Join The Table this Sunday, May 1 for a worship gathering. We will be at the Walters (contact us for directions), and will begin at 5:30pm w/ a shared meal (so bring something to share is you are able). After the meal we will continue our Easter season study, asking, “What does the resurrect life look like?” We’ll be looking at Luke 10:28-37 this week, if you want to read ahead. Invite a friend and join us!
Have you ever thought something was over, but it was not? Have you ever thought something was dead but it was actually still alive? What about SOMEONE? This happened to Mark Twain, when he heard the rumor that he had died when he was clearly still alive. Mark Twain, if you remember was the pen name of Samuel Clemens. The confusion happened in 1897 when Twains cousin, James Clemens, suffered a life-threatening illness while visiting London. For some reason, the editor of the New York Journal thought the renowned author had fallen gravely ill and sent a reporter to verify if Twain still clung to life, or when he had died. Apparently amused at the mix-up, the author wrote a note for the reporter to take home explaining that his cousin had fallen ill a few weeks earlier, but later recovered. Twain clarified the confusion with the famous quote, saying: The report of my death was GREATLY exaggerated. A more dramatic example happened to baseball great, Joe DiMaggio. In 1999, he was watching a movie in his home with a friend. Joe stopped the movie to do something at almost the exact moment that NBC news announced he had just died. The report only ran once and a retraction was issued 20 minutes later. Apparently, Joe DiMaggio was furious at first but calmed down when he started joking w/ his friend about both of them being in heaven together.
I cannot imagine what that would be like to hear a report of my own death. But on another level its not hard to imagine at all, considering that so many of those around us are not actually living into the rich full life of JC. Too many of us are living as if we are doomed. The problem we face is that we live dead, clinging to false hopes, following our shallow desires, and feeling stuck. In the face of this, the question we have been asking this Easter season is very relevant. Our Easter Question is: What does the resurrected life look like? In the 1st week of Easter we saw that the resurrected life is rooted and dependent upon the life of JC. The fate of JC determined the fate of the nations. b/c of His new life, we have new life. In the 2nd week of Easter, we saw that the resurrected life is a life where hope is realized. JC is the one we have been waiting for, the answer to all our longings. And today we will look at Luke 7:11-17, and ask the question again: What does the resurrected life look like? So grab a Bible and turn to Luke 7:11.
Scholar NT Wright tells us that the theme of resurrection is rich in Lukes gospel. He says, the resurrection of JC is not only the truth of what happened to JC, but also to all the righteous. For Luke, resurrection becomes a metaphor for what is going on in the ministry of JC. In other words, this story of a mother and her dead son is a metaphor for JC Himself. Lets see if we agree. Look at Luke 7:11-17 w/ me:
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out -the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, Dont cry.
14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and the bearers stood still. He said: Young man, I say to you, get up! 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. A great prophet has appeared among us, they said. God has come to help his people. 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
This is a beautiful scene of resurrection that is unique to Lukes gospel.
It is full of so many great images. Picture it in your minds, a large crowd follows JC. In chapter 6, we are told that the crowds are gathering. It says:
There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.
There was a great buzz surrounding JC. He was at the height of His earthly ministry. Things were happening, and people wanted to be a part of it. It was a crowd of LIFE, healing, and rescue.
So imagine the moment when this large crowd confronts another large crowd approaching them at the gate of the village Nain. What a contrast! This other large crowd was a funeral procession. They are heading out of town to bury the only son of this widowed mother. Graveyards were typically located outside the city walls for the sake of ritual cleanliness and health reasons. So this crowd is heading out of town to bury this son. As sad as this is, in light of the context of JCs day, it would have been better if it was the mother in the coffin and not her son. There is a good reason why JC calls His people to care for the widows and the orphans specifically. In this time a womans security was tied to her husband and sons. Women had next to no social standing, and were not able to earn a living in any sort of trade (building, fishing, etc.). Life insurance policies and social welfare systems were not in place. So imagine the social and survival implications of being this woman. 1st you lose the security of your husband. And now you have lost the security of your son (and thats not even mentioning the grief of losing a child). This widows only son represented her last hope, and now he is gone – and now she faced w/ no provision, being sentenced to a beggars fate. So this crowd is carrying this lost son in a coffin on its way out of town. But they are planning on burying so much more than a coffin; they will bury her security and hopes as well. So in other words, this was a crowd is a crowd of DEATH, despair, and hopelessness.
And imagine now this large crowd seeing another large crowd in front of it, w/ JC at the head. The 2 crowds meet – the crowd of JC and the funeral crowd, the crowd of life and the crowd of death. Can you see the symbolism? The Lord of life encounters the realities of death. The One who would defeat death comes face to face w/ His enemy. And what does He do? JC at the vanguard of column of life sees the widow and overflows w/ compassion. The Greek word for compassion in v. 13 is splagzitzomai. I want you to say: splagzitzomai. This means compassion, but it is a word that finds its root in the intestines of someones body. Meaning, JC had compassion for this widow and her situation –FROM THE DEPTHS OF HIS BEING. Cool, eh? JC has splagzitzomai for this widow, and stops the crowd of death from going any further. The Lord of life then walks up to the coffin and commands the dead to rise. He calls the son to get up. And the Lord of life defeats death. Death has no power over the Lord of Life. The son is raised and JC returns the living son to his mother.
What do you imagine they did next? I imagine they turned around and went back to town! The procession of death was stopped, and I bet they turned around and threw a feast unlike any that had ever been seen. Why? b/c the son we thought was dead was now alive. Hope was lost but now was found. And the people were seized w/ fear, b/c (as they saw it) a great prophet was there. God had visited. The kingdom of hope was gaining territory and defeating its enemies. And so the news of JC spread throughout the land.
Lukes account of JCs ministry was both real and also a metaphor for the greater message of JC, the gospel. It portrays the kingdom of God advancing and bringing restoration and redemption. In this manner, sometimes JC would ask the rhetorical question: What is the kingdom of God like? Based off of this passage, I can hear JC saying: The Kingdom is like a hopeless, widowed mother who suddenly discovers that the son she thought was dead is alive. And thats the good news we see here. The simple good news is that JC raises dead things to life. He raised the son to life. He raised the mothers hope and security to life. And He raises us and our circumstances to life.
And yet all too often we life as if we were dead. We put our hopes in a coffin and join the funeral procession of our hearts. We bear the heavy burden of expectations. We allow ourselves to be weighed down by what could happen. We allow our hearts to be lead by fear and despair. The worlds of Ephesians 2:1-3 seem all too familiar:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you FOLLOWED THE WAYS OF THIS WORLD and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and FOLLOWING ITS DESIRES AND THOUGHTS. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
When we allow our hearts to be lead by fear and despair we join the funeral procession. This is ultimately our destination. The product following the ways of the world ends in death. It is what we earn by our actions.
Its like the story of Billy Graham who when driving through a small southern town was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. When Billy came to court the judge asked: Guilty, or not guilty? When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied: That will be ten dollars -a dollar for every mile you went over the limit. Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. You have violated the law, he said. The fine must be paid -but I am going to pay it for you. He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! That, said Billy Graham, is how God treats repentant sinners!
What is the kingdom like? The kingdom of God is like a judge who pays your ticket, and then takes you out for steak. All too often, we put our hopes in a coffin and join the funeral procession of our hearts, and head out of town to bury them. It is what we have earned by our actions But as our funeral procession reaches the town gate, we are stopped by the procession of life, by the Lord of life. Ephesians 2 continues in v. 4, saying:
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God 9 -not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are Gods handiwork [His masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
What is the kingdom like? The kingdom is like a dead man who is pulled out of the grave, given life, and raised to a seat of honor and then described as a masterpiece.
The good news is that JC raises dead things to life. He raises you to a place of honor and declares you as His masterpiece. We may act and live like we are dead at times, but that is not reality – that is not what defines you. You are defined by your life in JC. God does not see death, and despair when He looks at you; He sees life and calls you to rise and head back into town b/c there is a feast set, and a rich, full life still to live.
The question is: What does the resurrected life look like? The resurrected life is linked w/ the salvation and rescue of our hearts, our security, and our very lives. My prayer is that we would live into our identities in JC. For we are Gods handiwork [His masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do – free of fear, and despair, and the weight of unnecessary burdens. He calls us to LIVE, so may we live into our lives w/ His hope and security.
 Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Lk 7:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Progress Magazine, December 14, 1992.
Join The Table this Sunday, April 24 for a worship gathering. We will be at the Walters (contact us for directions), and will begin at 5:30pm w/ a shared meal (so bring something to share is you are able). After the meal we will continue our Easter season study, asking, “What does the resurrect life look like?” We’ll be looking at Luke 7:11-17 this week, if you want to read ahead. Invite a friend and join us!
Join The Table this Saturday, April 16th for a our April Blessing. At 10am we will meet at Samish School (2113 Harris Ave.) w/ any yard tools you have. We will work around the school as well as at a senior neighbor’s home, doing general yard work and clean up (weeding, racking, windows cleaning, etc.).
Then around noon we will head over to the Walters’ for a potluck BBQ. Bring your own meat to grill and a side/salad/dessert to share. We will not be bathing on Sunday, April 17. Our next worship gathering will be April 24 at the Walters.
Hope to see you soon!
-Sunday, April 3 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Sunday, April 10 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Saturday, April 16 – 10am Blessing (Serving Samish School and neighbor, followed by BBQ at Walters at noon)
-Sunday, April 17 – No Gathering
-Sunday, April 24 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Sunday, May 1 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Sunday, May 8 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Sunday, May 15 – Blessing (Serving/Cooking at the South Side Community Meal)
-Sunday, May 22 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Sunday, May 29 – Ski to Sea/Memorial Day Party (Details TBA)
-Sunday, June 5 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Sunday, June 12 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Weekend of June 18/19 Blessing (TBA)
-Sunday, June 19 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
-Sunday, June 26 – 5:30pm Worship (Walters’ House – contact us for location details)
Join The Table this Sunday, April 10 for a worship gathering. We will be at the Walters (contact us for directions), and will begin at 5:30pm w/ a shared meal (so bring something to share is you are able). After the meal we will begin our Easter season study, asking, “What does the resurrected life look like?” We’ll be looking at Luke 2:41-52 this week, if you want to read ahead. Invite a friend and join us!
How many of you remember: Choose Your Own Adventure books? The way these books are set up is that you enter the particular story as the main character, and at different moments you choose b/t 2-3 options as to where the plot will go. So there ends up being 10 or more possible endings to the same story. For example, this week I checked out: Prisoner of the Ant People. I was drawn to this book b/c I wanted to think through my options if I was ever in such a situation. In this story on page 22 you are trapped by a purple laser beam, and discover that your friend and colleague is actually the leader of the Ant people, who is planning on taking over the universe. This is devastating news to you. But you have choices, and it is up to you to determine your fate. So, after this awful discovery of betrayal will you: 1) Plead w/ the Ant to let you COOPERATE w/ the ant people, or 2), will you use your powers of mental concentration to RESIST the ant and his purple laser beam? Talk about a rock and a hard place.
These Choose Your Own Adventure books are pretty fun. They also serve as a metaphor for how many of us perceive the world. We believe that WE determine our fate. It is up to US to determine our future reality. And in many ways this is true. If I eat nothing but Twinkies and caramels and never brush my teeth, I will be less healthy than I am now and w/ more cavities. This also goes along w/ our self-perception as Americans. As Americans, we believe we can each forge new ground and conquer a new life for ourselves. This rugged individualism spills into our theology. Our holiness is up to US. Our status w/ God is determined by OUR actions. We believe our salvation is private, and it is all up to us. As Reformed folk we may proclaim the sovereignty of God, but we often live like we are the ones who determine our fate.
We are now in the middle of the Season of Easter. This is a 6-week season in between the season of Lent and the season of Pentecost. The season of Easter begins w/ Easter Sunday and logically focuses on the Resurrection. So the question I would like to ask this season is: What does the resurrected life look like? And to help us I want to continue looking at the Gospel of Luke.
Today we will look at Luke 2:22-35. So grab a Bible and turn to Luke 2:22. If you look closely, you will see that throughout Lukes gospel the theme of resurrection is strong. All the gospels report occasions when Jesus actually raised to life someone who has very recently died, not only as a dramatic instance of healing power but also as a signpost towards what God will do for Jesus. Luke intended to weave the resurrection throughout his gospel, and this is seen even when JC was still a baby. So lets look at Luke 2:22-35. And as we do so, ask yourself what this has to do w/ the resurrection.
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord: Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: a pair of doves or two young pigeons.
In these verses, the baby JC is brought to Jerusalem, so mom might be made pure after giving birth, and so that JC could be circumcised. In v. 22, it says the family came to make offerings required by the law. The context Luke speaks of is in Leviticus 12, which says:
6 When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. 7 He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl.
8 But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.
To our modern eyes this may feel weird and isolating, but the intention of these requirements offer 2 things. First, they allow for the child to celebrated and introduced into the community. Circumcision was a rite of introduction into the Jewish community. Second, for the mom, these requirements allow time for the mother to heal after birth. As v. 23 says, they are dedicating their 1st born child to God, as required by Exodus 12. This requirement is placed in the Passover account as moment of gratitude after God saved the Israelites from death in Egypt. v. 24 of Luke tells us the couple offered the required sacrifice, but subtly shows us that this couple was poor, not being able to afford a lamb for sacrifice.
For us these verses are important b/c they show us that JC was raised in a traditional and faithful Jewish home. He was a member of the community, being initiated into the national identity. They were not “out-there on their own,” but rooted Jewish people.
Continuing in Luke 2, in v. 25: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lords Messiah.” Simeon is an interesting man in our passage. He was a devout man of God, filled w/ the HS during a time before the outpouring of the HS. He was an observant man, who saw the state of the world and LONGED for redemption. This is why it says he waited for Gods consolation. Meaning, as the NLT says, He was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. He longed for things to made right. And he must have lived w/ great anticipation and forced patience, b/c the HS told Him He would see the messiah. So he was a man of waiting, a man who was constantly looking.
Looking at Luke 2:27, it says Simeon was:
27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.
Filled w/ the HS, Simeon is prompted that day to go to the temple. And seeing JC, the day Simeon has literally been waiting for his whole life comes. He holds JC and praised God, saying: I have seen Your salvation for all people. He says: You can take me home now b/c I have seen the messiah who will not just rescue Israel, but everyone. This is significant b/c even from birth, JC was seen as the savior of all the nations. He was rooted in His Jewish context and community, but He was savior to all people.
So you can see why in Luke 2:33 it says: “The childs father and mother marveled at what was said about him.” This was an incredible statement, that their son was the messiah. Continuing, “34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph, and prophesied over JC.
So what does this have to do w/ the resurrection? Simeon is obviously speaking about how JC is messiah, but what does this have to do w/ the resurrection? As the New Testament historian NT Wright says: This is a miniature judgment scene. We do not think about this often, but resurrection is in close relationship to what many call “the end days.” [Really it is not the end of days, but the days of fulfillment, when all will be made right and evil will be banished forever. But this is beside the point.] Simeon says that JC is appointed for the fall and rise of many. JC will be opposed, so that thoughts may be revealed. This little prophecy of Simeon points to what will happen on the day of fulfillment or judgment. The dead will rise, and wrongs will be revealed and made right. Simeon says peoples inner thoughts will be brought to light. So when we rise and stand before the throne of grace, our revealed thoughts will be laid bare before the living One. This is where resurrection and the day of fulfillment happen together. Luke, knowing where his narrative will end, wants it to be seen that Jesus death and resurrection will not occur privately, but that His fate will determine the fate of Israel itself. JCs life, work, death, and resurrection all announce that God is bringing about fulfillment, that the dead things are being replaced w/ life. The fate of JC determines the fate of Israel and all people. His work is culminated on that day of fulfillment, when all thoughts will be revealed, and all will see the power and goodness of God.
The good news we see in this passage is that even from the beginning it was known that JC is the salvation of the nations. JC is messiah, and His life would determine Israels fate. The fate of Israel and the world is determined by the life of JC.
But, this is not something we believe and live into. In contrast to this truth, we live as if we determine our fate. How can our futures not be in our hands, we are Americans? We control what will happen to us. And we are not responsible for anyone but us. Salvation is private, and up to us. Really what this comes down to is our desire to be in control. We do not like the idea that things can be out of our control. We carefully setup our lives up so they can be the way we want them to be – whether it is financial planning, or scheduling our days, weeks, and months, so we can get it all in (or by purposely not doing any scheduling so we can keep our lives feeling more spontaneous). Either way, we cling to the shiny token called “control,” and do not want to let it go.
This reminded me of the story of Shaka Zulu. Shaka was a powerful leader in the mid 1800s of the Zulu nation in South Africa. Apparently the British sent a military delegation to Shaka in hopes that arrangements would be made to allow the Brits and Zulus to live peacefully. A man named Captain Fairwell led a particular delegation to Shaka. It was not the 1st one to be sent; Shaka was familiar with the various deals England had offered previously. The story goes that Shaka said: Tell me Captain, How do you catch a monkey? Captain Fairwell responded: A gourd is used that has a narrow neck. The top is cut off and something is put inside, a piece of fruit or something shiny. He reaches in and grabs the bait. He then is trapped because he cannot withdraw his fist. Shaka replied: Once the monkey realizes he is trapped, why does he not let go of the bait? Because his greed makes him blind, the Captain answered. And what is he greedy for, Shaka asked. I suppose for something he cannot have, was the answer. After a long pause, Shaka sarcastically said: And what new bait have you, Captain, brought for this monkey? I yearn for something shiny.
For all of us we yearn for the shiny token called control. But like the monkey who will not let go of its prize, when we cling to control we too are trapped, trapped to carry the burden of our wellbeing and eternal fate. The belief that we determine our fate, and have the ability to live a full rich life on our own efforts, is a trap that weighs us down. Someone once said the reason for all stress is that we are not living in relationship to God as we could. This feels overly simplistic to me, but I believe it gets at what we struggle w/. We often live like our salvation is private, and determined by our actions, that it is all up to us. But the good news of Gods grace is that JC is the salvation of the nations, that His actions determine our fate. It is b/c of His work on the cross, and His resurrection, that allows us to live, b/c our identity is wrapped up in HIS identity as the holy One. The difference this makes is that we can let it go, and look to Him. Knowing our identity is in Him frees us up to live. JC said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light. This is what living a resurrected life is all about. Its about living free of the anxiety that you have to get it all right, that you have to be perfect. And to answer our question: What is the resurrected life? In this passage we see that the resurrected life is determined and rooted in the life of JC. We are secure in Him, b/c our identity is wrapped up in Him, and therefore we are alive and free.
So my prayer is that you will be confronted this week w/ your control issues, and that you will release the shiny token of control and find freedom. That you would rest in the peace of the resurrection of JC.
 The Resurrection of the Son of God. NT Wright, p. 438.
 The Resurrection of the Son of God. NT Wright, p. 436
Join The Table this Sunday, April 3 for a worship gathering. We will be at the Walters (contact us for directions), and will begin at 5:30pm w/ a shared meal (so bring something to share is you are able). After the meal we will begin our Easter season study, asking, “What does the resurrect life look like?” We’ll be looking at Luke 2:22-35 this week, if you want to read ahead. Invite a friend and join us!
Happy Easter! This is a day to celebrate. We celebrate today b/c our Lord was dead and is now alive. Comedian Jim Gaffagen pokes fun at us and asked the question: How shall we celebrate the day JC rose from the dead? He says: How about Eggs? What does that have to do w/ JC? He says: Okay, We lets hide them. Sorry, I am not following your logic. So he says: Dont worry, they come from a bunny.
This is a day to celebrate. Resurrection Sunday is the highest holiday on the church calendar. We celebrate that our messiah conquered death and is now alive, and now invites us to live a rich full life into eternality. JC says in John 10:10: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Or as the KJV says: I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Or as the Message says: I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. Celebrating the resurrection of JC is to celebrate the abundant life.
But this is sometimes a tough pill to swallow b/c we live w/ certain realities, dont we? This year we, as a family, have seen my mom begin a battle w/ lung cancer. It is sure hard to feel like we are living a life I never dreamed of in the midst of cancer. Or more recently, many of us cannot help but feel fearful, as we look at the results of primaries and caucuses for the presidency. The real problem we face is that life does not feel abundant. Can you relate? Maybe it is easier to simply eat a delicious Cadberry Egg, than consider the disconnect b/t our lives and the resurrection.
I think JC’s parable of the 2 sons offers a good dialog for this. Luke 15:11 says:
11 Jesus told them this story: A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father: I want my share of your estate now before you die. So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself: At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.
20 So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him: Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.
22 But his father said to the servants: Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found. So the party began.
25 Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 Your brother is back, he was told, and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.
28 The older brother was angry and would not go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied: All these years I have slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!
31 His father said to him: Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!
There is a lot going on in this familiar parable, that many of us have heard. This Parable have been called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which occupies the first half of the passage. In that 1st half, life does not feel abundant, so the younger son seeks fulfillment elsewhere. Along the way the son losses it all, realizes where he went wrong, repents and returns home. Son knows deep down the father will not deny him, and that it is time to come home. And upon his return the father rejoices, saying: this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found. So the party begins. We do well to focus on the 1st half of this parable, but if we leave it there, we miss the whole point of the parable.
The real thrust of this parable is the statement in v. 26, when the older brother says: What is the meaning of this outrageous party? You see, the context of the parable comes in vs. 1-2, when the Pharisees are outraged and question JC. It says: Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people -even eating with them! They are the ones asking: What is the meaning of this outrageous party? In direct response to the Pharisees outrage at JC offers them the parable of the Lost son. In vs. 25-32, the Father deals w/ sober son. The older son is resentful b/c his sinful brother has returned and his father is not rebuking him, but has instead killed the fatted calf and is throwing the party. The father repeats himself in v. 32 and says: We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found! This repetition is important b/c this is the thrust of the parable. This is the thrust of the entire gospel. JC is celebrating w/ sinners b/c the hope of Israel has arrived. This realized hope is the climax of the gospel. The hope of the gospel is the resurrection. The one we thought was dead is alive, and now we celebrate. The Good news of Easter is that JC is alive. Easter is the highest holiday on the church calendar b/c of the resurrection.
And yet, Life does not feel abundant. We might have life, but abundant life? Sometimes it sure does not feel that way, and we feel it is up to us to make things right and find fulfillment.
The good news is that JC IS alive, the one we thought was dead, is now alive. This means there is more that happens after we die than just returning to the earth. There is a grand feast where all is made right, and we are free, where the fatted calf will be on the BBQ, unlike any celebration ever known. But it also means that there is so much more for us now. The good news is that JC is alive, and the difference this makes today is that JC gives us abundant life. This is what Easter is all about. JC said: My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
So if this is true, we are confronted w/ 2 questions: How DO we live? And how are we INVITED to live? This is the question that Easter and the season of Easter asks of us. As a church we are now entering the 6 week season of Easter. So how shall we celebrate Easter properly? We do the season of Lent well. We began 40 days ago w/ Ash Wednesday services and reflections. During Lent we gave up booze, or chocolate, or watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Last week we celebrated Palm Sunday w/ parades of cut branches. Then we entered Holy Week, and walked the path of JC, w/ Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services. For 40 days the church goes inward and reflects, as we should. Then after these 40 days we celebrate the resurrection for ONE morning. We then have ham in the afternoon, and pastors take the next week off. We return to normal life. You can see why Jim Gaffagen pokes fun at us. How shall we celebrate the day JC rose from the dead? How about Eggs?
I appreciate NT Wrights passion, when he said: if Easter is climax of our church calendar, if the resurrection is the climax of the good news we believe, we would do well to celebrate -to have champagne w/ breakfast, to engage in weekly and daily tasks that bless our neighbors, to move the furniture aside and have a dance party, to renew our marriage vows and baptismal vows, to invite the neighbors over for an extravagant feast, to kill the fatted calf and celebrate, to celebrate so much that our sober minded neighbors would ask: What is the meaning of this outrageous party? And we would declare that the One we thought was dead is alive. The One we thought was lost is found, so we just HAD to celebrate! Easter invites us to quit living like we are isolated in a foreign land, and to live into the rich, full life. It invites us to move the furniture aside in our hearts so we can dance, so we might live w/ greater love, and joy, and peace, and all the other fruits of the HS. Easter is about finding what is means to live the abundant life.
So what might this look like in the face of the things that challenge us? For those of us in fear of the political climate of our day, Easter means looking fear in the face and saying: Even if some jerk in is the White House, the God of hope is STILL on the throne. For my mom and all those facing cancer, Easter means looking death in the face and saying: YOU HAVE BEEN DEFEATED, and I have my party clothes on, and I am hungry for the feast.
If we are resurrection people, How then shall we live? We are invited to live into the feast. When life does not feel abundant, and we are walking through a challenging season, in the face of it all we declare that JC is alive. Our God of hope is STILL on the throne, and we have my party clothes on, and we are hungry for the feast.
So may we not just live, but may we live into the feast. May you live into the rich, full live given to you. May you look at the sirens before you and declare: NO MORE, NOT TODAY, b/c the One we thought was dead is alive, and is going before us into the rich full life.