Reflection – 21 February 2021

Here is Martin’s reflection for tomorrow on The Prodigal Son.

Reflection for Sunday 21st February 2021 London Road Congregational Church.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son – Your Snap is not your Story

Call to worship:

God, You Are Calling

Gentle and patient

God, you are calling.

Careful and persistent

God, you are calling.

In grieving and in praise

God, you are calling.

Through dawn and midday

God, you are calling.

Unexpected and planned

God, you are calling.

In a still small voice and in power

God, you are calling.

Spontaneous and prepared

God, you are calling.

Willing or protected

God, you are calling.

Our God is eager to share with us,

wherever we are in our journey.

May we be diligent to listen.

God, you are calling.

Hymn: My testimony

I saw satan fall like lightning
I saw darkness run for cover
But the miracle that I just can’t get over
My name is registered in heaven

I believe in signs and wonders
I have resurrection power
Still the miracle that I just can’t get over
My name is registered in heaven
My praise belongs to you forever

This is my testimony from death to life
Cause grace rewrote my story, I’ll testify
By Jesus Christ the Righteous
I’m justified
This is my testimony
This is my testimony

Come together sons and daughters
Bought with blood
And washed in water
Sing the praises of the Spirit
Son and Father
Our God will finish what He started
Our God will finish what He started

If I’m not dead, You’re not done
Greater things are still to come
Oh I believe

This is my testimony from death to life
Cause grace rewrote my story, I’ll testify
By Jesus Christ the Righteous
I’m justified
This is my testimony
This is my testimony

This is my testimony from death to life
Cause grace rewrote my story, I’ll testify
By Jesus Christ the Righteous
I’m justified
This is my testimony, this is my testimony

Prayer and Lord’s Prayer.

 

Reading: Luke 16:11-32 New International Version

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Reflection

Has it ever annoyed you when you’ve tried to tell a joke and someone steps in just before the end and delivers your punch line. This parable is even worse than that because it states in the first sentence the point. To demonstrate how glad God is when we turn to or turn back to Him.  The task for us in this parable then, is to reflect where we are in this process but also to gain hope that when there are times that we find ourselves not where we would like that it is not the end, merely a part of our story with God. I have used the title ‘your snap is not your story’ because I used it in an assembly to make this point. Quite a few students have Snapchat and they massage their current image to give the perfect impression of where they are, even when they aren’t.

When people ask about our relationship with God I am sure we will tell them of times when God was close, when we saw God acting in our lives, when our faith was rock solid. Those snap shots of our lives are true, but what about the times when God seemed distant or we even questioned his existence, what about when we prayed and nothing seemed to happen, what about when we walked away or turned our backs on God. If you have never had those times – and I must be honest I doubt it – then you are truly blessed. I have had times when I have argued with God, I have turned my back, disobeyed God. I’m not boasting just admitting God’s goodness for being there when I return. If by the end of this you’re wondering who is in leadership that’s fine, hopefully a dose of honesty might encourage all of us. None of us do what we do because we are ‘worthy’, but because we are ‘chosen’.

How does the Parable of the Prodigal or Lost Son help us with this?

The first ‘snap’

The son was the younger son, so his entitlement would have been less. It might have been insignificant compared to the brother who stayed. There might not have been much of a point hanging about and so he decided to set off on his own and make something of his life. We can often be distracted by what we think has value and wonder whether the God thing is really worth it in the present. Our value system is often challenged. We compare ourselves to other Christians and their walk, other people and their lives. But the son had an inheritance mapped out for him. This challenge can often occur in the form of adversity which makes us look at what is important. Has your faith pot every been on or nearly on empty? Have circumstances every made you reassess things?

The second ‘snap’

He got to a point where his perspective changed. He suddenly saw that what he’d had at home actually wasn’t that bad. He had thought the alternative he was in would be good but hadn’t seen that there are downsides to every choice we make. The son decides to go back but with a heart position, no longer of entitlement, but of humility. It often takes us to move on with God to come to this point. As we shall see the other son was still in a place of entitlement, but this son had reached a point of seeing his need and his father’s grace.

The third ‘snap’

The son, whilst far off, is recognised by his father and the father goes to where he is. The son had changed his heart but the father hadn’t. The son did not have to say anything before being accepted but still recognised his failings. It’s interesting that the father says the son was dead but now alive. He had received what was coming to him after his father’s death and no longer had any connection to him, but had returned and so entered back into that relationship. Just because we have blown it, does not mean there isn’t a way back.

The final ‘snap’

I suppose this is a warning to all of us. The remaining brother wasn’t happy. Not wholly surprising as the party was being held at his expense – everything the father had was due to him. But his complaint was that he had done everything that had been asked of him but never rewarded. What did he want? Had he asked? I’m sure he wasn’t perfect but because he hadn’t done what his brother had done, he felt it was ok to stand in judgement over his brother. My struggles will not be yours, your struggles I may not have. But we all fall short of what God wants for us. If we see our brothers or sisters struggling, it’s not for us to point and condemn but to support. When new people come to church and they don’t act like us or behave like us then let’s set an example to follow,but one which is humble enough to encourage them that we are not perfect in ourselves but perfected in Christ.

And then you see the whole story. Each snap shouldn’t be taken on its own, it’s the story that gives it meaning. Our lives should not be taken in the individual incidences but as a whole and see God working in and through us. We definitely shouldn’t compare ourselves to someone else to get an idea of where we should be. Take heart when we feel far off because there is a way back. Don’t be distracted by all that shines. Guard your heart when you see others who are struggling because you have been there so don’t judge.

Hymn: I could sing of your love forever.

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free
I’m happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down, yeah

I could sing

I could sing of Your love

Forever

I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever

Blessing.

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