The Parable of the Prodigal God

THE FOLLOWING IS A SERMON THAT I DID AT NORTHMINSTER CHURCH ON JANUARY 14, 2018. YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE FULL SERMON HERE. I am indebted to Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler, and Kenneth Bailey for helping me rethink this parable every time I study it and preach it again.

To understand this parable, you have to understand two things

The first is- Who is hearing the parable? The beginning of Luke 15 tells us: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Tax Collectors and Sinners were a group of people. Tax collector not a cheat trying to get rich. Not like a bad used car salesman. They were sell outs who made money by supporting the occupying armies. They were traitors. They were hated by the community. Sinners are a class of people who, because of illness or livelihood, could never enter the Temple. This included deformities and diseases such as the blind, lame, bleeding, or lepers, and jobs such as prostitution, working as a mercenary for the Romans, and the tax collectors.

These people are drawing near to hear him. They were taught that they were outcast and cursed by God. They can never be made right with God. But they are attracted to the teachings of Jesus, and welcomed by him.

The Scribes and Pharisees are the other side of spectrum. They are super religious and upright. They believe they have gained favor with God and have a special relationship with God. And they are questioning why Jesus would associate with these Tax Collectors and Scribes.

Jesus gives this parable to these two specific groups, and you can’t understand the parable if you don’t understand those groups. Continue reading

My Favorite Story to Use at Funerals

Adapted from The Funeral Encyclopedia by Charles L. Wallis

Harold E. Johnson tells a story of two strangers, a small boy and an older man, fishing from the banks of the Mississippi.  As time passed they discovered that, although the fishing was rather poor, the conversation was good. By the time the sun began to sink at the end of the day they had talked of many things.  Around the bend up river from them came a large river boat.

250px-Mark_Twain_Riverboat

When the boy saw the boat, he began to shout and to wave his arms so that he could attract the attention of those on board.  The man watched for some time and then told the boy he was foolish. “That boat is on its way down river to some unknown place and it surely won’t pull over to pick up some small boy.”

But suddenly the boat began to slow down and then it moved toward the river bank.  To the man’s amazement, the boat came near enough to the shore that a gang-plank could be lowered.

The boy entered the boat and, turning to his new friend on shore, said: “I am not foolish, mister.  You see, my father is captain of this boat and we’re going to a new home up the river.”

Sometimes life is like that.  There are times when the ship of death makes an unexpected stop along the river of life and, to our surprise, picks up a passenger.  We do not always understand the timing.  It can come very unexpectedly to us or sometimes it can seem to take it’s time.

I wish I could say something that would take away the sting of death. I wish the sadness would go away. But I want to assure you of one thing:  “My father” is the captain of that boat, and it is heading to a new home.  Death is not the end, but it is the beginning of a new adventure. And the only way that the sting of death with be no more is if you trust in the Father.