Smart and Not Afraid: Fear Factor

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 New Revised Standard Version)

When I was doing youth work during my first two years of seminary, I had a set of rules I gave the kids. Initially there were four. I told them if they would follow those four rules I wouldn’t have to make up any more. Yeah, they tested me and I did have to make up a few more. The new ones and three of the original four don’t matter for our purpose today but the last rule said, “God gave you a brain, please use it. If you think it might get you in trouble it probably will. Don’t do it.

Once upon a time NBC television show called Fear Factor? We never watched it much. The first time I saw it, I knew I wasn’t going to watch much. I knew they were in constant violation of Keith’s last rule. God gave you a brain please use it.

Contestants were challenged to do things that seemed more than just a little frightening. There were no snakes that first show but I knew it was coming. Too many of us have that fear.

I got no push back from Cindy. Her fear is heights. Christopher did give us some push back but that was to be a teenager giving his parents a hard time.

I wouldn’t have participated in the show. The prize money was $50,000 and that isn’t enough. Even without snakes, there were scorpions, bugs, maggots, and worms to name only a few.

I question the sanity of bee keepers allowing bees to cover his their face giving them a bee beard. I am not worried about getting stung by a bee. I have been stung before and probably will again. It isn’t pleasant But, to be stung by hundreds of bees. No.

They might had contestants dangle from a rope, attached to a helicopter 100 feet in the air if the scorpions, bugs, or snakes were not enough. After a few years they started running out of ideas and had contestants start eating and drinking things most of which were just plain disgusting. If you don’t know, trust me on this one. You DON’T want to know.

In 2017, MTV ran the show. The stunts became even more extreme, and more disgusting. In 2018 Fear Factor got cancelled for the final time. Eating bugs, carrying worms in their mouths, being covered in maggots all fall into that category of, what were you thinking, God gave you a brain, use it.

Last week we began a sermon series, “Smart and Not Afraid.” We talked about fear and how it isn’t a bad thing. Want to be tough and not afraid of anything. We talked about researchers reporting on benefits fear can bring to life and at the top of the list was, fear keeps you safe.

God gave us fear. Though my fear of snakes sits squarely in line with an irrational fear, Snakes can kill a person and they scare me. That isn’t the irrational part. Snakes on television or in a movie scaring me is. I won’t watch Snakes on a Plane or Anaconda those titles mean that movie is rated “K” for Keith stay out.

That’s where that youth group rule enters into Fear Factor. If I am irrationally afraid of snakes, that rule says, “God gave you a brain, please use it.” Don’t do something you fear, at least not without a plan it could bring harm to someone.

In Scripture, Jesus and others say, “Don’t be afraid.” At times, all of us are afraid. OK, not Jesus and probably not the angels, but the rest of us have fears. If you think your not afraid, you just haven’t found it. We are afraid of something.

Last week Paul said, to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” There are only a few times in Scripture where fear might be thought of as a good thing. In the Old Testament particularly, the words “fear God” or “Jacob feared God” are used. That fear is considered more respect and awe. But, make no mistake, there should be a little fear of God’s power there too.

Last week I said, every time I preach there are a butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I can go be a public speaker in front of a big crowd and not be bothered. My fear is not public speaking. When I stand here, there is a tinge of fear because I know I speak for God. When you speak for the creator of the universe, if there isn’t fear, go sit down. This isn’t your calling.

In today’s lesson, Paul asks, in the Keith paraphrased version, “If God is on our side, can anyone or anything stand against us?” Think about that. If God is for us can our greatest fears be against us? Paul continues “God did not keep Jesus on the bench, even knowing what awaited Jesus God gave him for us. If God would do that, if God loved us that much, is there anything God wouldn’t give us, the faithful? If God says we are acceptable , can anyone bring anything against us? No! Christ died, Christ was raised, and now Christ is at God’s right side, speaking for us. Isn’t that a kick. No matter what we have done, no matter what we have or not have, Jesus is sitting with God and talking us up. Can anything, Paul asks, separate us from the love of God in Christ? Can trouble, suffering, hard times, hunger, nakedness, danger, I am going adding fear, or even death?

 No, Paul says, we who run scared, we with irrational fears, are conquerors who win a sweeping victory by faith, by grace, because Jesus loves us.

Still in the Keith paraphrased version Paul goes on, NOTHING SEPARATES us from God’s love—not life, death, angels spirits, the present past, or future, not powers above or below, NOT EVEN OUR FEARS. Nothing, nothing in the universe can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ!

Ingrid Betancourt camaigned to be president of Colombia when she was kidnapped by guerrillas. They held her in the jungle for six years. With fear her companion, she learned to use it and grow. They carried her into the jungle. She thought they would kill her first she thought. The first night the guerrillas put an iron collar around her neck and bolted her to a tree, high enough that her toes barely touched the ground. There she stayed all night with one sadistic guard watching her. He tormented her all night, degrading her, and stirring up all her fear and emotion.

New days meant continued torment . Every night fear ruled her. She had panic attacks, tremors, and cold sweats. The more fear shown, the more her tormentor played on her worst feelings. One day she vowed to kill him. For weeks she plotted and looked for opportunities to execute the plan. One day she stopped. She said she wouldn’t allow herself to become one of them and began living in defiance. Things were difficult she wasn’t going to allow them to turn her into something she was not.

Not long after her moment they carried her further into the jungle. They built a concentration camp with twelve foot high walls topped with barbed wire and guard towers in each corner.

She overcame using many principles and lifted up three. The first was to be guided by her ideals. They wouldn’t turn her into something she wasn’t. fter arriving at the camp someone yelled for the captives to number off. When at her turn she yelled, “I am Ingrid Betancourt. I am not a number, I have a name. If you want to know I am here, call me by my name.” The guards went crazy but it was nothing compared to the hostages. They feared she would get them into trouble. But, she was living out of her ideals. She was human. The others were too. She wouldn’t give up anyone’s humanity.

Her second principle was, to build unity. The guards new their jobs and they did them well. They manipulated with fear, mistrust, whatever would tear them apart and make them feel alone and isolated. She worked repairing damage. Her first escape attempt was with Lucho. They tied themselves together. By day they hid. At night they got into water with alligators and piranha, allowing the current to carry them downstream. Lucho was diabetic. They slowed and when he became sick, and the guerrillas caught them. Because she stayed with Lucho unity grew among her and the captives. She couldn’t leave Lucho behind Her ideals wouldn’t allow it.

The third principal, develop faith. Ingrid said by this point she had a master’s degree in escape. One captive, a former police officer she called Pincho, was held the longest. He asked her to help him escape. She was surprised. He was more afraid than anyone. They first had to teach him to swim, not easy for a prisoner. One day he asked Ingrid, “Suppose I am in the jungle and wander in circles unable to find my way out. What do I do?” Sbe said, “Pincho, grab a phone. Call the man upstairs.” He said, “I don’t believe in God.” Her response was classic. “God doesn’t care, He’ll help you anyway.” A few days later, Pincho was gone. The guards said Pincho died, claiming finding his body half eaten by an anaconda. Seventeen days passed. Ingrid knew because she had counted each torturous day. On day 17, news exploded from the radio: Pincho was free and alive They heard him say, “My fellow hostages are listening. Ingrid, I did what you said. I called the man upstairs, and he sent a patrol that rescued me.”

Not long afterward, the Colombian army rescued all the hostages. It was six years for Ingrid. She learned the transformation power of the principles she learned, to live by her ideals, to foster unity, and develop faith. Ingrid always felt fear. It wasn’t about not having fear. It was about surviving. Without ideals she wouldn’t have fostered unity and without unity she wouldn’t have had the faith carrying her and others through.

I believe she also lived out my last rule. She used the brain God gave her to do all those things. To do otherwise, the person she had been wouldn’t survive. And, most importantly, she knew that NOTHING would separate her from the Love of God in Christ Jesus her Lord.

_____

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

#M.O.M.-Mother on a Mission

Matthew 15:21-28 21
21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” 24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” 25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” 26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” 28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Matthew 15:21-21, Common English Bible).

John 13:31-35 31
31 When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One[a] has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One[b] in himself and will glorify him immediately. 33 Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’ 34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:31-35, Common English Bible).

Many things about us from our mannerisms to our looks and other physical traits are ours because of who our birth parents happen to be. When we see a child, we might say the child has her mother’s eyes or his father’s hair. In Cindy’s family they talk about the “Oquinn Little Finger.” You can see the bend in pictures. It is slightly bent. 

What we inherit often goes beyond physical appearance. There are also hereditary medical conditions many people have. This is one of the primary reasons some who are adopted what or even need to locate their birth parents. 

Our oldest son Wayne has the misfortune of inheriting both his mom’s and his dad’s vision issues. Christopher was fortunate enough that he didn’t get much of either. He wears glasses now but that is mostly to help him reading. 

Cindy is VERY near-sighted. I have a disorder called hyperphoria. It is a five-dollar medical term that simply means one eye looks up and one eye looks down. For me it isn’t as pronounced as it is for many people, but it is there and it does present me with problems. Until I was in seminary and developed what my ophthalmologist called “grad school syndrome,” meaning I spent way too much time reading, I didn’t really need my glasses. 

I was often frustrated if I tried to do extensive reading and didn’t have my glasses. I would start reading on one line and when I got to the end I was reading the next line. The reading didn’t make much sense. It would also make me very sleepy. I would usually fall asleep after reading only a few pages. 

While a student at University of Houston I went to their optometry clinic. After several days of testing they found the problem. I had the condition all my life and it is 100 percent correctable with the right lenses. It made reading easier. 

About the time Wayne hit junior high, he started complaining about symptoms much like I had. He had already been wearing glasses for nearsightedness., but he was still had problems. 

As we listened to him, we knew he had hyperphoria. We made an appointment at University of Houston. They ran all the tests and found he had the same problem as me. He got the right lenses and we went on about our business. 

A year passes. Wayne’s eyes need to be examined again. Now we’re living in east Texas. Still we went to Houston to take advantage of U of H optometry clinic. They knew his eyes and we thought they would have his best interest in mind. 

The student examining Wayne said he outgrew his hyperphoria and no longer needed the correction. We questioned the student extensively and later his professor, both insisted the correction was no longer needed. 

Having little choice, we left. It was shortly before Thanksgiving. As we walked to the car Cindy said, “By Valentine’s day we will be back with Wayne showing the same symptoms.” 

Sure enough, February first, Wayne started complaining again about his eye issues. Cindy went off. If you have never seen a red- head ready to battle, if you do, get out of the way. 

She went on a campaign, determined her son wasn’t going to suffer with a correctable eye problem. She started calling people at the U of H. When she didn’t get satisfaction from one person she went to the next. By the time it was all said and done, Cindy talked with the dean of the optometry school. There were casualties in her wake. Cindy doesn’t go redhead often, but when she does, it’s not pretty. You don’t want to be in her line of fire. When we went to U of H again.

Wayne the examining wing, a space that could house 10 patients and the examining student optometrists, all to himself. The supervising professor would watch five students or more. Wayne was his only patient. Beyond that, this professor was the head of the binocular vision clinic, where I was diagnosed. After the exam, the original student and professor came in to learn from their mistake. At the end of the day Wayne left with new glasses, correcting his hyperphoria. 

Through this, Cindy became M.O.M., she coined an acronym, “Mother on a Mission.” 

During my years in ministry I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission, several times and more moms than my wife. I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission in hospitals, schools, and even twice in a courtroom. 

I feel certain if I could walk among you this morning and handed out a variety of difficult or threatening situations to you moms no doubt I would see MOM, mother on a mission. Most mothers tend to be that way. They protect their children. They will fight any fight to protect their child and the child’s needs. It makes them who they are. It’s makes our mothers special. 

Society, churches, and families we celebrate what mothers mean to us. We celebrate the love they bring to our lives. Most celebrations are also times for special memories. Most of us, remember times when our moms show us love in a special way. We remember times when our mothers turned into MOM, mother on a mission. I’m sure the moms watching this morning remember those occasions too. And, likely they would do it again. It is your child and mom’s love for her child sets you’re actions into motion. 

Today’s lesson shows MOM, Mother on a Mission. Please note, I do not fully understand this story. It has made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable with Jesus, in essence, calling the woman a dog. 

There are scholars who argue that Canaanite has the same root word as canine, so Canaanites would be “dog people.” First, that doesn’t really help. Second, Jesus likely spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. It was translated into Greek and then English. Not all words translate from language to language. There are two Greek words in the Bible for dog. One is a large cur dog. The other a small dog, a pet or puppy. Matthew had Jesus using the second word. It was more of a pet name. I still don’t understand or like it so I am not going to try to elaborate on what I don’t know. 

Some might ask, “Why would you preach a story you are uncomfortable with and don’t understand? That is a good question. This is a great story of M.O.M., mother on a mission. As the lesson begins, Jesus is in Canaanite country. The Jews didn’t like Gentiles in general and saw them as dogs. Canaanites were particularly loathed. This woman was in a hotbed of Canaanite activity when Jesus came by, she comes to him she asks healing for her daughter. At first Jesus ignores her. She was undeterred. Jesus’ non-answer wouldn’t be her answer. 

The disciples begged Jesus to send her away. She was determined to pressure Jesus, she was a total nuisance. 

Jesus gave an answer, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” So, Jesus said, “No, I won’t help you.” 

This isn’t what the Canaanite woman expected or wanted to hear. Jesus told her “no.” No less determined, she comes and kneels in front of him and begs him to help her daughter. Jesus tells her, “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 

I don’t think Jesus was being critical. He explained his mission and tested her faith to see how far she was willing to go. Still, people thought as a cut down MOM, mother on a mission, she wasn’t going quietly. “No” wasn’t her answer. She was determined to find healing for her child regardless of insult or cost. Her reply to Jesus was direct if nothing else. She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 

What a woman. A silent “no” on Jesus’ part be her answer. She wasn’t going to take a response of “it’s not my job,” and she wasn’t going to take a put down, if that is what Jesus was doing. This is a story of not only great determination; it is also a story of great faith. It is an example saying, “whether we know it or not, most all of us follow. We pray for those who are close to us, our children, our parents, our spouses, when they are faced with great problems, physical or otherwise. 

The woman’s faith was well founded. Jesus even told her, her faith healed her daughter and sent them on their way. It was a wonderful story of MOM, mother on a mission. 

When I read this story, I have no trouble seeing MOM, Mother on a Mission. Just as importantly, however, it isn’t just in these words of Scripture where I can see MOM. I have seen it in my own home. I have seen it in my mother. I see it on many of your faces and in your love. The love is great. The love is what makes you determined. It is wonderful to see that love in our mothers. We all need to have that kind of love in our lives. That kind of love makes us feel good. It makes us feel special. But, most importantly, that kind of love is a good example for us of the kind of love God asks us to share with others. 

In John’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of the importance of that too. The love of a mother for a child, while a good example, does not in show us either mother or child as a Christian. Mothers of other faiths love their children. Mothers of no faith at all love their children. But Jesus also says this, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

As people of faith loving our family is not our calling. That is the easy part even though it can be difficult and challenging at the various times. Our call is higher and for more difficult. Our call is to love one another, which includes but is not limited to our families. 

The truth of the matter is, while most of us have a special love in our mothers, it isn’t true for everyone. Some children have no mother in their life. Some children have a mother but might be better off without. For whatever reason, the mother is incapable of loving her child. Yet they need to feel love too. They need to feel they are important to someone and that they are important to God. 

It is because of these people all of us can join the MOM, mother on a mission brigade, even if we are not a MOM. This is where the new commandment comes into play. And, it is where we are people of faith entering the picture. People out in the world need to know our faith. They learn of our faith by seeing our love. 

As people of faith we are called to love, not just when and where it is easy, but to love everyone sharing our world, even the unlovable. No, it isn’t always the easy thing to do. People of faith struggle with that every day, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. God’s love needs to be seen at work in the world. 

M.O.M., mother on a mission is a great acronym. It is an even better example for us. Not everyone, however, has a mom or can be a mom. But we do all need to know about and experience and even give that special kind of love. So maybe a new acronym is called for, one that speaks to our need to be faithful in the mission God has given us, to be faithful in love. I think maybe F.O.A.M. fits the bill because it fits all of us as people of faith. May we all be, Faithful on a mission. 

My House, My Rules!

15 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: 

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 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. 13 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. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 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. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 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! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 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. 21 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.’ 22 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. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 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.’” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32, New Revised Standard Version)

               When our oldest son Wayne was living at home, we experienced the problems parents of teenagers often face, while the child is growing up. Before we parents are ready, many times before the child finished high school, often before the law says they are an adult, they decide they are grown and as such we should allow them to make their own rules and decisions. Living by mom and dad’s rules isn’t important. Because it isn’t important to them, it shouldn’t be important to us either.

On the other hand, parents recognize the need to maintain order and control. Sometimes there is another child at home who thinks what is good for older sibling is OK for them too. There are also legal issues and we are probably not interested in running afoul with the law.

            Now we have a formula almost always guaranteeing conflict. It happened in our house shortly before Wayne’s 17th birthday and continued for some time.

The first rule of the Broyles house was honesty. This wasn’t a problem with Wayne. He is honest to a fault. If you ask him, he will tell the truth. If you fear what the truth might be, never, ever ask Wayne the question.

Where we had problems involving the rules with curfew, being home on time, and if he was going to be late, calling and letting us know. None of these bothered Wayne. All were important to me. I wanted him home on time because others in the house had to work the next day. No one came into the house, except for Cindy, without canine doorbell going off, me included. When Wayne came in at three in the morning, I always knew the Sheltie we had at the time would let me know. Cindy might sleep through it, not me. Neither would the neighbors three houses down. Glory the four-legged creature at our house would let me know when all was not well in his opinion.

Being on time, I thought came from military service. It was a big deal there. As a result, I always thought late means late means late. If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t be that strict but at the time, yeah, I was.

Wayne didn’t see any importance in any of this. He always thought he should be able to keep his own schedule and make up his own rules.

I am not asking you to choose sides. It wouldn’t matter. I think you can see; conflict was inevitable. It happened regularly. Wayne was determined to make his own rules. He joined the Marines. We’ve had a few laughs about that.

It is a matter of respect. Rules are part of life. We may not like the rules we may find them hard or difficult, but we stay at someone’s house, we by their rules. If we receive a paycheck, we work by the boss’s rules. We play the game; we go by the rules. We live in or visit a country; we go by the rules.

Wayne saw himself as an adult. He felt we should respect him, allowing him to make his rules. He didn’t understand, respect works both ways. It came down to, “my house, my rules,” and the Marines.

Life has rules. We learn that as kids. We may not agree with or like the rules, we may not think them fair or see them as contradictory, but we learn to live with those rules.

“Well Keith, what about criminals? They ignore the rules.” I don’t agree. In their social structure there are rules, written or unwritten, that define the group. Also, if you ignore the rules of society long enough you pay the consequences.

I wonder if this age-old conflict between parent and child might have prompted the departure of the younger son in our lesson. As Jesus tells the story we see the son’s departure. We are not told why. That makes the story more universal, after all, the story isn’t told as a real, true story. It’s a parable, true in application, not details. Something did prompt him to leave his father’s house. As I’ve thought about this parable, I see a young man who believes he can’t live with the rules of house. The story leads us to think the father is in charge, so his rules too much for the younger son. He thought he had to be on his own.

The younger son decides to make his way in the world, make his own rules and set his schedule. He didn’t want to farm the ground or keep after the stupid sheep and cows. He wanted to be on his own and accountable to no one.

He does something that to most of us is unthinkable. I’m not sure it would have been much different then. He goes to his father and says, “Give me my part of the inheritance now.” Some commentators say was like saying, “Hey dad, I wish you were dead.” I think it’s even stronger. I think it means, “Hey dad, you are dead to me. Give me my money.” Those are some strong words.

For all the problems Wayne and I had, I give him credit, he said nothing like that. Think it, perhaps but he never said it. He was tired of “My house, My rules.” I guess the younger son was too.

Despite the son’s meaning, the father did as his son asked, and the son took off.

It wasn’t long before the son was out of money and luck. The real world crashed on top of his head. He made a monumental mistake. Thinking on his situation, he realized his father’s employees were better off than he. Maybe it was time to head home and see if he could get part of his old life back. Maybe, his father would hire him to work on the farm. Even that would be better than the life he was living. So, he headed for home.

He gets home and starts apologizing for all he did. It was a touching scene. He says, “Dad, I have sinned against you.” and I think the father hears the words many parents of prodigals here. “Dad, I should have listened to you.” The son went on, “I no longer deserve to be called your son, make me one of your hired hands.”

The father would have none of it. He turned to a servant and said, “Go get a robe and ring and give it to him. Let’s have a barbecue. My son is home.”

That is grace. Grace can overcome the deep hurts and wounds to say, “I love you and I forgive you.” It is a love that most parents have for their child. It is a picture of unconditional love. Even if that child says, “You are dead to me,” this love responds, “Yes, you may think that, but I love you anyway.”

That’s the love God has for us. These two tell us what the story is about. The son sins and the father forgives. That is the point. We sin and God forgives. The grace of the father in the story is the grace God gives us. No matter our sins, God loves us and will forgive us. God pours grace on us. We may turn away, but God waits for us and loves us.

God expects us to share forgiveness and love with each other. Whether with a member of our family, our neighbor, someone in our church, someone across town, or the other side of the world, God calls us to love and forgive. It isn’t always easy, but it is part of our call, love God and love neighbor.

Not everyone understands that. When the older son comes home, hearing the barbeque, refuses to go. His father comes to encourage him. Still he refuses. He is unable to forgive. Grace is not present for his brother.

Just as we don’t know what caused the younger brother to leave, we also don’t know if the older brother ever came around. It’s probably safe to assume life at this home returned to some semblance of normal in a fairly short period of time.

In his book Accountable Discipleship: Living in God’s Household, Steven W Manskar plays a little with the story. He asks the question, “What if Jesus had not stopped here?” He proposes an alternate ending saying, What if Jesus were to add another chapter called, ‘The Morning After?’ The chapter would begin the morning after the celebration of the younger brother’s return.

It’s five o’clock in the morning and it’s still dark outside. The younger brother is sound asleep in his bed after a long night of eating and drinking. There was a loud knock on his bedroom door. No answer. Another know, louder this time. Now he stumbled out of bed and opened the door. He is greeted by his older brother, the guy who was so angry with him that he wouldn’t join the party the night before. This time the older brother grins as he tells his little brother, “It’s after five in the morning! It’s time to get to work, dad and I have been carrying your load around here while you were off having a good time. Now it’s time you started carrying your own weight. There’s plenty of work to do. Let’s get at it! Oh, and by the way, welcome home, little brother!”

            Manskar continues: The younger brother, while happy to be home, forgot the responsibilities that go along with life in the father’s house. There was work to be done every day and everyone had a job to do. It was time for him to get to work, to pick up where he had left off when he had departed. His brother was only too happy to remind him that living in their father’s house meant living by the household rules.

My friends, we live in the father’s house. We need to live by the Father’s

rules. Amen.

In Search of the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved