Sunday, March 14, 2010


So, in the spirit of the practice of the regular preacher at HFASS, the amazing sarcasticlutheran, I'll post the notes from the sermon I preached tonight. I'm not sure, though, how well they translate to the written page ... or, I guess, computer screen. Also, in all fairness, this is basically the same sermon I preached at Holy Love this morning.

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grace, mercy, and peace to you from God
and from Christ our savior. Amen.

this, one of the most famous of stories from scripture
one of Jesus most well-known parables
this prodigal son story
probably not quite as popular as the good Samaritan
but well-known still

I myself am an older brother,
so I find myself regularly identifying with the second half of this story

I remember when I was young,
my brother … my younger brother … and I would fight
and most of the time (in my memory)
I’d do something that my brother had prompted me to do
and then I’d get in trouble, but he wouldn’t

It was not fair
I had to be extra good, and still got in trouble
while my brother got away with all kinds of stuff

Of course, I recognize now that I have a different perspective
colored by age and by being a parent
that my perceptions may not be completely accurate

So I can identify with the older brother, here
no matter how hard he works, he doesn’t even get a goat
for a backyard barbecue
and then his brother returns, manipulates their father
gets a robe, a ring, the fatted calf, and a huge party

it’s simply not fair
sure, the younger brother makes out pretty well in the end
sure, with a little perspective, I can see where it’s good for him
now he has food, shelter, clothes … a place to belong again
but I can’t help but to think, what did he do to deserve all this?
do you notice, he never even repents,
maybe we can assume that he did
but then, I wonder if his repentance is sincere,
or if he’s just hungry
but still, it doesn’t seem fair

we talk, and think, about fairness a lot in our society
even if we don’t admit it ~ even if we don’t recognize it
our thoughts about fairness
are what drive our conversations about
health care
debt relief
marriage laws
tax laws

we seem to be driven by the question
“why should someone else get the same thing that I get
when they didn’t earn it like I did?”

from that perspective, even if we’re not actually an older brother ourselves
we can identify with the older brother
who feels like his work isn’t valued,
his loyalty isn’t valued
his commitment isn’t valued
and that his sibling is getting something he doesn’t deserve

isn’t that what our societal conversations about fairness revolve around?
what I do or don’t get
especially in relation to what my neighbor does or doesn’t get
based on how much we work

and that’s appropriate for our economy

but our economy is not God’s

in God’s economy, our works fall a little short, like Isaiah’s filthy cloth
serving on housekeeping, filthy cloth
showing up every week to worship, filthy cloth
giving money to charity, filthy cloth
working for a charity, filthy cloth
going on mission trips, filthy cloth

Isaiah tells us that
all our righteous deeds are like filthy cloths

we want to look for reasons things are the way they are
we want to explain, to help ourselves understand
to help ourselves categorize people
according to what they do or don’t deserve

in the end, it doesn’t matter why he was in such a desperate situation
whether it was because he
squandered his money in dissolute living
or because there was a famine
or because no one would give him anything
(all these are found in the text as reasons for his desperation)

We want to look for reasons
it helps us make sense of things

but there’s no making sense of this
after all, it’s not our economy

God’s economy is not zero-sum
while we tend to need to look at the bottom line,
we need the credits to match the debits

if the father welcomes his wayward son home,
he must not love the son who’s been there all along
opening his arms to the one who was dead,
but who is walking down the road
the older brother sees his father’s turning his back on him
he doesn’t see his inheritance
he doesn’t see that his inheritance isn’t diminished
by the Father’s grace extended to another

There’s a line in the Paul reading for today
that’s captivated me this week
if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation
or is it ‘they are’ … or maybe ‘he is’ … or ‘y’all are’
or a better translation, maybe
if anyone is in Christ … new creation

you and I are in Christ
not because we stayed home
not because we wander down the road
not because we repent
not because we work hard
you and I are in Christ, new creations
because that’s how God’s economy works

on the cross, God’s arms are opened wide
and God comes running toward us
welcoming us, though we don’t deserve it
welcoming us, despite our running away
despite the squandering
despite the disrespect
despite the asking for more than we deserve
God’s arms are open to us
welcoming us
whether we’ve been gone and thought dead
or whether we’ve been there all along,

on this divine balance sheet
there is new life for all

none of us has earned God’s grace

This is what God’s economy looks like
God's grace is a grace eager to give life and restore relationship
in Christ, God’s economy looks like … new creation


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