Note: This is #8 in a series of posts. If you have not read the Foreword to the series, I hope you will do that first: Foreward
Luke 15:31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
“How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds and drives away his fears!” And that is so true, isn’t it? Just to stop for a moment in the face of all trouble, calamity, aches, pains and frustrations and disappointments, to stop and pray and realize that Jesus is on our side. He is with us till our very end. He will never lay a cross upon us which is too heavy, but with that cross will give us a way to escape! Our prayer need not be theologically correct. It need not be filled with Thee’s and Thou’s and wouldst and shouldst. In fact, in the face of overwhelming problems all you need to do is to be still for a moment and simply say that precious Name, “Jesus!” That is prayer enough. He knows and He cares and He is listening. St. Paul tells us that we groan inwardly with inexpressible thoughts. Sometimes our feelings are so heavy that we cannot utter what we want to say. Then what is simply better than to say “Jesus?” More than a Name it sums up everything we believe in and everything we are and everything we hope for.
But there is another name that has great meaning to us. It is a name we like to hear. And when said in a calming tone, with a loving caring voice, it also quiets us, slows down our anger or anxiety, and that name is the complete opposite of Jesus. No, not Satan, but really your own name. It is a name your parents gave you. It is a name which summed up their love for you. Maybe you were named after an aunt or uncle. Maybe after a close friend of theirs, or someone they deeply admired. It is a name you got used to already before you could speak. It is a name which relates your relationship to your parents and to your family and to your friends.
And when it is misspoken it bothers you. It upsets you. But when it is spoken by family and friends in a loving caring way, it gives you a quite kind of peace.
There was a man who had two sons and he named both of them. He gave them a very special name and it is here in this text. It was a name given by God almighty Himself. You see, the name of these two boys is “My Son”! And that is the name which God has given His own. You see, in Ex. 4:22, God says, “Israel is My Son. Let My son go!”
In our text, God is the Father and we are represented as His sons. We are either the haughty—self—righteous—stay—around—and—look—religious—sons, or the go—off—and—do—your—own—thing—sons. St. Peter says, “For you are chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!”
We, the Holy Christian Church, are the people of God. We are His sons and daughters. And we have been given a name that is above every name except for the very Name Jesus itself! And how great it is to know that God knows us and calls us by that same name.
In our parable the son has disowned his father. His actions state that he no longer wants to be associated with him and live under his roof. And so he takes what he has and goes to that distant city. He doesn’t need to hear his father say, “My son!”
There at first people call him friend and buddy as he lives his life riotously. He is one heck of a man, a big spender, a generous person. This is now both his name and his reputation. It isn’t “My son.” Its buddy , friend, pal… But the riotous living comes to an end not just because he ran out of money, but because he ran out of friends. The same good old boys who drank with him do not call him friend anymore. Not buddy, and not pal. The girls he hung around with no longer have any affectionate term for him. They call him “Hey you.” Or “Jew boy” or maybe worse.
And things go from bad to worse until where finally he does what no Jew should do, he is made to feed pigs, and their food even looks good to him. But no one would give him anything. And he begins to remember how it was back in the Jewish village where people took care of each other. People paid their hired hands well until where they had bread enough and to spare. And even the poor and the sick and the lepers were given what they needed. I perish here! I am literally dying. I have sinned. I know it now. I would like to have it all back, but that is impossible. I would like to be called, “My son” again, but that is impossible. I will just settle to be called “Friend” by my father, that name he uses for his hired hands. I will arise and go back to him and confess my sins and tell him that I cannot be called “My son” again, but will settle for something less, if he will just forgive me.
And so he does go home. He goes back and he confesses his unworthiness. And the father, who is God hears his confession and forgives him completely. And His words are ever so sweet, ever so forgiving, ever so fatherly! “This is my son! He was dead and now he lives again. He was lost and now I have found him. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for this is all that matters to me.”
That is what worship is about. You and I have left this House of Prayer last Sunday, or the Wednesday before, or perhaps some other time. We have gone to that distant city. At times we have renounced that Name of “My Son”, “My Daughter.” We coveted the name of buddy, or friend, or pal, so much that we gave in. We wanted to be like everyone else. We wanted to wallow in the excuse, “O well, I am only human.” We did our own thing; we went our own way. And somewhere along the way we stopped for a moment. The Spirit came to us. And we saw what we were and where we were. Then with the Psalmist we said, “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.” And the Spirit assured us, “And He will forgive the iniquity of all your sins.”
Then with David you were able to say, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” And so we do. And in the reading of the Gospel or the preaching of it, after the confession and in the absolution, we hear in our inmost hearts,’ “This my son, my daughter, was dead and is alive again. He, she was lost and is found. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for he, she has come home to me safe and sound!” Amen.
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