Monday, November 01, 2004

A Reformation Sunday Sermon: Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love

This Sunday, I preached on the prodigal son, and all I know is I was blessed. It was a Reformation Sunday sermon. I title the sermon was "Passion for the Experience of the Father's Love".

The story of Luther dovetails perfectly into the unfolding drama of Jesus' parable of the prodigal child's experience of the Father's love. Luther struggled under years of guilt and depression as he searched to find the means of Grace. I read a quote this weekend where Luther said that during this time, prior to his discovery of the plain meaning of scriptures, the one thing he longed for was,

"to know, even for an instant, that He wasn't angry with me".

When the prodigal came to his senses, he said to himself, "My father's slaves have enough to eat and here I am starving. I will go to my father and say, 'I am no longer worthy to be your son but make me one of your slaves'". The son and Luther, and indeed all of us, come to realize that we do not want to live like animals, but because we have lived like animals, even if for an instant, we cannot muster the boldness or the faith that we could be children of God. Our father must be angry with us. We have lived with the beasts and acted like dogs. Our ethic, if even for a moment, was survival. Our ethic was not human but brutish. Are we brutes or are we human beings? We are one or the other but, in this place of darkness, we cannot imagine being a child of God.

But when he came back to his father filled with self-loathing and disgust and smelling like a pig, his Father saw him. His Father felt compassion on him and ran to him. Here is the heart of the gospel unfolding. Jesus Christ the picture of the heart of the Father and the moral attributes of God, the morality of the universe, the image of God, the natural law, the living Word and the Wisdom that bind together all human society, has felt the weakness of being human. God feels with us. He has compassion. Jesus is the only true God, and He knows what it is to be humiliated, yet without sin. Jesus knows what it is like to live amongst the brutes.

I picture the prodigal in his pigpen breaking down and weeping and crying out, "What is going on. Am I an animal?" Our God has identified himself with the brutality, the brutishness, of mankind. "The Father, filled with compassion, ran to His child.

Yes, and held his child and wept on his shoulder and said, "I love you. I love you. I love you." The young man attempted to confess, but the Father knew confession was not his need. Discussion would come later. Today is a day for affection and love and embrace. "Child all you need to know is that I love you. I am not angry with you. I am not angry at all. My affection and desire for your good so outweighs any of my other thoughts of you."

On the plain reading of scripture, Luther came into an experience of the Father's love that he described as, "Simultaneously saint and sinner".

I feel unworthy, but He will not let me confess. I feel shameful yet He clothes me. I am undone in the unending Grace of God as I look up and see the Christ dying in my stead, and I break down in everlasting joy in the Father's arms. All my understanding of the world is transformed. The God who rules the universe had led me into this moment of having my soul filled with the knowledge of His grace and mercy. God has birthed in my person the knowledge of His love. He has poured in my heart affection for Him through the gospel. All my attempts to earn His favor were thoughts of clay born of my infantile mind. I groped after knowledge, but my food came directly from His hand. God's ways are too marvelous to imagine. His love endures forever. All the days of my life I will sing of His loving kindness and mercy in the presence of His people and indeed in the presence of my enemies.

It is this moment; this crossroads of an instant where eternity and our existence meet that creates, forever, passion for the experience of the Father's love.

Continued "here Relationship of Abuse"
God Bless,

No comments: