On Sunday 18th June at our morning service, we had a Fathers Day Special. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
I wonder what your experiences of Dad’s are – we’ll all have different memories and current circumstances – as sons, daughters, mums and Dads, grandparents.
And I wonder, how would you like to be remembered? What would you have people say of you when you’re gone?
I wonder, too, what you’re attitude would be if you had a long-lost son or daughter. Would you welcome them back with open arms and forgive any mistakes of the past?
Well, Jesus famously had a great story about a lost son – sometimes we call it the parable of the Prodigal Son.
He told it to some religious types who were having a go at him because he was spending his time with notorious sinners. Presumably in their eyes he should only have been associating with people like themselves – the followers of the law, the religious people.
But Jesus, through three stories he told back to back, taught them about God’s view of people who were lost to him. We can read these still, in chapter 15 of Luke’s account of Jesus’s life. You can read this by clicking here.
In preparing for today’s talk I had a sense that there might be three groups of people listening or reading. There is wisdom to be found in this story for each –
1) Do you need, like the lost son, to finally come to your senses? Have you been casting around looking for earthly things that will satisfy you? If that’s you, know this – there is a God-shaped hole in your life and you will never fill it whilst you are apart from the Father. Nothing will ever truly and fully satisfy and fulfil you apart from the Father, because you were designed and created to be in relationship with Him. Come to your senses!
2) Some people have accepted this, but are taking faltering, hesitant steps back to the Father. Perhaps you are uncertain you will be accepted, ashamed of your past mistakes and so taking a slow, circuitous route home. But look how the Father responds to his son. He doesn’t wait for him full of wrath, but comes running to embrace him “while he was still a long way off”. I find that to be one of the most encouraging lines in all of the bible. Why? Well because sometimes I feel a long way off, but this story Jesus told reminds me that the Father is not only waiting but on the lookout and ready to come running!
3) At EBC we have a number of different congregations and some have been specifically designed to help people who are just beginning to turn back to God or get to know him for the first time. It’s natural that many fewer of the people attending those kinds of services will be faithfully supporting the work we do (by praying, giving and serving regularly) than the people attending our Sunday morning services.
We might say that the faithful effort of our Sunday morning congregation is much like the work of older son in the story Jesus told – wonderful, but we must beware the danger of his attitude! Rather than bemoan the extra work we are doing to run things without the aid of the other son (congregations) we should be on the lookout for them , helping them find their way home – mirroring the attitude of our heavenly Father, who celebrates every time a lost son or daughter finds their way back to Him. We should remember too that the Father says to the older son “everything I have is yours.” How can we be resentful in the face of such magnanimity from the creator of heaven and earth and of you and me?
Regardless of our experiences of fathers on earth we have a heavenly Father who is surpassingly good and loving and forgiving. A Father who wants nothing more than a loving relationship with us.
God is the best of Fathers, full of love and compassion, on the lookout and waiting to run to those who turn back to him.
We must turn back to him and encourage others to do the same – even if in small steps and from a distance. We must model the godly attitude of the Father, who is loving, kind, forgiving, patient, extravagant in his joy and compassion.
How would you like to be remembered?
A last thought. It’s Father’s Day – how about a gift for your heavenly Father?
I had a strong sense this week that there would be people here today who already know what their turning to God, or their next step towards God looks like but they’ve been hesitating.
Maybe through fear, or uncertainty or because they don’t think they and what they have to offer is enough. Well, let me remind you of something you likely know already.
Jesus turned water into wine. He took five loves and a couple of fish and fed 5000 men and the women and children besides. God takes the inadequate and blesses it, and turns it into something more than enough. Take your inadequate offering, and bring it home to God.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Which of the three positions do you think best fits your own status? Are you still “lost”, are you heading home, or are you like the older son – faithful but a bit resentful of those not (yet) pulling their weight?
2. On your journey towards and with God, are you walking in confidence through faith in the work already done for you by Jesus, or taking hesitant steps? Why?
3. A son or daughter of a good father or mother doesn’t need to question his or her status – he or she knows beyond question that they are a son or a daughter, that they belong and that home is home. Are you seeing yourself as a son or daughter of God, or settling for something less? If it’s the latter, spend some time pondering that word “settling” – are you really “settling” with God? A son or daughter settles in at home because they know they belong there. Do you think you can truly “settle” with God if you “settle” for something less than a Father-and-child relationship with him?
4. An attitude check. Are you honouring God with your efforts for Him, or leaving it to others?
5. Another attitude check. If you are honouring God generously and sacrificially with your time and finances, you will likely be aware that you’re in a minority. Are you resentful of this or on the lookout for opportunities to love, pray for and encourage others who have not yet “come to their senses”?
6. Spend some time really thinking about how you personally would like to be remembered… what would you love to hear people say about you, if you could listen in to your own funeral?!? Now how will you make that come true?
7. What is the next big step of faith you are going to take for your heavenly Father?