10 March 2013 St. Athanasius Lutheran Church

Lent 4 Vienna, VA

 

Jesu Juva

 

An Old Parable a New Way

Text: Luke 15:1-3a, 11-32; Isaiah 12; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Jesus just doesnt get it. Hes giving God a bad name! We know that He is a prophet of some sort or another; He knows Gods Word and speaks with authority. We havent been able to trip Him up with any of our questions about the Law. So He really ought to know better. Yes, the tax collectors and sinners need to be taught, well give Him that. Weve been trying to do that ourselves for the longest time. But to receive them like theres nothing wrong with them and eat with them? What about the holiness of the church? What about righteousness? What about standards? We want to help those people as much as He does, but Hes not helping them with what Hes doing. And Hes certainly not helping Gods cause. What will the Romans think? What will those who worship other gods think? Will they really want to be part of a church filled with those kinds of people?

 

Look, I know His hearts in the right place. It really is. He wants to help them. So we need to help Him. Get Him back on the right track. Help Him understand the way things are in this world. Hes just a bit naive, this Jesus. Hes not very practical. We know how people are - what you can do and cant do with them. Theyre just going to take advantage of you. We just have to help Him understand that He needs to dial it back a little. Tone it down. Dont just receive them and eat with them as if theyre just as good as we are.

 

So sit down, Jesus. Let us help you.

 

Whats that? A parable? OK. He is a good story teller. A man has two sons . . .

 

Oh, I think weve heard this one before! The Scriptures are filled with stories like this. Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob. Two sons, and God usually chooses the younger. He doesnt give favor to someone just because theyre the firstborn. He does things differently. Even when there are more than two sons - like with Joseph and King David. A man has two sons . . . Yeah, we know where this story is going. Hes going to favor the younger son. He going to choose the younger son. The younger son is going to be the one . . .

 

Oh wait. Thats strange. The younger son does what? He insults his father like that? Taking his inheritance, wishing him dead, leaving . . . and then sinning like that? And then a famine comes, an economic downturn, huh? And pigs? Hmph. Serves him right. What goes around comes around. You get what you deserve. He made his bed, now he has to sleep in it. Karma. Hey, I hope the tax collectors and sinners are listening to this!

 

Whats that, Timaeus? What are you thinking about? You think hes talking about us? That were the younger son? Well I know thats how the stories in the Scriptures usually go, but obviously not here! . . . What? The word inheritance? Well yes, weve received an inheritance! To Israel belongs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To us belong the patriarchs, and from our race will come the Messiah! Yes that is true! (Romans 9:4-5) . . . You think He means that were the ones who have wasted our inheritance? That were unfaithful? That weve left our Father? Im no pig farmer! We havent wasted our inheritance! Look at the Temple, the sacrifices, weve even now set up the Temple Bank to exchange money for the pilgrims, sell them the animals they need, and yes, make a little money on the side! Were Gods chosen people! Look, Timaeus, were here to help Him, to teach Him, to help Him understand . . . Relax. Lets hear what comes next.

 

But when he came to himself . . . Well thats good! Theres hope for him. . . .

Um hm, um hm. . . . See, I told you thats not us. Weve nothing to repent of! . . . Treat me as one of your hired servants. Good! Good Jesus! Thats exactly right. Hes got to earn his way back. And you can be sure the father will garnish a percentage of those wages till he gets paid back, right Timaeus! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me! Well, that aint gonna happen! The fathers wise to him now.

 

Oh, Jesus! There you go again. Just when I thought you were on the right track, you start goin all compassion and love on us! No ones going to believe this story! What father would embrace and kiss such a son, still covered with pig filth. And then the best robe and shoes? Lipstick on a pig! And the family signet ring and a party for him? Yeah. You see, this is why Jesus needs us. He really thinks God is like that. That Hell just forgive, just like that! . . . Yeah, Timaeus, I know thats why Jesus receives these folks and eats with them. He thinks Hes bein all Godlike. Thatd be funny if it werent so dangerous. We have to help Him, or were just going to have to . . . well, like Caiaphas said: Its better that one man should die than that the whole nation perish (John 18:14).

 

Oh, the storys not over. Theres more. Cant wait to hear this part. . . . Oh, the older son; yes . . . um hm, um hm. Well he should be upset! . . . Yes, Timaeus, I suppose youre right. The tables are reversed now. Before, the older son was home and the younger son was outside, but now the younger son is home and the older son is outside. They both despised their father, just in different ways. The older son didnt want to be like his father . . . What? You think Jesus is talking about us again? That we dont want to be like our Father in heaven by not forgiving? Like HIS Father, maybe! But thats not our father; thats not our God. Our God demands sacrifice, He demands holiness, He demands righteousness. Thats what we do. Thats what we teach. The older sons got it right. So, yeah, I guess we are the older son. Better than being that younger son!

 

Well, yes Timaeus. The younger son wound up in the fathers house and the older son outside. But the father said to the older son: all that is mine is yours.

 

What? You think the older son was putting that in jeopardy by despising his father and not going back in? Interesting theory . . . Oh, stop it, Timaeus! Have His teachings infected you too?

 

Why, yes, I remember the reading from the prophet we heard last Sabbath in the synagogue. Of course I remember! Im a Pharisee! We dont forget like you Scribes! . . . Oh, relax, Im just kidding. But it is, in fact, a chapter I long ago learned by heart. Isaiah chapter 12:

 

You will say in that day:

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me,

your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;

for the Lord God is my strength and my song,

and he has . . . become . . . my salvation.

 

OK. I admit, youre right. It does sound like something the younger son would say, like what happened to him. And yes, Joseph did forgive his brothers, didnt he? And King David, too, forgave his son Absalom for his rebellion. But . . . So why wont we forgive? Timaeus! Because theyre tax collectors and sinners! Theyre adulterers and abortionists! Theyre homosexuals and murderers! Theyre rapists and child molesters! Theyre liars, cheaters, thieves . . .

 

Yes, King David and Bathsheba. I know the story. Lust, adultery, murder, lying. David was all that . . . and his prayer . . . we just sang it earlier, yes . . . and yes, it does sound like the younger son again, doesnt it?

 

Have mercy on me, O [Father], according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,

and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

 

Timaeus . . . what are you saying? King David was both the younger son and the older son? He needed to repent, yes, and he was forgiven, yes. And then he forgave, true that. So us too? Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?

 

But Timaeus . . . what about sacrifice? Theres got to be sacrifice! Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness! Forgiveness just like that is too easy! It cant be . . . He wouldnt . . . Well, yes, of course. The lambs. The lambs of God in the Temple. You heard John the Baptist call Him what? The Lamb of God (John 1:29)?

 

Timaeus, stop! No, I know youre right. Everything youve said is right. Gods church has always been filled with sinners. Starting with Adam. And me. Youre right, Timaeus. Oh, youre right! The other day when I lusted after my neighbor Barnabas wife, then I wished he were dead so I could have her, when I lied to him about stealing some of his figs, when I refused to forgive my wife for burning the dinner, then I mad at God for giving me such a wife, when I delighted that the merchant forgot to charge me for everything I bought the other day and I didnt say anything, when I gossipped and spread those rumors about Joseph, when I berated others for missing church but then my mind wandered so much the other day its as if I wasnt there at all, when I . . . oh, whats the use, Timaeus! I could keep you here all day! I am the younger son, I am the older son! What a miserable, wretched man I am!

 

Timaeus, is this why you brought me here today? You knew, didnt you? That I . . . that He . . . Why are you smiling?!

 

It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.

 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

So come now, all you sinners, dressed in the robe of Christs perfect righteousness in Holy Baptism. Your Father is happy youre here and the feast is ready for you. Not the fattened calf, but the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.