“The Father’s Love – Extreme Love”
February 14, 2016
Introduction: We have embarked on a journey together into the area of RENEWAL for First Church of the Brethren. When we started this journey in a small, ad-hoc group, established by the Leadership Team, out of the Visioning Team, that had worked together for a couple of years and had worked at refocusing and tweaking our Mission statement and Vision statements.
Which by the way say, “We are a people dedicated to Spiritual Growth, Loving Relationships, and Sacrificial Service.” This is what we want to do to help us reach our Vision. The Visioning Team also worked on revising and tweaking our Vision statement, which now says, “We want To become a community of committed Christians who love God, share Christ, and Serve the World. ”
The question was raised and is still being asked, “just what would renewal look like for York First COB?” How will we know when we have gotten there? Will it be because there are more people in the pews and in the building? Will it be because we have deepened our relationships with God and with each other? Will it be because we have re-doubled our efforts at service and outreach? Just how will we know when we have reached our goal of being renewed anyway?
The Renewal team is working with the material from the Springs of Living Water book by David Young. This book is functioning as our guide in a congregational effort to work in the area of renewal. I share all of this background with you this morning to bring us back to where we were in October with our first emphasis on our guiding text for this effort. The text from Luke 15:11-31, commonly known as the parable of the Prodigal Son was designated by the renewal team as our theme text to help guide us in our renewal efforts. You may recall that I preached a series of sermons on this passage during the month of October and that I shared with you then that from time to time we would revisit the passage to glean even more insights for our journey in renewal.
As I prepared for today’s message several things about the passage came to my heart and mind. First, of all today is Valentines’s day. A day in which we say, “I love you” to those persons in our lives who mean the most to us. So the thought occurred to me that we ought to start by saying “I love you” to God, who in an extreme act of love for you and me gave his one and only son to die on a cruel Roman cross for your sins and my sins, indeed for the sins of the whole world. This lead me to my second observation about today, and that is that it is the first Sunday of the Lenten season. A season in which we take time to examine our faith journeys and renew our commitment to our faith and seek to strengthen our spiritual discipline.
In reflecting on the story of the Prodigal Son, I thought about this issue of extreme love, and just who and where was it demonstrated in the text. Maybe it is obvious to you but for me, I had to read it through several times more for it to really hit home.
I.) Extreme love – waits, “Saw him”
A.) In the story we see the waiting and watching father.
1. Being a parent myself, and having waited and watched longingly for my children, I can relate to this effort on the part of the father in the story.
2. His son left home, went out into the world to seek his fortune so to speak.
3. They didn’t have the modern means of communication that we enjoy today, no cell phones, no email, not even a reliable snail mail system in order to keep in touch with the folks back home, as primitive as could be.
4. In a sense the son who left home was as good as dead to his father, the father who loved him!
Ill. Many of you will remember that our son, Kyle did a tour of service in Afghanistan and returned home a little over a year ago now. During his time half a world away we were able to keep in touch on a weekly basis and if need be even more often. The miracle of modern communication made it possible for us to Skype with him every Sunday evening. We could see him and he could see us. He even made an appearance on the big screen here at church one Sunday. Patricia Carey is still high on my list of amazing people along with my daughter Amanda, who together made that happen. My love and concern for Kyle went beyond anything I had ever experience before in my life. I would have exchanged places with him in order to keep him safe. To me that is something of the extreme love we see in the waiting Father in the story of the Prodigal Son.
B.) The phrase “saw him” implies to me that the father was looking for his son and longing for his return.
1. Worry and wonder about his well being had to be in his heart where his son was concerned.
2. I believe his response to his other son, the one who was still at home with him, demonstrates the same concern only in a different way.
3. It shows that each child is different and yet dearly loved by the father!
4. Extreme love waits!
II.) Extreme love – encourages
A.) The father “ran to him” demonstrates a deep desire to be re-united with his son.
1. It demonstrates a desire to be reconnected and reconciled so that life may go on for them together.
2. This is another example of extreme love.
3. The father in the story doesn’t ask all kinds of questions about what the son has done and where he has been.
4. He welcomes the son home with open arms, this is love without judgement.
5. This is one of the great themes of the New Testament!
Ex. John 3:16
III.) Extreme love – is always there.
A.) The father “embraces the son”
1. The welcome is extended and the son is recognized as a part of the family again.
2. We know from the story that the son simply wants to return home and be received as one of the servants of the household.
3. The father in an act of extreme love embraces the son and reconnects him in his role as a son in the family.
4. There is no hint in the story on the part of the father of judge mentalism.
5. No doubt he is so relieved to see his son and know that his son is alive and well that all thought of what things his son may have done while he was away, even to the point of the wasting of the estate are simply not important.
IV.) Extreme love – risks everything
A.) He “kisses him”
1. No matter what, I love you, you are my son, welcome home!
2. We see the same response in regards to the fathers response to the other brother when he goes out to him.
3. A sign of respect for the father would have been for the older brother to go into the father and address the issue in private.
4. Instead, like a spoiled child, the older brother stays outside in an act of disrespect to the father.
5. The father extends love to this son as well, in his act of compassion and understanding for his other son at what he is feeling as well.
6. I have long felt that a study of this passage reveals the “prodigal” aspect from a number of different directions.
7. Prodigal means that which is separated and then re-united.
Conclusion to message: Extreme love waits, encourages, is always there, and is willing to risk everything! Where in your life today and where in the life of this congregation do we need extreme love right now?
Search our heart and mind now before the “Father” who loves us with an extreme love. Who looks for us to longingly return to him. Who encourages us to pursue our faith and make it the most important part of our living. The father who is always there, when everything else in life fails, the father is still there for us. The Father, this God of extreme love, risks everything because he loves us, indeed he loves the whole world.