COME HOME 6-16-19
June 16, 2019
I was struggling with what to write for a Father’s Day sermon. It’s never an easy one for me, because the relationship I had with my earthly father was strained at best. I reviewed a sermon I preached on Father’s Day back in 2016, and in it I basically talked about how imperfect my earthly father was compared to our heavenly Father. As I was reading through it, I distinctly heard the Holy Spirit speak to my heart and tell me I wasn’t exactly a perfect daughter either. He was right. I barely got through the first wave of guilt and remorse that swept over me when a song came on the radio by Mike and the Mechanics - “The Living Years”. I’m sure many of you have heard it. “Every generation blames the one before, and all of their frustrations come beating on your door.” is the opening line. Another line from the song says “So we open up a quarrel between the present and the past. We only sacrifice the future - it's the bitterness that lasts.”. By the time it got to the line “I wasn't there that morning when my Father passed away. I didn't get to tell him all the things I had to say” my second wave of guilt and remorse was in full swing, and the Holy Spirit asked me if I needed anything else. “No! Please spare me anything further. I know what you want me to write.” was my reply.
I admit I put my dad through a great deal of anxiety and grief. Like the prodigal son in our third Scripture reading (Luke 15:11-32), I left home, not once but four times. Although every time I left it was under different circumstances, of which I will spare you the grisly details, they were all basically an attempt to get away from what I thought was an overbearing father - and the first three times I ended up returning home. The problem was that each time I returned, it was out of desperation like the prodigal son, but I did not have the repentant heart that he had. And thus I repeatedly departed after getting back on my feet, taking my father’s help without changing my attitude or my ways. In the end, our relationship was never restored. I was called to the hospital when he suffered a massive heart attack in 2006. When I arrived I witnessed his face frozen into a look of horrendous agony after his spirit departed this world. It is an image I will never be able to erase from my memory. So if your earthly father is still alive, and your relationship is not what it should be, I pray you make every effort to get past whatever differences are between you, forgive any times you have felt wronged, and love and honor your father as the Lord would have you to do.
But worse yet, I was also the prodigal daughter of my heavenly Father. As you heard in last Sunday’s sermon, there was a period in my life, one that lasted 17 years, when I did not attend church because of a job that required me to work every Sunday morning. But there is more to the story than that. Far more. Again, sparing you all the gruesome details, let’s just say before I landed that job, I had arrived at a spiritual crossroads. Jeremiah 6:16 sizes it up quite well: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'” Like Jeremiah said, instead of taking the good way, I took a sharp left at the crossroads. The enemy of God spoke to me and begged me to come listen to his side of the story. And I did. I listened for over 17 years, wandering further and further from the home of my heavenly Father. You know that song by the Rolling Stones, the one about sympathy? I knew it well.
But obviously that is not the end of the story or I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you. My heavenly Father never stopped searching for me, never stopped caring, never stopped wanting me to come home. He refused to give up on me, refused to allow me to keep believing the lies, refused to watch his daughter sink deeper and deeper into the darkness. And yet, through it all I know He had a purpose in allowing me to stray for so long. For I learned much. Much that I would not have learned otherwise. We sometimes think God has abandoned us, but He never does. We don’t always understand His purposes at the time, but sometimes the only way we can learn the hard lessons is through the difficult periods of life. We can’t truly see the light without ever seeing the darkness. We can’t truly appreciate love without experiencing hatred. And we can’t truly know joy and peace without also knowing grief and turmoil. And it is even through doubt that we come to truly believe, and through questioning that we find the answers.
And so here I am before you today. Once a sheep that had wandered far from home, far from both my earthly father and my heavenly Father. Sadly, as I mentioned earlier, the relationship between me and my earthly father was never restored. But thankfully the one between me and my heavenly Father was. Not only restored, but better than before. For He welcomed me back not only as a servant, but as a daughter. He put on me the robe of righteousness which Jesus bought for me at the cross, and the angels threw a heavenly party. There are some, like the older son in our third Scripture reading (Luke 15:11-32), that would deny me the privilege of becoming a pastor because of my past. And yet, throughout the Bible God often chose those least likely by human standards to proclaim His Word and serve His purposes. Just look at the apostle Paul, whom we recently taught about in Vacation Bible School. He started out having Christians put to death! But God chose him to write half of the New Testament and boldly proclaim the Gospel in several countries. While I am far from the apostle Paul, I have promised the Lord to devote what time I still have here on this earth to His service, and with God’s help, Satan will never stop me again. Amen.
"Prodigal" (Sidewalk Prophets) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZUCtUOPX7I
"Good, Good Father" (Chris Tomlin) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ak0OoFBw3c
If you lost your pet dog or cat, what would you do? Would you go out to try and find it and bring it home? Jesus searches for His lost lambs, too!