Living into the Feast – Luke 15

 

Mountain sunriseHappy 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.

 

Text

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.

 

Today

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.

 

Amen.

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