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4th Sunday of Lent


 


Texts & Discussions:
 

Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

    

 

Prayer for God's Grace
(traditional Pakistani Christian)

O Creator and mighty God,
You have promised strength for the weak,
rest for the laborers, light for the way,
grace for the trials, help from above,
unfailing sympathy, undying love.
O Creator and mighty God,
help us to continue in your promise.  Amen.
 


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Sermon Excerpt:
 

"Annoying" Grace
a homily based on Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
by Rev. F. Schaefer

I think all of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. In a nutshell: the younger son of a farmer asks for his inheritance, leaves his fatherís house, lives like all get-out, spends the entire inheritance, hits rock bottom, and returns house only to be welcomed by the father and be clad in royal attire.  The composer of our good old favorite hymn "Amazing Grace" seems to have composed the hymn under inspiration by the parable of the prodigal.

"Amazing Grace how sweet the sound..." When I volunteered for the pastoral service at Philhaven (a local mental institution) I often helped lead worship on the adult unit.  Amazing Grace was being requested by at least one patient every time I remember leading worship.   One day, I remember Anna, a 35 year old patient who had been a patient for quite some time at that point in time.  When we were about to sing the old hymn once again, she blurted out: "You know, when you sing that song as much as we do here, after a while, it is not that amazing any more!"  I didn't know whether I succeeded in holding my amusement in. I was certainly laughing on the inside.

This morning, I intend to take Anna's remark seriously.  Here is the question I would like to raise: is God's grace really so amazing?

Why does Jesus' parable end in a way that the prodigal comes out smelling like roses and the responsible son as a "party pooper?"  What if we were to look at this parable from the perspective of the responsible son? The older son, according to the Law of Moses, was to inherit a double portion. For good reason: he was the one who was expected to keep the farm going after his parents retired, he was to take care of his parents in their old age.

In this light, the younger sonís request for his share wasnít unusual in first century Judea. He was the one who had to start his own business, trade, or farmstead. What is outrageous indeed is that he spends all of his money partying, drinking, and womanizing instead of starting his own household and providing for his family. He squanders his entire inheritance, and when he hits rock-bottom, he comes to his senses.

Historically, the rock-bottom experience of the prodigal has been interpreted as a moment of repentance.  But did he really repent?  It doesn't really say it specifically in the text, nor even that he was sorry for his lifestyle. Instead, the story line expresses that he came to his senses, questioning "what on earth am I doing in this pigsty?  I am from an honorable house.  I don't have to live like this." . . . Subscribers: click here for full manuscript and more

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