Midweek Homily

This was offered at the ecumenical service this week…

The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The sin of asking for what wasn’t his yet, and then going away from his father (hiding, should remind us of Adam and Eve in the Garden), squandering his inheritance on himself: there’s a sermon behind each of these steps through this parable.

But I want to sit for a moment on the notion of this young man and the pigpen. Anybody ever live near a pig farm or a stock yard? If you’re only visiting, it can be pretty obnoxious…

Same with a paper mill, onion farms, oil refiners, and the fetid sea smell near a fishery… or, a little closer to home, a nursing home, or a vet’s office, or what a plumber has to endure…

We get used to a lot of bad things. I’ve concentrated on smells, but there are sights and sounds and tastes and touches we get used to as well. Think of the sights we’re used to: semi-pornographic billboards, or the outfits some of us let our daughters wear, or the smut on prime time TV and in the movies, don’t forget the horoscopes in the newspaper; think of the sounds we’re used to: not just the boom-ba-boom-boom that we have to put up with at the stop light but the obscene words hurled out of cars driving down our streets; think of the tastes we’ve gotten used to: the medicines or those “health drinks” and things we have to swallow, or the beer, wine and liquor we pour excessively down our throats; think of the touches we’ve gotten used to: the needle prick, or the insane shoes, or the physical abuse… Bad things. And yet we get used to them… Thus far I’ve focused on the senses. But there are other things…

We get used to fear. We get used to being mean-tempered, we get used to having our own way or never getting our way, we get used to isolation or alienation, we get used to inertia, we get used to spinning our wheels, we get used to thinking our way is the only way, we get used to anger, we get used to grief, we get used to persecuting people or being a victim. We get used to things the way they are… we’re used to gossip, jealousy, selfishness, impatience and irritability, unthankfulness, judgmentalism, worldliness. Some day I’d like to preach a sermon to Del Rio about the sin of denominations. There’s a lot we’ve gotten used to.

All sin, no matter how subtle it may seem to us, is poison. It corrupts and pollutes our souls. Some subtle sins we really don’t much pay attention to either at the time or afterward. We often tolerate our ‘acceptable sins’ as merely “what we’ve gotten used to.” But even these are an affront to the glory of God. Now remember the prodigal son “coming to himself” and remember our ancestors.

Noah stopped being used to his neighbors’ sins and built an arc. Abraham put aside the idols of his family and he left his father’s house to obey God. Joseph over came Potiphar’s wife and his brothers’ treachery. Moses over came the Israelites. Joshua and Gideon overcame the people’s fear. King David overcame himself…

Fast forward to the New Testament and remember Simeon and Anna, old people, waiting at the Temple. They refused to get used to the way things were. And the apostles, and Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and Paul: they are still remembered for not remaining used to the sin they were living in.

In His good pleasure, God has graciously provided the antidote for the sinful things we’re used to in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Not a fatted calf: tomorrow we will remember that the Son of Man has been slain for us. And Saturday night and Sunday morning we will celebrate His resurrection and the life that is ours in Him. The servants are gathering the finest, the musicians will be playing and an Eternal Feast is prepared for us. We know this. But come to yourself, look around: see what you’ve gotten used to that isn’t pleasing to God; see what alienates you from yourself and your neighbor. Will (I/you) come to our senses and allow the party to continue with (me/you) as the guest of honor? Right before our lesson starts today Jesus says, “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Our Father is waiting for the first sign from us that we want to return, that we want to be fully members of His Family. He wants to help us complete our return. He wants us to share in an unending celebration of peace and joy. All we have to do is return. There is rejoicing in heaven for the sinner who repents and returns to the Lord. Will we say, with the younger son, “I will leave my present circumstances and return to my Father…?”

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power and idle talk.

And grant unto me, Your servant, a spirit of chastity and integrity, humility, patience and love.

Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.


One Response to “Midweek Homily”

  1. Mike Says:

    David, thanks for this. That whole image of what we get used to, what we settle for, is very powerful. It is almost always less than what God is offering. Blessings on this Good Friday, Mike+

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