Our God is great; listen to His words and understand!
These are the words of Rev. Cliff Krcha.
In Luke 15, Jesus taught 4 parables about God’s love. These parables can teach us about how “our” view of the Kingdom of God on earth might be less than, or different from, God’s view. In Jewish theology, then, and I suppose even now: the two halves of God’s creation: heaven and earth, were supposed to be in harmony with each other. In our Methodist view, we believe much the same. We believe the mission of the church is to make disciples for the transformation of the world. “Transformation”, as we understand it, is that the Kingdom of God on earth would become present and real to all.
We believe that the Kingdom of God “on earth, as it is in heaven” has been coming into reality, ever since Jesus announced it in Mark 1:15: Jesus said: “The time promised by God has come at last!” He announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Chapter 15 of Luke is the parable about the lost sheep, the lost coin, the loss of a son, and the love of a father. Read all of the chapter. Is God expecting us to “change”? I tell you: Yes. There are many places throughout the Bible where God calls us to change. Just one of those is 2nd Corinthians 5: 16-17: So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Jesus now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
“How” in the world would we do that?! How do we “ignore” someone’s past mistakes; how do we stop judging them and stop saying, “they will never change”? Well, one possible step is for a believer to choose to begin the change by “taking every thought captive to obey Christ”, (2 Corinthians 10:5b RSV)
You see, when Jesus arrived and declared that “The time promised by God has come at last”, He began to teach God’s people how the Kingdom of God on earth … would be. And Jesus taught in parables. And Jesus invites us into those parables, to compare “our theology” or “our view” with God’s view.
For example, in the parable of the lost sheep, when Jesus asked, “if you lost one, just “one” of your 100 sheep, wouldn’t you leave the 99 behind? And most of us would say “NO”. I would cut my losses and not worry about the lost one. I might lose more. Jesus said God loves the lost “1”. And we should love them, too. You see, the change God is inviting us to make is to go from seeing and believing with our human nature to seeing and believing with a divine nature. God is expecting us to see the world as God does. You might be thinking: Well, that is “easier said, than done.” Those changes begin with our prayer life.
A Kingdom of God prayer might sound like: Lord, I don’t know how you are going to restore this problem but I know you will. I know you want everyone healed, and I look forward to doing anything I can to help. I am praying everyday for healing by your Holy Spirit. If you want me to be your hands and feet, here I am Lord. Send me.
Back to Luke chapter 15, verse 17. Now once the lost “1” had wasted all of his father’s money and began to starve, he finally came to his senses. He said to himself, ‘At home even the hired hands have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired hand.”
So he returned home to his father. (Luke 15:17-20)
That is what we are praying for: that they “choose” to come home. God is working all the time to reach the lost, so that the lost might “come to their senses”. And when they “do” come to their senses, and come home, Jesus taught us how we are to welcome them with love. In Luke 15, verse 20: “So he returned home to his father. And while he “the lost 1” was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
Let’s pray; will you repeat after me:
Change me Lord.
Change me to see the lost with your eyes of grace.
Change my stony heart to a heart of love and compassion.
Help me to be thankful that you have brought them home.
Help me to love them like you love them. Amen.
We have broken families in our community and in our church. We need to begin to see the broken as restored and healed. We need to begin to see our broken-ness as God sees it with the eyes of love. This is the change that God wants for us. We need to replace our human nature and human perspective with God’s grace, love and compassion.
Here are 4 “things” that will not change us to be more loving like God is:
1. Knowledge or insight
2. Will power or human effort
3. A small group or Sunday school class
4. The latest “self-help” book.
But the Holy Spirit of God is what changes us when we pray and ask for God’s help. We do have to make some “effort”. We have to recognize when our old nature and our old way of seeing things is NOT how God sees it.
And we should strive to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”, (2 Corinthians 10:5b RSV). Jesus taught in parables for many reasons. Some scholars suggest that parables allow us to move from our “head” to our “heart”. Heart change precedes behavior change. Parables can “change” our human nature into being more like Jesus. Parables cannot change our past, but parables can help us change how we view our past. Parables can help us to take every thought captive to obey Christ. That is going to be especially true when we see “them” as Jesus sees “them” when they begin to repent. In Luke 15, verse 21, Jesus taught: His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the fatted calf. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began’. (Luke 15:21-24 NLT)
The lost one will come home and IS going to need to change. But the first thing we do is celebrate. If we want the Kingdom of God on earth to be real, we celebrate. Oh, don’t be mistaken. They may need to de-tox. De-tox from drugs, or ungodly beliefs, or any number of sins that separated them from God. And they will need to enter rehab, to learn to pray and discover what caused them to leave in the first place. Yes, they will need to discover what lie made them believe that they were not loved. Isn’t that what God wants? He wants all of His children to believe that He loves them and all of their family loves them.
We must strive to take our thoughts captive. Judgmental or “it’s impossible” or “that will never happen” thinking is not advisable. Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:18-20 NRS) Can we agree that God wants families restored, reunited, and reconciled in love and forgiveness? And we should begin planning a great celebration now, because those who are lost will come home. And when they come home, they will be scared. They will be worried that we will judge them. They will be worried that we won’t love them. That’s why the first thing God wants us to do is have a party to welcome them home. Now, these parables don’t suggest that we should “just” love ’em”. The parables teach repentance and change by the lost are necessary. But “behavior change” comes AFTER “heart change”. God is calling us to love them “first”. God is not calling us to love them “after” they have cleaned their act up. And that’s how chapter 15 ends with a warning for us who will be here when they come home. Jesus cautioned “us” with the parable of the elder brother. You see, when the Elder brother hears the party going on, the celebration for the lost one that has come home. He asked someone what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fatted calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. (Luke 15:26-28 NLT) Our human nature is not like God’s nature. Our human nature sounds like:
‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. I taught Sunday school for 30 years! I have been on every committee in church, twice! And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Nobody ever thanked me for teaching Sunday school. Nobody ever noticed I always straightened the hymnals in the pews. Yet when the “lost one” comes back, you celebrate by killing the fatted calf!’
That’s our human nature. We limit God’s grace. We don’t want God loving someone unless they “deserve” it. But God’s grace is a free, unmerited gift. We cannot earn our way into heaven. We can reserve a spot in hell, for ourselves, if we judge others with the law. Because Jesus taught if we judge by law, then we will be judged by law. Not by grace.
Read Luke chapter 6, verses 36-38: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; Give, and it will be given to you.”
Has God put someone on your heart today? Do you know a lost “1”? Do you? That’s good. God has put them on your heart, and wants you to continue to pray for them. And God wants you to see them as He sees them: A lost child, a broken person that will come home. And God has put them on your heart because he wants you to start planning the celebration. That’s right. God wants us to change our thinking, and our heart. God wants us believing in His love and the Holy Spirit. God wants you believing that His Holy Spirit will bring them home. And he wants you to welcome them with a party, a crazy, noisy, over the top party. That is what will be going on in heaven. And we want the Kingdom of God on earth to be as it is in heaven.
Ever think of yourself as a party planner? Today is a good day to start. Today is a good day to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”. (2 Corinthians 10:5b RSV)
Herman Hitzfelder will celebrate his birthday on September 20th, Emeth Bower and Kassity Norris celebrate on September 23rd and Maribelle Hoerster will party on September 25th.
The German Hymnfest will be held next Sunday, September 22TH, at Hilda UMC at 3:00 p.m.
5th Sunday worship is September 29th at 7:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church.