What a privilege. And what a task.
It was the last week of the Easter Holidays. Kids Church wasn't on. This meant there were over 120 extra bodies in the auditorium for the Bible talk. It also meant the congregation was a tad more lively; more than a tad less attentive; and then there were the kids to think of. I was under clear instructions to keep it below 20 minutes... but this was more to do with my own prediliction for lengthy meanderings than any zeal for control by my boss, Steve.
I worked hard on my preparation - probably harder than I ever had on a talk (It was college holidays too), and on the day I preached my guts out. I'd worked methodically through the greek and read through the bigger picture of Luke's story... and I'd deliberately NOT read Keller's book on the Prodigal God. I wanted to speak with my own convictions. From start to finish I knew people were listening.... you can see everything from up front.... but deep down I felt the passage deserved so much more than what I did with it.
It was the words of The Father to the older son that cut me up in my prep. "Everything I have is yours, my son" and yet still I fight the self-righteoussness inside. What a hypocrite.
But since then it's the words of The Father about his younger son that keep working me over: "This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!" A merciful father that takes back a squandering, blundering fool - that's what I need. What an amazing God the Christian has: A Father who sends Jesus to seek and save the lost.
Fast forward to today, and I worked my guts out playing Mum for Sarah who was pretty crook again.... and tonight I slowed down and checked out this piece a friend had posted:
Talk about ambush. How is a grown man supposed to hold it together when he's again reminded of God's reckless love?
Here are the lyrics:
You held out Your arms, I walked away
Insolent I spurned Your face
Squandering the gifts You gave to me
Holding close forbidden things
Destitute a rebel still, a fool in all my pride
The world I once enjoyed is death to me
No joy, no hope, no life
Where now are the friends, that I had bought
Gone with every penny lost
What hope could there be for such as I
Sold out to a world of lies
Oh, to see Your face again, it seems so distant now
Could it be that You would take me back
A servant in Your house
You held out Your arms, I see them still
You never left, You never will
Running to embrace me, now I know
Your cords of love will always hold
Mercy’s robe, a ring of grace
Such favor undeserved
You sing over me and celebrate
The rebel now Your child
Anyway, tonight I was thinking.... wouldn't it have been great for this to be shown as a setup piece early in the service... after Tim's intro about the Lost Sheep and Joe's kids talk on The Lost Coin... with Sarah singing this song LIVE? And with an extended application where I don't just finish the talk suddenly but park for a while and let Jesus' words keep cutting us up inside?
A Father who loves his un-righteous son who comes to his senses... and the same Father that waits patiently for his self-righteous son to do the same.