Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Prodigal Son and "Substitute Preacher Boys"

While Scott is on sabbatical, NorthStar Church has been blessed with "substitute preacher boys." Today, we heard from Buddy Sexton.  I'm ashamed to admit that when I know Scott isn't going to be preaching, I'm sooo tempted to rationalize not going to church.  Then I remind myself that Church should not be about me.  Church is all about Him.  I was distracted by the Nadal vs Federer French Open Final, but somehow managed to turn the TV off and take a shower in time to make it to the 11:00 service.  I didn't see anyone I knew when I got to church so I sat alone, but it turned out to be a good thing because God had something to teach me that I may have missed had I been distracted by familiar faces around me.

Like most effective speakers, Buddy opened his message with something funny.  He shared a story about an older lady who had recently learned to text message.  She looked at texting as another way to minister to people and generously communicated with others in an effort to encourage them.  Unfortunately, she misunderstood the acronym "LOL" to mean "Lots of Love" when it actually means "Laughing Out Loud."  Just imagine the responses she received when she sent "Lots of Love" to folks who missed church or who had recently lost a loved one.  I couldn't help thinking of Kris Jones and her sweet, optimistic outlook on life!  "I'm not a loser - I'm a WINNER!"
Buddy also made the comment that sometimes fish don't know they're wet, so he wanted to share with the NorthStar congregation that God is at work in our church.  Great and miraculous things are happening here.  As he prayed for us, he asked God to "awaken sleepy hearts," and I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit that I needed to avoid the Snooze button today in church, so I paid attention...and took notes!

The passage from which Buddy shared came from Luke 15.  He started here:
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 

Then he shared that there were two main groups of people following Jesus.  The first group was described as "tax collectors and sinners" and the others were the "Pharisees."  The main text of the sermon focused on the familiar story of the Prodigal (wasteful) Son.
Here's the text:
 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.    13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
   17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
   “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
   21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
   22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
   25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
   28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
   31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

The highlights of the message for me were as follows:
  • Sinners want to come to Jesus, but they do not want to come to our churches.  Big Questions:  Why?  What can we do about it?
  • "Welcome" in the context of this story means to "excitedly anticipate something as Simeon anticipated the birth of Jesus.
  • If my personal identity is wrapped up in what I do or what I have, then God will sometimes take those idols away from me in order to break me and sanctify me. I know this to be true in that the past two years at Sarah Moore Greene have humbled me more than I ever would have believed I needed to be humbled...but I did.  Buddy gave examples:  Just look at how short her skirt is!  That is SO inappropriate!  or Can you believe they spend their money on flashy things like that?!  We've got money too, but we don't spend it like THAT!  Did you see how much make-up she had on?!  etc., etc.  He then drew the parallel between the way we judge people just like the Pharisees did.  If we're all swimming from San Francisco to Hawaii and someone is 2 meters behind me, I'm NOT ahead of him!  We're BOTH going to drown before we get there! 
  • When Jesus shared the story of the two sons and their loving father, He was sharing a parable of sinners, Pharasees and our loving Father, Jesus Christ.  The heart of the father is full of compassion.  The wayward son's heart is full of sin.  The faithful son's heart had changed from a focus on a sweet, loving relationship with his father, to a strict set of rules to be followed.  
  • The older son's job was not to reap his father's harvest. (entitlements?  God owes me because I..., I DESERVE this..., etc.)  The older son's job was instead to reproduce his father's heart.  BIG IDEA - It's not my job to receive heavenly treasures/blessings; it IS my job to reproduce the heart of Jesus in my life.
  • Buddy shared some of his personal stories about his father.  Apparently, it was a rowdy guy who liked to drink, gamble, and hang out with those who enjoyed the same.  But one day his father won "a huge wad" of money through gambling and took it to a single mother who had recently lost her home.  Then Buddy shared something that was so profound to me.  He said, "I can stand up here and be a seminary graduate, "Mr. Substitute Preacher Boy," but I've never given a huge wad of cash to someone I didn't know just because they needed it!"  
  • Verse 20:  When the son was far away, the father ran to him.  The father wanted everyone to know that when he brought him home (in HIS robe, wearing HIS ring) that the son BELONGS to the father.  --Oh how true this is of our Father's love for us!  
  • The enemy constantly reminds us of our failures, our "foreign countries" where we go to do bad things we know we shouldn't do, our shortcomings, and our disappointments BUT Jesus knows all of it and says we are HIS!
  • Verse 31:  EVERYTHING I have is yours.
  • A little taste of heaven is to be with the One who ALWAYS knows me most, and ALWAYS loves me most.
  • What brings God joy?  Getting back his child.  To the "Pharisees/us" He asks, "Why didn't you go get him?"
  • My job is to replicate the heart of my Father.

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