Christ Church Eureka California Fourth Sunday of Lent Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 March 14, 2010 The

Rev. Ron W. Griffin “Cool Dud”

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true
bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees
and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So Jesus told them this parable: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."' So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am

no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate. "Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"

Good Morning! Today’s gospel scripture is commonly known as the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is among the best-known and most fascinating stories in literature not just the New Testament of the Bible, with songs, books, paintings, movies retelling this story down through the ages. One morning in godly play the teacher was telling the story of the Prodigal Son, emphasizing the resentment the older brother expressed at his little brother. When the teacher finished telling the story, she asked the class, “Now who was really sad that the prodigal son had come home?” After a period of silence, one little boy raised his hand and said, “I think it was the fatted calf.” So, whether you enter the story today with the fatted calf, the resentful older child, the rebellious child, the sibling rivalries or the dysfunctional family, who couldn’t sit down to dinner together, this parable expresses many levels of truth to connect with. The scripture begins with a complaint, probably a whole sermon on that idea alone, but for another time. While this may seem to be a different story from what follows with the man with two sons, it is not. "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them," as the opening voices define themselves and define Jesus and define others. And this parable is Jesus reply. Although the world remembers the brothers,(and the fatted calf) Jesus wants us to remember the father, who cannot get his family to sit down at the same table. Both sons believe the illusion that they can be in relationship with their father without being related to each other.

As the parable begins, if there was a breaking point where a father was pushed too far, where most of us would say, that’s enough; I’m through, no more, tough love time certainly his youngest son had found it. He crossed every line in the sand asking for his inheritance early which tells us he was eliminating his father from his life, wishing his father was dead. The son thought he knew what was best for him. That all the answers he needed, he had. That’s an honest way to describe the dishonesty of sin. Sin ….is what ever we do that separates us from God’s love, when ever we think we know what’s best for us, leaving God somewhere in the background of our lives, chances are we will get caught up in sin. The indication in the parable was the son was gone for a long time, long enough to go through a whole lot of money and a famine. That’s important, because when we have reached the end, when we are ready to give up and in God is just getting started. There wasn’t a time limit. But the father doesn’t greet him with the words: Well, I never thought I would see you again. The parable is reminding us, “No matter what you have done; you have not stretched beyond the limits of God’s love.” Many of us have a favorite line or part in this parable, mine is, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. The father was watching and hoping. We get the strong sense that the father never stopped looking down the road for his son. Isn’t that a comfort, isn’t that assuring, No one can stay away stay gone so long that God stops watching and waiting for you. In Paul’s letter he tells us today that reconciliation, restoration and patience are important descriptors of God’s love. The father ran and embraced his son he didn’t wait for his son to approach him. I’m sure this particular detail must have upset the complainers who were hearing this story. How could Jesus be so shameless in portraying God running and eagerly throwing his arms around those other people those losers in society? But as the parable continues, the focus is not on the son’s failure or the son’s sins, the focus is on the son. I don’t know about you but I am greatly encouraged and comforted to be reminded, God’s focus is on us not on our past. We just found out who the Oscars went to for this years excellence in film, and this would be a great ending of this parable, for movie of the year. Troubled son, leaves home, troubled parent never gives up. But this isn’t the end we have one act left in the three part play. There’s trouble in the back forty. When the older brother begins to complain about the seemingly free ride that his young brother is getting he is angry, and he lets dad know about it. This parable is about hanging out with the wrong people. It is about throwing parties for losers and asking winners to foot the bill. It is about giving up the idea that we can love God and despise each other. The only way to work out our relationship with God is to work out our relationship with each other. 1


Have you ever noticed, Joy is not the response when someone hurt us? If we decide to be spiritual about it we may try our best to act civilized, But joy? No. That is what makes the father’s love so amazing. Once again, the spot light goes to the father as the fathers love goes out to his son, once again the father shows delight, this time to his eldest son. Once again the father emphasizes their connection without placing one son into a category. Not being compared or categorized seems to be a point almost impossible for us to grasp, because we live in a world which categorizes and compares us constantly. We are compared as more intelligent, or less intelligent, more beautiful or less beautiful, more successful or less successful, and more spiritual or less spiritual, more worthy or less worthy. Mike Cope, in his recent book One Holy Hunger, tells of going to the school of his second-grade son's open house. Every child was asked to write three sentences that described who they were and what they liked. He found his son's. It read: "I am in second grade. I like to play baseball. I am a cool dude. Cope thought that phrase 'I am a cool dude' was a curious one until he noticed that every boy in the class ended the assignment with that phrase. Except some of these second-grade boys had made a spelling error and written: 'I am a cool dud.' " Jesus told these parable to remind us, God loves "cool dudes" and "cool duds." I want you to go back and read all three parables. What you will notice is all three use the same ending. “Rejoice with me, for I have found the sheep that was lost.” “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which was lost.” “Rejoice because your brother was lost and is found.” Whether you are a cool dude or cool dud, God is waiting, even though you may still be a long way off, and watching for your return. Amen

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