We have before us today
a remarkable text
preachers consider a privilege to meditate upon.
There are so many entry points;
beautiful images and themes;
that one could preach a sermon on this passage
nearly every week of the year
and still not exhaust the truth within.
It is Lent; the fourth week.
We began this season with the imposition of ashes;
a ritual that suggests and anticipates in a vivid way
the theme of the season: repentance.
So, it seemed appropriate that the sermon today
look at this familiar parable from the perspective of
the theme of the season
Take out your Bibles
The parable is told is some 21 verses,
we are going to focus our attention on just those verses that speak to the action of the prodigal as he repents.
We are going to examine
How does repentance happen? What does it look like?
Begin by asking:
1. At what verse would you say his repentance began?
We are at verse 14 where it says: he began to be in need.
This is the beginning of repentance:
the experience of need;
of want before God.
it is the realization that we ourselves cannot satisfy all our earthly needs and desires
It is the awakening to the fact that we are dependent upon the creator for more than our existence, but also for our sustenance and very survival.
In fact, I think it is fair to say that the experience of want or need before God is essential to a repentant heart.
1b. His need increases and becomes more and more real as he attempts to do something about it. Verse 17: I perish here with hunger.
How does repentance happen: it begins with a heart in need
2. Then he makes a plan. This is the next stage of repentance.
He experiences need/want before God; acknowledges it and then makes a plan/3
a. there is the resolve: verse 18: I will arise
arise is an interesting choice of words. . . i
carries with it connotations of death and resurrection
not accident because the entire parable is a narrative of life and death; death and resurrection
b. the next step in the plan: I will go to my Father
When my girls were little they had t-shirts that read:
when the going gets tough, the tough go to grandma . . .
The prodigal son (who is every son and daughter; every child of God)
might have t-shirts that read: when the going gets tough, the tough go to Jesus
So the prodigal son turns to the Father just as we turn to God
and that is all that is ever required of us . . . a turning to God . . .
we call that repentance.
Quite honestly, we are capable of nothing more than that . . .
a lifting of the eye to the heavens from where our help comes;
beyond that we are incapable.
c.. Then, the last part of the plan for repentance: he says: I will say
here is the confession;
the acknowledgement of the brokenness;
the naming of the separation;
the declaration of the reality of our situation before God
First, the need; then the plan in three parts: I will arise, go, say . . .
3. And then he executes his plan.
But this is where it gets interesting.
the only part of it that he actually implements is the arising and going
because before he speaks,
who is waiting, watching, seeking, searching for the one who has been lost, who was dead,
that father sees him first and COMES to him . . .
that's always the way it is with God.
He acts first and everything we do is in response to that act of pure grace and undeniable love.
That's the way it always is with God . . .
we think we are going to him and
before we speak he is already embracing us; hugging and kissing and holding us tightly.
We have been received before we have given ourselves over.
AND EVERY TIME IT IS SUCH A WONDERFUL SURPRISE.
A pilot was telling me about flying the plan on auto pilot and knowing, really knowing that even when you can't see the runway through the fog or clouds that there is the wonderful moment every time it appears!
It's like that with God. We bring ourselves before him; ready to confess; ready to turn ourselves over to him; to turn ourselves around for him, and his response every time without fail is to come to us first. He always has to be first. Always.
What does it look like? A waiting father. A loving God.