March 10, 2013 – Lent 4, Standing on the Porch
To listen to this sermon, click here: Standing on the Porch
The written text for this sermon is unavailable. Below, you can read the outline the sermon was preached from.
Tuesday, our son Gabe arrived home for a visit from North Carolina. He flew from Raleigh into Syracuse and took the 3-hour bus ride north, which arrives in Potsdam about 8:30 in the evening. Carroll and Victoria drove into Potsdam to meet the bus. I ran home from my meeting as fast as I could, and the bus ended up being a little late, so it turned out that I got home about a half hour before they did. It was a long half- hour because I was so excited to see Gabe – we hadn’t seen him since last summer. Every noise I heard I thought it might be them. Every time a car drove past I rushed to the window to see if it was going to pull into the driveway. And just as soon as I saw that it was our car, I was out on the snowy porch steps in my socks to welcome Gabe, to give him a hug finally after all these months. It was wonderful.
That’s the feeling of the parable we read today. The father in the story is waiting, watching for his son. In the story his son has been gone for a long time, but the father’s eye is always on the road, watching each figure as it comes up the road to see if he recognizes that certain way of walking that he remembers so well. He scans every crowd that comes along for that familiar shade of hair, listens to the noise of mingled conversations for the one beloved voice among all others he hopes to hear. He never gives up waiting and watching, because when the son finally comes home, bowed down with disgrace and worn out from shame, the father is right there on the porch steps, with his arms wide open, ready to welcome his son home with joy.
Parable v. story – simple but deep, not a single point or punchline
Jews – older brother
Forgotten to be thankful – taking what we have for granted
Resentful of God’s grace
Us – younger brother – always
Squandering what we have been given or have clamored to get
Going off on our own way, being our own boss
Failing, getting lost
Coming home for mercy
As we continue to live with Jesus as our teacher, we can go deeper into the story –
The brothers are heirs of the estate as we are heirs of the Father’s estate (kingdom)
So we inherit the work of the estate as the sons would
Jesus’ work was to be the image of the Father
John 14:10-12I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
Colossians 1:15-20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[a] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And so we are heirs of the estate we carry on the Father’s work of making peace with his creation – ambassadors of reconciliation
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[b] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.
And this story shows us how to do that – not by standing on a soapbox and proclaiming judgment, and not by keeping ourselves pure and distant from “sinful people”
Luke 15:1-2 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus and the unsavory – standing on the porch, ready to run and greet as soon as they draw near. We don’t do the Father’s work by judging; we do it by watching all the time, ready to receive anyone who draws near, seeing with the Father’s eyes, who always hopes, always watches for people to return to him, and runs out to embrace them with open arms.
We are heirs of the Father’s estate, called to carry on his work – We are his ambassadors of reconciliation, we are called to stand on the porch and welcome his children home