Thursday, April 19, 2018

Timeless Truths. The Waiting Father. 2 of 3

I’ve chosen to print the copy of Dr. Watkins’ message he emailed me at my request. I underlined the parts that I had in my notes and added parts I heard, but are not in this text inside {brackets in Georgia font}.

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15

Footnote: Luke 15:8 Greek ten drachmas, each worth about a day’s wages

I don't know why, but I continue to be amazed by how God links apparently unrelated events together in recognizable patterns. Maybe I'm the only one who sees a pattern, but I'm not going down that road. Suffice it to say, that I've added a third link to this chain/series of blog posts. It runs next Thursday. 

Let me know if you see a pattern, too!

{My first note on this message is "the lost matter to God." I don't think it was a misspeak by Dr. Watkins.}

Intro: Good morning.  What a crazy time we are living in!  But what a rich season for believers.

This morning I am going to spend a few minutes in a passage that has come to be powerful and meaningful to me over the past several years.  In this season of my life, I am finding it rich to spend lengthy periods of time in one passage of scripture.  Letting the word marinate in my mind and heart and revealing truth to me over time.

Luke 15 is home to three parables...the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost sons that are given by Jesus in response to the criticism of the Pharisees and teacher of the law over Jesus practice of hospitality to sinners. 

The three parables are a rebuttal to the established religious context and practice of his day and culture. I would suggest to you that in these three parables Jesus defines what matters and who matters.  Clearly, in 15-minutes we cannot unpack all of that so, for the moment, let’s accept the fundamental understanding that those who are lost matter to Jesus and the expectant work of the Kingdom of God. 

To assist my understanding of the context of the three parables I diagrammed the principle activities noted in them.

Lost sheep parable the shepherd:

Lost coin parable the woman:

Lost sons parable the father:

The diagram of the three parables reveals a notable shift in activity; 
Seek, find;
sweep, search;
give, wait

What happened to seeking-finding and sweeping-searching?  Should the idea of waiting mean something to us in our understanding of the context and reading of the parable of the lost sons? Some folks have taken note of the waiting context of the third parable and suggested that the parable be named "The Waiting Father."

We have all heard and many of us have preached the various facets of this third parable...the demand of the son for his share of the the son became desperate...returned home...the father’s gracious welcome...his return was celebrated and his brother’s anger...but this idea of waiting has captured my mind, heart and, imagination.  I have been wondering why the central activity in this parable is seemingly passive in contrast to the proactive behavior of the other two parables?  It seems to me that Giving and Waiting stand in stark contrast to the going and finding of the lost sheep and the sweeping and searching for the lost coin.

Those who know me and have worked with me know that I do not wait well.  Anyone else here that is waiting challenged?

I want to suggest five things to you about waiting as it is identified in the parable of the lost sons.

Waiting in the context of the scripture in general and this parable is sacred activity some ways, it may almost be sacramental...Reuben [Welch, long time PLNU Chaplain] has often said, “when nothing is happening, something is happening.”  The observation that the son “Came to his Senses...” may well be a reference to the mysterious work of God’s spirit beyond our knowledge and awareness. 
In our Western wait-challenged context, we cannot afford to lose our Wesleyan heritage and appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit that takes place beyond our knowledge.

Principle #1 - Waiting makes room for the work of the Holy Spirit.

Waiting can be an act of mercy. 
If part of mercy is the withholding of consequence the sacred act of waiting can delay, modify, reduce or eliminate the consequences of what one deserves to receive in the context of choices made. In the case of the older son’s behavior in the parable I would suggest to you that the father’s response to his son is an act of merciful waiting and is a recognition that this is only one conversation with his son...and there will be opportunity for more conversations... {waiting gives us a chance to give the right response}

Principle #2 - Waiting as mercy makes it more likely I will provide the correct human response.

Waiting is a spiritual discipline.
One of the fundamental reasons for the existence of this Franciscan Retreat Center is the practice of waiting...
Waiting to hear from God. 
Waiting to hear from one’s self. 
Waiting to hear the Word speak to us.
Waiting for God’s provision.

My own theological heritage is rooted in generations of Quaker belief and the idea of the silent services practiced in some segments of Quaker tradition. Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak talks about the Quaker concept of the way opening and closing...such concepts are dependent upon waiting.

Principle #3 - Waiting as spiritual discipline provides time for God to speak to me and to renew me.

Waiting requires persistence and patience

KJV - They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength - they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary they shall walk and not be faint.
NIV - those whose hope is in the Lord shall renew their strength...                            
Isaiah 40:31

In our context, I would submit that Christian higher education is a sacred act of waiting.  “Fully Becoming who you are called to be...”. The [Point Loma Nazarene] University promise recognizes that not only will we walk with a student and help them become who they are called to be, it also promises that we will practice waiting as they become who they are called to be.  At PLNU we marvel at and wait for the changes that occur in a student’s life from the day they arrive on campus to the day they shake Dr. Brower’s [President of PLNU] hand in the Greek Amphitheater at commencement.  And that’s only the beginning of our waiting...because we marvel at what God does in and through our graduates as they take their place in His world.

Principle #4 - Waiting makes it possible for us to experience and see God’s formative activity that we might not have seen had we rushed ahead.

By implication Waiting in the parable is paired with anticipation
...while he was still a long way off his father saw him...

Can you imagine what the father endured as he waited?  Notice that he did not pursue.  He gave his son what he wanted and released him...and in time he “came to his sense.” 

Yes, we can imagine such waiting. For many, if not all of us have done such waiting for a loved one, a student, a congregation member.  When I left pastoral ministry for the ministry of higher education someone asked what I would miss... two things: preaching and the mysterious work of spiritual formation. Watching someone attend church for the first time and their body language is resistant...and overtime see their body language become more hospitable and then six months later to hear someone say...did you know Dave has chosen to follow Christ?  It is wondrous.

Principle #5 - Waiting is not a passive activity. 
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3

In conclusion:
That the central activity in the third parable is different than the central activity of the first two parables is important and I would be failing at my responsibility if I didn’t and ask one more question...

what was the father waiting for?  And I believe the question is important as we talk today...through powerful imagery the parable reminds us that the Father was waiting for and is still waiting for the lost.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Psalm 37:7

Who {and what} are you waiting for?

Thanks to Dr. Joe Watkins for the central teachings in this post.

Notice in Psalm 5:3, the waiting is done in expectation of something. Hmmm, that sounds a lot like last week’s Timeless Truth!

This was going to end the short series of “coincidentally related messages.” There is one more.

On April 8, Pastor Tony Miller’s message was titled “When Faith Becomes a Little Less Interesting.” The Scripture passage was Luke 17:1-10.

While that might not sound related to either of the first two posts in this series, I encourage you to come back and see what God did in my mind to reinforce that waiting expectantly is crucial to increasing our faith.

Next Timeless Truth is When Faith Becomes a Little Less Interesting

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