins.  If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, though, we’d be stuck holding that stinky bag.  We wouldn’t know for sure that God forgave us, that he loves us, or that Christ’s death was good enough to wipe those sins away.  But Jesus is indeed alive, and that means that everything he said was true, and every promise he made is entirely trustworthy.  We don’t have to worry about God judging our sins – because Christ is risen!

And finally, Paul says, if Christ hasn’t been raised, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  There’s no hope for them.  Who wants to live in a world where there’s no hope beyond the grave?  That’s it, lights out, you just are no more.  What a nihilistic, dead-end of despair.  And yet that is where the secular world would point us, to the gaping black hole of death from which no one or nothing ever returns.  Thanks be to God that’s not how it is.  For us who are in Christ, we go where he goes.  He conquered death.  And we too will rise.  Our loved ones in Christ are safe in his care, even now, and we will meet them again face to face, in the flesh, at the resurrection on the last day. 

If Christ isn’t raised, if it all ends here, if this life is all there is – then Paul concludes, we are to be pitied more than all men.  And quite frankly, many do find Christians to be pitiful.  Or worse.  For those who deny the resurrection, who don’t believe that Jesus lives, they see us as backward, deluded, brain-washed, superstitious, anti-intellectual, holier-than-thou, mind-numbed zealots who place our faith in a fairy tale.  They see all this Christianity as a waste of time at best. They pity us, or they mock us, or they marginalize us as they see fit. 

But reality is just the opposite.  Those who are truly to be pitied are those who don’t know or can’t see or won’t believe the truth of Jesus Christ.  They are without hope.  Their future only leads to despair.  We have a hope that does not fail, and a life even beyond death!

Paul unpacks so much of the meaning of this day for us, but on that first Easter morning, it was all so bewildering.  Nobody knew what was going on.  They were running here and there. There was weeping and grieving and hiding. They were confused and fearful, and yet…

The joy of this shocking realization began to hit them in various ways.  The stone was rolled away, and the body was gone, and the women are “perplexed” we are told.  What does it all mean?  Then, even more strangeness, two men appear out of nowhere.  Who are they?  Angels?  Their dazzling apparel testifies.  And their words all the more…

“Don’t you remember his words?”  His words – we should all, always remember his words.  Jesus knew this would happen.  He told them it would happen.  He started already, way back in Luke chapter 9, the Son of Man would be crucified… and on the third day rise!

The women told the men, and the men didn’t believe it right away.  They thought it was an “idle tale”.  Maybe you can relate to that, too.

So often, even today, we Christians hear the words of Christ but they don’t make sense, they don’t sink in, we don’t understand them, or maybe we just don’t believe them.  Maybe we heard them long ago, but we don’t consider that they are very relevant today.  But then something changes – a circumstance of life, a shock to the system, or sometimes just plain old maturity, and the Holy Spirit enlightens us so we can see.  “Oh, THAT’s what this was all about!”  For the women, for the apostles, they all had their Easter “aha” moments. 

So let the words of the angels and the words of our Lord and the account of the apostle Luke remind you, also, today, of the blessed resurrection!

Why are you seeking the living among the dead?  That’s what makes no sense, after all.  Let it sink in, friends, Jesus is alive!  Death couldn’t hope to stop him, or even contain him.  He has swallowed death up in victory.  By his death he has destroyed death, and by his life he has brought life and immortality to light.  He lives, he lives, he lives!  Christ is risen!

And that is the best news for you, dear Christian.  Because he lives, your faith is not in vain.  Because he lives, your sins are no more.  Because he lives, death can’t contain you either.  Oh, it will seem to, for a little while.  Your friends and family will cry at your funeral.  But your rest in the grave will be like Christ’s – a temporary arrangement.  Your resurrection is on its way.  Where Christ has gone, we will follow. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Midweek Lent 6 - John 19:23-24 - The Seamless Coat

“The Seamless Coat”
John 19:23-24
Midweek Lent 6, April 10, 2019

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.” 

(John 19:23-24)

His friends betray, forsake and deny him.  The crowd turns on him.  His enemies finally seize him, try him, and mock him.  The sentence is given.  Jesus is stripped of his freedom, his dignity, and now, even, his clothing. Finally he will give his life.

Clothing is one of those basic needs of life we all tend to take for granted.  Food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home… clothing is just one thing in the long list of daily needs that God provides for the righteous and the wicked alike.  It is, as we say, a First Article gift, part of the blessings of creation bestowed by God the Father. We certainly live in a land of plenty when it comes to clothing.  One estimate says the average American spends about $1800 on clothing.  We are richly blessed.

Clothing is worn for both form and function.  You dress in a certain way because, at least partly, you like the look of it.  There are, of course, also the social conventions. Clothing also keeps us warm, though that’s not so important in Texas.  And it can also serve as a signal of the occasion (like a wedding or prom dress) or of the particular job you do (a uniform).

But Christians know that clothing was invented in response to sin.  Adam and Eve made the first clothes – crude coverings of fig leaves – hastily chosen to cover themselves in shame, when sin had changed everything.  No longer was nakedness the norm.  From this time forth, humans would cover our nakedness.
It’s no accident, either, that God provided clothing of animal skins for our first parents.  No, your own coverings will not do.  Only God can cover sin.  And so the first blood shed in the freshly fallen creation was a sacrifice of sorts, animals slain, in order to cover the sins of humanity.  A foreshadowing of a far greater sacrifice to cover the sins of Adam and Eve and all their children.

Jesus, who was like us in every way, yet without sin… and so he had no need of clothing to cover his shame.  Yet he followed the customs and norms of his day.  It began when he was wrapped, as a baby, in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.  He certainly didn’t dress in finery – those who do so are in king’s palaces.  He had nowhere even to lay his head, no earthly riches, and so he would not have been the type to show off fancy garments and rich clothing.  This one special garment of his, woven without seam, was likely a gift from one of the women who followed him.  Like the ointment they used to anoint him even before his burial, a special gift given in faith and devotion.

But even his humble clothing seemed affected by his divine power.  Remember the woman with the flow of blood – who found healing by touching the hem of his garment?  Jesus felt the power go out from him, and commended the woman for her faith.  Perhaps it was this very garment for which they cast lots!  Perhaps it was also the garment that became brighter than any bleaching – shining with all the radiance of his Transfiguration – giving us a glimpse of the true nature of his glory.

And so, these events took place, as part of his Passion, in order to fulfill prophecy.  All the scriptures must be fulfilled.  Jesus, even in his death, leaves nothing undone – he accomplishes it all.  Every last detail.  Psalm 22, quoted here by John, shows both the dividing of the garments and the casting of lots for the seamless coat or tunic.  The soldiers would have likely plundered anything else they could from their victim, if Jesus had anything. They didn’t bother to give it to his mother or his disciple John who were nearby.  They had only selfish intentions.  They tore apart the less valuable cloth, presumably for rags, but decided to gamble on the more valuable woven outer coat.

Some of these same soldiers had mocked Jesus by clothing him with another garment – a scarlet robe – along with his crown of thorns and scepter of reed.  They played and jeered at his kingship in this way, not recognizing the irony.  For he is indeed the king of all kings, but he had put aside his kingly vesture to take on the form of a servant, even to dress in the humble garb of a peasant, now to have even that stripped from him.

And the last piece of his humiliation – his burial.  At least they wrapped his body in grave clothes, and provided a linen for his face.  Some small dignity for a hastily prepared burial before sunset and Sabbath began.  But those grave clothes he wouldn’t need long.  At his resurrection he left them behind, neat and folded, the job done, everything put back in order.

What about you, dear Christian?  Have you considered your own attire?  What about the filthy rags of your supposed good works?  How about the stain and soil of sin?  Do you think you can cover up the shame with a fig leaf of rationalization, or maybe you try to shift the spotlight to someone else’s imperfections?  Maybe, God forbid, you’re even tempted to embrace your sin, wear it like a badge of honor?  Our robes need washing.  They need more than bleach or soap.  They need the only detergent that gets out the stain of sin that is so deeply set in.  We need the blood of Christ.

Remember the multitude of Revelation 7, holding palm branches and shouting, “worthy is the Lamb”?  A uncountable multitude from every tribe, nation and language?  Who are they?  Sir you know, and the elder said, “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”.

So here it is.  Jesus is stripped of everything, including his clothes, and even his life – and in exchange – washes you clean, makes your robes white, gives you his everything, even a share in his resurrection. 

Isaiah spoke about it already in his day:  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels”. (Is. 61:10)

Paul puts it another way – “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

That is to say, in your Baptism, Jesus covers you.  He covers you so completely and thoroughly, that you become identified with him, united with him.  Buried with him and raised with him.  When God the Father looks at you, he doesn’t see the shabby rags you were wearing, or the shame of your nakedness.  He sees Christ and only Christ!  He sees the righteousness that shines forth like it did on the Mount of Transfiguration.  He sees robes washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.  He sees one who is holy, beloved, with whom he is well pleased. 

Jacob gave his favored son Joseph a coat of many colors – an expensive and exquisite robe that symbolized his fatherly love and drove Joseph's brothers mad with jealously.  They stripped it away, threw him in a pit, sold him as a slave, and told Jacob he was dead.  They even dipped the robe in blood for good measure.  But it was all a lie.

God the Father gives you a far better garment.  An expensive and exquisite covering of righteousness that well shows his favor.  Only he doesn’t just give it to you.  He gives it to all people, and all who receive it in faith enjoy its benefits – they are our true brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Jesus, who had his robe stripped from him, who was thrown under God’s wrath for you, became a slave of all to save us from slavery to sin.  And Jesus was left for dead,. And by his blood our robes are made clean.  This is the greatest truth we can know.

What a great exchange.  His life to save mine.  His blood shed for my bloodguilt.  His humiliation to lift me up.  His robe cast off, so that I am never cast off from God..  His righteousness for my unrighteousness.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Redeemed to stand before His throne!
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” v. 4, LSB 575

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Midweek Lent 5 - Matthew 27:29 (27-31) - The Crown of Thorns

“The Crown of Thorns”
Matthew 27:29 (27-31)
Midweek Lent 5, April 3, 2019

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him.28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

So far we’ve considered some of the major symbols of Lent.  The ashes of repentance, as well as objects and items from the account of the Passion of our Lord.  The crowing rooster that accompanied Peter’s denial.  The 30 pieces of silver that remind us of Judas’ betrayal.  And the scourge or whip, with which Jesus was punished before his crucifixion.

Today we consider the crown of thorns.  In and of itself, perhaps, next to only the cross, the crown of thorns stands for the suffering that Jesus endured for us.  Though it is depicted in Christian art in various ways, we don’t really know much about it.  What sort of thorns were they?  How was it fashioned?  What exactly did it look like?

Taken together with the scarlet robe and the reed they placed in his right hand, you can see the intentions clearly.  The crown of thorns was a part of the mockery that the soldiers inflicted upon Jesus.  He who had claimed to be a king – they’ll show him!  Here, your highness, a robe and scepter and a crown – fitting for a man of suffering.  And so the crown of thorns, by its thorns, caused him pain, and by the mockery did him dishonor.  And the soldiers seemed to take their glee in both.

But like so many details of the Passion, there is a rich and deep irony to be found here.  For if anyone is a king, it is the king of kings.  If anyone should wear a crown, it is the bright Jewel of God’s own crown.  In fact we sing, “Crown him with MANY Crowns!” If anyone is worthy of the best, and of the highest honor and worship, it is Jesus, the Son of Man who is also the Son of God.

And he is also the Lord of Hosts.  That is to say, that at a word of his whim, God would have sent 12 legions of angels to defend his Son.  All the armies of heaven, from the Archangel Michael who cast Satan from heaven – to the lowliest of the rank upon rank – all the angels answer to him.  The hosts, the armies, are his.  He made them and he commands them.  But here, at his passion, a battalion of Roman soldiers thinks they have him under control.  The dare to mock him, strike him, spit on him.  If they only knew.

More than that, the crown he deserves, the crown he laid aside to become incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary… the divine glory, honor, majesty and might… all of that, he temporarily eschews.  He humbles himself.  He takes on the form of a servant.  Even though he had equality with God he considered it wasn’t something to be grasped, held onto, but rather he lets it go… at least for a time… steps down… to serve.  Much like when he tied the towel around his waist and started washing feet.  The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  He put aside one crown, to take up another.

But Jesus is a king, even in his suffering.  King of the Jews, the inscription above the cross – ordered by Pilate – said so.  Pilate, to whom Jesus had to explain, “my kingdom is not of this world”.  Indeed, his kingdom is not limited to this world, but far surpasses all earthly rule. 

Pilate, that representative of earthly authority, so puffed up in his own power – but Jesus isn’t so impressed.  “You would have no power over me unless it was given you from above”.  And Jesus doesn’t mean Caesar.  All earthly kings and rulers serve at the pleasure of the true king.  They are underlings and agents of the divine kingship of all.  He raises them up and brings them low at his whim.  Empires rise and fall.  But the Lord reigns forever.

But Pilate isn’t the only sinner ever to get a little big for his britches.  We have a long history, going back to the Garden, of sinners trying to push God off his throne so we can take his place.  “You will be like God” Satan tempted.  We want the scepter, the throne.  We want the crown.

And it is because of Adam’s sin, and our sin that this good earth is so twisted.  Sin twists everything good.  It takes what is created good and holy and perverts it, makes it crooked and off-kilter.  Sin doesn’t make up new things equal to the good that God creates – but it can only corrupt that which is good, break it, deform it.  Sin does not create new.  Evil isn’t an equal to the good.  It is less than the good.  A shabby facsimile.  A fun-house mirror version of the perfect.

And then there’s the curse.  The crown of thorns reminds us of this:  That even the creation itself is cursed because of our sin.  For from Adam, the ground is cursed to bring forth thorns and thistles.  Yes, that crown of thorns that they placed on Jesus’ head wouldn’t have existed if it were not for Adam’s sin, and ours.  But he bears, that, too, to the cross.  And in the cross he not only destroys sin, but all its consequences.  The thorns of the curse, the fallen creation itself will be renewed in Christ.  How much more, then, the crown of his creation, the ones made in his own image, will be restored by this second Adam.  And so the cross becomes a life-giving tree, and Christ’s body and blood, the fruits of the cross, the new “tree of life” for all who believe.

And so, in Christ, creation is restored, and you, the sinner, are restored.  You are restored to the fullness of God’s intentions for a human – righteous, holy, and alive.  In the resurrection we will see it all fully realized.  And then receive the crown of glory. 

Someone once pointed out to me that in all of Scripture, it’s only humans that wear a crown (except for the devil, in his false authority).  But angels, as powerful as they are, are never crowned.  Angels do not judge the nations, we humans do.  Angels do not participate with Christ in his reign and rule in glory, but we humans will.  This we, too, are given crowns.

One picture of this is in John’s vision written for us in the Book of Revelation.  We see a glimpse of the heavenly throne room – with God the Father enthroned, but also the Lamb who once was slain at the center of the throne.  And between God and his creation is a vast sea – calm like glass.  And around all of this are the 24 smaller thrones, with the 24 elders, who themselves wear crowns.  These are an image of the church, in her glory, represented as the entirety of the Old Testament (as in, the 12 tribes) and the New Testament (as in, the 12 apostles).  And here they are, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.

Christ is, indeed, the King of the Jews, the King of the Nations, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  You could crown him with many crowns, and it wouldn’t even be enough.  For he is Lord of all.

And he is Lord of all not only because of his power and might.  But the reason he has the name above all names, the reason he is most glorified, the reason he is exalted high above every other power by God the Father, is because of his cross, his suffering, his crown of thorns.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11)

When you look at that crown of thorns, consider the crown that Christ set aside to bear this suffering for your sins.  But hope, also, in the promise, that a crown of righteousness awaits you in his eternal courts.  For the King of Kings is your king, your servant, your savior, your redeemer, your advocate, and your friend.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Sermon - Lent 4 - Luke 15:11-31

Luke 15:11-31
Lent 4
March 31, 2019
“What Reckless Love Is This?”

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, bu
t 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.

Your sins may not be as sexy as the prodigal son’s.  They may not be quite so bombastic or spectacular.  But that doesn’t make them any less reckless or destructive.  Every sin tears away at some good gift God has given.  Either we trash his name or despise his word, or we spit on the authorities he places over us.  We claw and scratch at our neighbor, if not physically, then in our thoughts and words – venomous gossip and careless chatter that shatters reputations and drags a good name through the mud.  We’re just as covetous and greedy as anyone, and we lust for things and people and pleasures in ways that would shock people. 

Sin’s wake of destruction is not just seen when your family weeps over your casket – it leaves a trail of broken relationships, hurts, failures and regrets through the pages of your life story.  Every sinner is a mess.  Every sinner has left his loving father and wandered off to squander our good inheritance.

And we don’t act in such reckless ways because of mere ignorance.  Sinners often know exactly the destruction sin will bring, and we do it anyway!  We just don’t care.  Adam and Even knew the consequences of eating forbidden fruit.  “You will die”.  They had been told.  They knew better.  But they did it anyway.  They chose to believe the lie.

And we, too, lie to ourselves.  “This sin won’t hurt anyone”  “No one will ever know” Sometimes we even rationalize evil and try to make it seem good.  But we know.  We know better.  We just don’t care.  Sin doesn’t make logical sense.  Sin isn’t simply “not knowing any better”.  That law is inscribed not just in stone but on our hearts.  And so we are without excuse.

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.

And so the first part of repentance is contrition – sorrow over sin.  But without God’s love and forgiveness, that’s just a recipe for despair.  The second part of repentance is to turn to Christ, in faith, and live.

And so the prodigal son begins to come home.  He rehearses his speech, he plans his apology, but he doesn’t really expect full restoration.  He’s hoping against hope for a chance to earn his own way, at the very least.  But what he finds will shock him.  He 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!  Fool me one, shame on me, fool me two, shame on you, right?

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. But nothing is more important to him than his son.  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, but he does better: he provides the Lamb of God for the sacrifice.

And he prepares 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. And someday we’ll all feast in the halls of heaven in the fullness of that restoration.  Even these bodies that we wreck with sin and death will be restored.  And he will say, “My son who was dead is alive again!”

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. 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. What reckless love is this!?

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.