West Franklin Family,
There’s an image I can’t get out of my head. Ever since I preached on the Parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15, I cannot shake the scene from my mind. I fear it is me. I fear it is our church. I fear it is far too many of us “church folk.” The image is of the older brother watching the father go back to his party. He hears the music. He hears the laughs. He sees the silhouettes dancing behind the tent. He smells the filet. He hears the corks pop. He sees the back of his younger brother. He watches a kitchen staffer wheel in the cake. He overhears his father’s bellowed voice.
He’s on the outside looking in.
The party is inside. He is outside. The celebration is going on without him. Everyone is partying. He is alone. The sinner and father are having the time of their lives. He sulks in unbelief and shock.
It’s the only thing he’s been shocked about in a long, long time. His heart rate has remained calm for years. Wake up. Go to work. Eat supper with the family. Go to bed. Wake up. Go to work. Eat supper with the family. Go to bed. Wake up. Go to work. Eat supper with the family. Go to bed. Nothing exciting ever happens. Routine. He does his thing. He stays out of trouble. He never takes a risk. Never dares having fun. He controls how things go. He does things the way they should be. Dad, he thinks, will pay and respond accordingly. He knows how dad is. He knows how he himself is. He will do what he’s supposed to do and, as a result, will get the payment and treatment he deserves. As long as he controls his actions, he will be able to control dad’s response.
So when dad acts uncontrollably – uh oh. When dad goes off script – whoops. When dad gives a party to the “wrong” guy – watch out. Did he not know his father in the first place?
Before it got too late that night, the older brother was headed back to his “controllable” routine while missing out on the party of the year. The party with the father was happening. The older brother missed it. He was on the outside looking in.
West Franklin, I am scared to death we are on the outside looking in. There’s a party happening, but we are missing it. There’s celebrations to be had, but we are headed back to our routine. The Father is busy partying with the “wrong” people while we are going about our “controllable” lives of singing, Bible study, fellowship, and prayer requests. Sometimes I wonder if we are missing the party.
Do you ever wonder what would happen if you (we) swallowed your (our) pride, bit the bullet, and just walked in? What would happen if you started hanging around the “wrong” people? What would happen if you had ’em over for dinner? What would happen if you invited them to a worship service? What would happen if you got to know them? What would happen if, for once in your life, you found yourself laughing uncontrollably because you weren’t worrying about anyone’s approval?
You might just start enjoying the party. You might just start seeing that they, in fact, are the “right” people. You might see the Father go off-script. You might see that God goes all prodigal on . . . them. You might see someone experience grace. You might see real-life transformation with your own two eyes. You might look and feel and smell and act and party like . . . Jesus.
I can’t get the picture out of my mind. That poor older brother. Sulking. Angry. Shocked. Walking back to his bedroom to his routine life. The party was happening whether he went or not. The Father celebrates with grace-showered sinners whether we join in or not. It’s not whether or not the party is happening. It’s whether or not we are on the outside looking in.
Longing to Party with the Prodigal Father,
God willing, I will see you tomorrow. Dave Kruse will be preaching from Luke 22:14-34. We will observe the Lord’s Supper together. We will witness baptisms. We will, I hope, rejoice in the fact that the Father saves lost sinners.
And speaking of partying, Easter is coming. Go here to see the schedule. And, as with all the “good” parties – don’t forget to RSVP.