Monday, April 1, 2019

Extravagant Reconciliation

The prodigal’s extravagantly wasteful living was completely overshadowed by the parent’s extravagant forgiveness and love and acceptance.
 Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

“We had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, and now he's alive. He was lost, and now he has been found.” (Luke 15:32 GNT).

 We're looking at our scriptures throughout this Lenten season through the theme of being loved, not judged. There is so much when we look at it through that lens stands out about how open, and free, and complete the father's celebration, and happiness, and joy was in having this relationship restored.

The son came prepared to confess all his sins, but the father just went right past that and said, "Grab a ring and robe. Restore this son of mine to his former position." As fast as he saw the son, the forgiveness was as complete as it could ever be. Our sins are cast from us as far as the east is from the west, buried in the deepest water, never to be brought up again.[i] That's so evident in this passage, when you look at it from the standpoint of the father and his running out to greet the child and bring him fully back into the fellowship of his family.

There are two other parables right before this that have a similar theme. One is the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus finds the sheep that is lost and rejoices and celebrates because the sheep that was lost is now found. The other one is the parable of the lost coin. The woman has lost this coin and turned the house upside down looking for it. When she finds it, she rejoices because she has found that one coin that was lost. Now, in that context, this person who was lost is found and restored, and the celebration becomes tremendous. Without judgment, but only with love.

Now, there was judgment on some people's part. His brother wasn't too happy, but the father straightened him out, because the brother was wrong in the judgments he was making and the viewpoint that he was carrying. It was just wrong, and the father had to correct him. It wasn't because the brother was wrong about everything, or that he was mean as a person or anything. He was looking at it from another point of view, and he needed to have his vision adjusted a little bit. He needed to be straightened out on that one point.

As extravagant as the prodigal's spending had been, as wild and thoughtless as he had lived his life, it was all overcome completely by the extravagance of his father in forgiveness, and reconciliation, and celebration, and rejoicing, to the extent that the rest just washed out. It was just gone. There was nothing there left but love, and rejoicing, and happiness. That's what God invites us to and calls us to is that kind of love for each other and for the world around us, that our love for one another, including everyone around us when we leave this room reflects the love we have in this room, of full, and free, nonjudgmental, receiving the people around us with joy.

When our paths cross with somebody, we should recognize that God is in that crossing. God brings us into connection with each other. We need to receive each other and the people around us in holiness and in love, knowing that everybody we cross paths with is another person God loves, that Christ gave his life for, that God loves extravagantly.

We need to realize that about ourselves, too. The love that God has for us is not metered out and measured. He just pours it all out on us. Any one of us can think that at any time, and feel that, and recognize that God loves me. God loves you. God loves all the people that we meet, in such a way that he even would give his own son to be our savior. That's extravagant love. He cares about us in those ways. That's what Christ was up to on Calvary, reconciling all things to himself at whatever cost it might be.

The messages are all about welcoming. They're all about reconciliation. They're all about breaking down the barriers between us, being in love and charity with one another, with each other, and with everybody else around us. We're finding ways to not only be breaking down the barriers but building the bridges that need to be built from heart to heart and mind to mind, and even the celebration. It all comes to rejoicing, and celebrating, and being so glad.

When that connection is restored, it's an invitation to everybody to come home. Come home, and you will be welcomed and received graciously, and with joy, and with happiness. That's the kind of people that we want to be. That's the kind of people that we want to be around, the people that are glad to have us around, and we're glad to be with them, and they're glad to be with us.

Through all of this, God restores us to what God created us to be in the first place. His companions, his children, his family, and restores our sense of family, and unity, and joy that we were made to have from the beginning.

Now, the thing that blocks that the most is when we judge instead of love, when we decide that we need to make some kind of distinctions as to who we're going to love, and who we're not, and who is welcome, and who isn't. When we do that, we don't just hurt other people, but we heart ourselves, as well. We lose something of ourselves, as well. The invitation is, come home, and bring everybody with you. Bring the whole family together.

[i] Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12.

Transcript of the sermon preached extemporaneously at Briensburg UMC on March 31, 2019.

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