The Heart of the Father – Sermon by Tracey Bagley – 21 June 2020

Welcome from Rod and Jennie Brown

Introduction and Call to Worship

Psalm 36: 5-7

Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.

Let’s Worship with this song- Your Love Oh Lord by Third Day

It’s Father’s Day.  A day to honour our earthy fathers.  Some of our dads have left this earth and we miss them.  For others of us our dads are alive. We will call them or spend time with them.  For some of us Father’s Day brings thoughts of joy and celebration.  Our dads loved us and we them.  For others this day is more difficult as our dads were men with flaws who didn’t know how to love us or treat us well.  I have been fortunate to have a wonderful dad.  He has always loved me, encouraged me and believed in me.  Some days I think he may be close to perfect.  He would tell you he definitely is not. 

Regardless of our relationship with our earthly fathers we have available to us a relationship with our Heavenly Father — God the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Reflect:

  1. W. Tozer, many years ago proposed this statement, “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

What comes into your mind when you think about God?  What is He like?  Is He a good Father to you?  Which of His characteristics pop into your mind first?  How do you think He feels about you? How do you believe He acts toward you?

Scripture: Luke 15:1-32

This is the whole chapter of Luke 15.  It has three parables for us to meditate on.  The parable we will concentrate on is the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  We will learn much about our Heavenly Father in this parable.  We often focus on the two sons and ask which one we think we might be more like. Today, I want us to use this parable to gain a deeper understanding of the Love of the Father.

You also have the option to listen to the passage being read to you.

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Parable of the Lost Coin

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Parable of the Lost Son

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he 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. 21 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.

22 “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. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 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.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Pastoral Prayer

Heavenly Father, the maker of heaven and earth and of us. It is a privilege to worship you and read your Word.    We come to you today with hearts that are filled with joy, hearts that are broken and grieving.  We know that you meet us exactly where we are.  You are always full of love and compassion towards us.  For this we are truly grateful.

This week we ask you to surround the Green Family as they say an earthly goodbye to Rowan.  We do not understand the death of children Lord, and so ask you to comfort all of us.  We ask you to fill us with peace.

As the world continues to change in this time of pandemic, we ask you to walk so closely with us.  Be our guide.  We ask for your wisdom as decisions are made in the ways of moving forward. We desire to be filled with grace and patience for one another.  We have never done this before and we need you.  Thank you that you are near.

As we enter into a time of worship in music and your Word, we seek your Spirit to teach us and illuminate our minds and hearts. 

You have asked us to love you with all of our heart, our mind, soul and strength.  Empower us to do just that.  And as we learn of the depths of your love for us today may we be full of gratitude and joy.  You are a God who is always waiting for us. You are love and forgiveness.

For the gift of your son to us, we say thank you.  He is our teacher, our brother and friend.  Above all else, it is because of Him that we have been restored into relationship with you.

In Jesus name we pray,

Amen.

Message:  The Heart of the Father

The Lost

The entire chapter of Luke 15 is three separate parables told by Jesus to an audience of tax collectors and notorious sinners who had come to sit and receive teaching from Jesus.  You can only imagine the scene when the Pharisees and teachers of the religious law, who were eavesdropping, heard what was He saying and saw who was hanging about.  They started grumbling and complaining and being upset about his association with those people. 

In typical Jesus fashion He began to tell stories to all who would have ears to hear. Especially those religious folks.  Upon first reading, the stories seem to focus on the lost—a sheep, a coin and a son.  They are about something that was lost and found.  However, when we slow down and read a little deeper (slower, a few times through) we can learn about the one who has experienced the loss. 

When the man lost his sheep, he leaves the rest behind and goes searching.  When he finds it, he joyfully carries it home on his shoulders.  He calls his friends and neighbours to join him in rejoicing and celebrating the return of his precious sheep.

The woman lost one of her coins. She gets up and begins searching for what she has lost.  When it is found, she calls her neighbours and friends to join her in rejoicing for what has been found. 

A father has lost his son.  In actuality, his son left.  He asked his dad for his inheritance and hit the road looking for something better and different.  He was not content anymore and felt that he needed to go exploring.  In an act of generosity and grace the dad gave the younger son his portion of the estate.  A bold ask on the part of the younger son and a sacrificial response on the part of the father.  If you jump to the end of the story you will find the son returns and the father is so excited that he throws a party to celebrate the return of the lost.  But if we do, we will miss so much about the father. Not to mention learning about the other son.

Reflect:

Let us stop and think for a few minutes:

The word lost is a term of endearment.  If something is lost and you are frantically searching, it means it mattered to you.

Have you ever lost something that matters so much to you?  Remember how you felt.  What did you do?  Did you ever find it?

In the case of the prodigal son, the father didn’t know where he was.  We know from the parable that he was waiting for his return.  (We will explore this deeper in a few minutes).  

Are you waiting on someone to come home?  To you? To the Lord?  

What do you do in the waiting?  We do as the father in the parable did.  Get prepared for the return. We wait. We pray. We never give up.  In the same way know that our Heavenly Father never gives up.  He is a patient Father who keeps looking — is always looking.  Let this be comfort to you as you wait.

The Lost Returns

Both the leaving and returning of the son in this parable is very vivid.   When the son comes to his senses, he realizes that home is where he wants to be.  He begins to rehearse what he is going to say.  Before he even gets close enough to his father to begin speaking, his father sees him.  I picture the dad sitting on the front porch waiting and praying for his boy to come home.  Luke 15:20 describes the father as being filled with love and compassion.  What a beautiful response.  The next scene describes the father as running to his son.   The dad gets up and begins to run. When he reaches him, he embraces him and kisses him.  The son begins his rehearsed speech.  The father seems not to be concerned with what his son has to say.  The dad starts making preparations of celebration for the return of the lost.  The father declares his son has gone from dead to alive. 

Psalm 103:13 says the Lord is like a Father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

This parable reveals the Heart of our Heavenly Father.  He is a father who is waiting for us, searching for us, and hoping for our return.

Jesus always told parables – powerful fictional stories with enduring truths about God and life.  Jesus came to reveal the unconditional love of God and invites us into this love. 

The Father Heart of God

As we continue to read this parable, we see that the older son is displeased with his father and resentful of his brother.  He refuses to go into the house.  Again, the father goes to him.  He approaches his son.  After the harsh words and disrespect, the father lovingly explains himself.  He answers the older son with patience and grace.  He responds to the younger son with unconditional love, a warm embrace and forgiveness.  This father wants both of his sons back together with him.  Back together around the family table.

Do you see and feel the father’s heart?   This is the heart of our Heavenly Father.  He gives us love and grace when we deserve it the least.  He meets us with tenderness and warmth when we feel the most unlovable.   He comes to us with mercy and forgiveness.  There is no better place for us to be than near to the Father. The great mystery of our faith is that God first loved us (1 John 4:19).  We are hidden in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:4) and our names are engraved on the palms of his hand (Isaiah 49:16).   

Our heavenly Father is not wanting to punish us.  We are more than punished by our own inner (older son) or outer waywardness (younger son).  He tells us that we are His beloved. 

Our heavenly Father wants us to be free to love.  This freedom includes the possibility of leaving home and losing everything.  The Father’s heart knows all the pain that will come from that choice.  Our God offers us a love that can only be freely received.  He reaches for us with out stretched arms. A waiting warm embrace and tender kiss.  

Not one of us has travelled too far away to return to our Father.  Everyone of us can come home.  Everyone is welcome.

Our Response to the Heart of The Father

Luke 15 is a chapter that speaks about the searching, relentless, run after you love of God.  Throughout the gospels we encounter Jesus who spent his earthly ministry teaching, living and revealing the inexhaustible, unlimited love of God toward us.  This love is a love that always welcomes and always celebrates.   This love doesn’t demand we explain why we were lost.  It is forgiving.  It is everlasting and lavish.  It is generous and patient and full of grace.  God’s great love is a love that reaches out.  It is constant.

The sheep didn’t ask to be found.  The shepherd simply went searching.  The coin didn’t know it was lost.  The woman knew it was valuable and searched until it was found.

The younger son did not understand the father’s response and was surprised.  He returned repentant, and in return received a constant, unconditional love.  The older son was confused and the father took the time to help him understand how loved and appreciated he was. 

This is our Heavenly Father’s love for us.  The heart of the Father is only love towards us.  He rejoices when we turn back to Him.  Our Father is not hiding or aloof.  He is on the look out for you and I.  God smiles when we allow him to shower us with His overwhelming never-ending love.

 Will you let Him?   Are you willing you to open yourself up to this unconditional searching love?   We have a God who is willing to run to meet you.

This song was sent to me this week and it perfectly fits the theme of this teaching today.  May the words and the message fill you to overflowing.

Song - When God Ran by Phillips Craig and Dean.

Benediction

Romans 8:38-39

38  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  39  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May you know the love of our Heavenly Father today and everyday.

May His love bring you comfort and joy.

May His love call you Home.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Rob Tavares

    Thank you.
    Truly Loved it.

  2. Avatar
    Denise

    the timing was wonderful and powerful

Leave a Reply