The Morning After the Night Before The Rest of the Story, Part 2

June 8, 2014

You have all felt the feeling or have
heard of someone who has.  “The dreaded
morning after the night before.”  You
hadn’t intended on staying at the party that long, you knew that you had to get
up the next morning and yet there it was. 
As some people say, “It is what it is.” 
The year I graduated from High School, I
was still a year from becoming a Christ follower and I spent part of that year
with my Dad on a commercial fishing boat.  I was the youngest member of the crew and I
wanted to run with the big boys.  And
there were nights when we were in port that we got back to the boat a little
late and my father had little or no sympathy for our shenanigans and in the
morning he would arrive in our rooms and announce, “Gentlemen if you are going
to dance you are going to have to pay the fiddler!”  And it seemed the later we had stayed out the
night before, the more work he had for us the morning after, or maybe it was
just my imagination.  Maybe you’ve been
there, or maybe you can only imagine.
In the scripture that was read this
morning we heard events that led up to a party, a party that most of us are
familiar with, it is the story that Jesus told of the prodigal son. 
Last week we looked at the story, and it
begins with these words. Luke 15:11-12 To illustrate the point further, Jesus
told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I
want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to
divide his wealth between his sons. 
There were two sons in the story, two
because three would have been too many and one would have been too few. 
Last Sunday we focused on the younger
son, the one we know as the Prodigal Son. 
How he asked his father to divide his estate. 
Tradition tells us that the estate would
have been divided with the older son getting the bigger half, in this case he
would have received 2/3 and the younger brother would have received 1/3. 
Which would be fair if you were the
older son but maybe wouldn’t seem so fair if you were the younger son.  But of course that goes back to “It is what
it is” as well.
Of course along with the 2/3 that the
older brother would receive he would also be responsible for his parent’s well-being
as they got older.  The younger son on
the other hand would get his 1/3 with no strings attached.  
I don’t know if the older son wanted his
share up front or not, but he got it, and with it he got the responsibility of
dealing with Ma and Pa.  Now what the
sons received was not necessarily just money, although that was a good part of
it.  But the most important thing that
the sons received was control over their destiny.  Up to that point they were still under Dad’s
control but with their inheritance they obtained their freedom.
The father was saying, “I love you my
son, enough that I’m ready to let go”
Now we can draw a parallel here with the
gift of free will that we are given by God.  God is saying, “My child I love you, I love
you so much that I never want to be separated from you, and I would never hurt
you, and there are times I wish I could keep you from sinning.  But I loved you so much that I gave you your
freedom, even if you use it to be separated from me.” 
This man loved his son more than words
could express and even though he probably had an inkling of what might lay
ahead for his youngest he loved him enough to give him the freedom to choose
his own path. 
This is of course an analogy for the
free will that our heavenly Father gives us, the freedom to make good choices
or the freedom to make bad choices.  But
it is a freedom and they are our choices. 
Well I’m sure you know the story and if you don’t you can probably guess
what happens next: Jesus continues the story in Luke 15:13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his
belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in
wild living. 

The younger son chose to leave home and he chose
how he would spend his money and if you are familiar with the parable you know
that there came a time that after he had spent all his money he had to take a
job tending pigs to survive.  And that’s
where we pick up the story in Luke 15:17-19 When he
finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired
servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go
home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and
I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired
servant.” 

And that’s
exactly what he did. He chose to go home, where his father greeted him with
open arms threw him a party, told the servants to get him the finest outfit to
wear and a new pair of shoes and presented him a ring to wear, probably the
family crest.  And a good time was had by
all, not.  Luke 15:25-28 Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned
home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants
what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has
killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ “The
older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.
This is where
it gets interesting because normally at this point in the message the Pastor is
all excited about the kid returning home and expects everyone else to be excited
and starts talking about what a jerk the older brother was.  We hear about the need for forgiveness and
the need for grace and how the older brother was harbouring bitterness in his
heart and probably had served his father out of a sense of obligation and
without love.  And the story often
digresses and we feel sorry for the younger brother and really start to dislike
the older brother.
Can I make a
confession here?  Sure I can, I wouldn’t
have gone to the stupid party either.  I
know that probably makes me petty and spiteful but I don’t care, one of my
childhood heroes used to say “I ‘yams whats I ams, and dats all that I ‘yams”
Christ told
the story to illustrate how God loves lost people and the concept of
repentance, grace and forgiveness.  We
get that.  We understand that the
Prodigal is the definition of the antihero. 
Dictionary.com
defines
him this way
an·ti·he·ro [an-tee-heer-oh,
an-tahy-] noun, plural an·ti·he·roes.
a protagonist who lacks the
attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or
attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.
But the hero
of the story is the guy who didn’t forsake his parents, the guy who fulfilled
his obligations and got up every morning and did the job that he was supposed
to do.  There was no wild living, no
partying, nothing to be sorry for. 
My daughter
used to get frustrated when she would go to the Encounter Weekend at Kingswood
University each fall and they would always have some student speak to the group
of high school students, telling them how bad they had been with Cigarettes and
whiskey and wild wild women, and how God reached down and touched them and
brought them to Bible College.  And
Deborah would ask, “What about us good kids? 
It’s like we have less of a story.” 
And she is
right and her first year at Bible College she did as only Deborah can do and
positioned herself so she got to tell her story at Booster.  How the same God who was able to deliver
people from their mistakes and habits was also able to keep people from making
those mistakes. That when we pray “lead us not into temptation” that we can
expect that God will answer that prayer. 
And let’s not
forget when we celebrate the alcoholic who finally quits drinking that we
should be celebrating the person who never starts as well.  That it’s wonderful when someone gives up
smoking but let’s not forget the person who never took a puff to start. 
And while
sometimes the church wants to hold up the person who has been rescued from a
life of sexual misfortune we forget that the heroes are those who can walk the
wedding aisle wearing white and not feel guilty.
So yeah, the
older brother might have been a smuck but I don’t blame him. 
So you know
the story, the father gets a fancy robe for the kid, a new pair of shoes puts a
ring on his finger and throws him a party, ya-hoo.  And while Jesus finishes the story with the
celebration that’s not where the story ends.
There Was a Price to be Paid
Fast forward
a few hours later, the sun is just peeking up over the horizon, kid brother is
enjoying sleeping in a real bed in who knows how long without a pig cuddled up
to him and suddenly there is a pounding at his bedroom door.  “Go away” he hollers.  “Can’t go away” comes the reply “It’s time to
go to work.” “Work?” Says the kid, “it’s still dark out, normally I’m just
getting to bed.”
Now if the
guy on the other side of the door had of been my daddy he would have said “If
you are going to dance then you gotta pay the fiddler.”  But the guy on the other side of the door
wasn’t my daddy he was the older brother.
You
understand the story right?  Back at the
beginning of the story that we read the father divided his wealth between his
two sons.  The younger son got his third
and he blew it.  The older brother got
his 2/3.  So have you done the math?  Dad has 3/3, Older brother gets 2/3 that
leaves 1/3 then younger brother gets 1/3 which leaves Daddy with Zip, nothing,
nada.  He had given his sons all he had
and his oldest son was given the responsibility of taking care of his parents.
Get the
picture, daddy gave his younger son a beautiful robe, the older brother owned
the closet.  The Prodigal son got a ring,
the faithful son owned the jewellery box. 
Yep, baby brother got the fattened calf the rest of the herd belonged to
. . . you got it.
Not trying to
demean the saving power of God.  I was a
prodigal, I spoke at Kingswood when I was there and told how God had reached
down and pulled me out of the miry clay and delivered me from cigarettes and
whiskey and wild wild women.  I truly
believe that when I came and repented of my sins and became a Christ follower
that there was a celebration in heaven.
And my sin
was forgiven but it had left its mark.   I
craved cigarettes for years after I quit, don’t think I wished I had never
smoked my first one.  If you never take
the first drink you will never have a problem with an alcohol addiction and
probably with any other drug.  For years
we were taught that Marijuana was the gateway drug, the drug that opened the
door to harder drugs.  New research is
telling us that it not pot it booze.  And
that often that first drink comes from the parents stash, just saying.
Remember it was
Mark
Twain who said  “It is easier
to stay out than get out.”
I could never
give my bride the same gift she gave me, and it made for awkward question and
answer times when my kids were teenagers. 
Yes there is forgiveness and yes we become a new creation, but in some
cases you can’t unring the bell. 
If you lived
a hard life there will be physical, emotional and spiritual consequences.  There are times you might wish you could turn
back the clock and live your life over but you can’t.
There Were Things to Be Done The prodigal was no longer a Lone Ranger, only looking out for
himself.  Now he was part of a family
with all that entailed.  In the prodigal’s
case there was work that had to be done around the farm.  Everyday things that being a part of the
family involved.  Chores that had to be
done, things that needed to be taken care of. 
Maybe big
things like taking care of the herds and minor things like putting his dirty
dishes in the dishwasher and helping out around the house.  There are responsibilities that come with
being a part of the family.  But there
was also family time, together time. Having dinner with the family and the
laughter and joy that come from shared experiences.
The kid didn’t just come
home and pretend that he was still on his own, and that wasn’t a bad
thing.  When he came home he was just
looking for a job Luke
15:17-19
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home
even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of
hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against
both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please
take me on as a hired servant.””    And
he was accepted back, not as a servant, but as the son he was. 
When we ask Christ to
forgive us and accept His direction in our lives he gives us the greatest gift
of all, a gift that can’t be earned and isn’t deserved, it’s spelled out in John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the
right to become children of God. 
But that morning when the
sons went to work they did different things. 
Older brother had been doing this for years, he knew what he had to do
and he did it.  Younger brother was
starting from scratch there were things that needed to be learned or
re-learned, relationships that had to be built or re-built.  They were both sons but they were at different
rungs on the ladder, at different stages in their lives.
The analogy for our
becoming Christ Followers is to become born again or to become children.  And just like there are stages in a child’s
growth and progress there are stages in a new believer’s growth and
progress.  In Hebrews 6:1-2 there is a
warning that is addressed to mature believers but in that warning comes
direction for new believers.  Hebrews 6:1-2 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ
again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.
Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of
repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further
instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the
dead, and eternal judgment.
So those of us who have
been on the way and in the way for years, we don’t have to be relearning the
basics of Christianity over and over again. 
Sometimes I wonder how many people are in programs like Alpha just need
to grow up.  So for some of us it’s time
to grow up, to learn to feed ourselves and do the work of the Kingdom.  Two mistakes that we so often make is
expecting too much from our new believers and too little from those who have
been around for a while.

However the implication is there for new believers that a foundation does have
to be laid.  You do need to learn about repenting
of evil deeds, and that means learning that some behaviour is unacceptable for
a Christ Follower.  You need to learn
about placing your faith in God and being baptized and you need to learn about
the fundamentals of the faith.

They
Were Both Honoured 
The problem with
the big brother wasn’t that he was spiteful or unforgiving it was just that he
was human.  For better or for worse the
burning question on our hearts is “What about me?” If you know the story he
comes home hears about the party and goes to his room to pout, exactly what I
would have done, but only after I found out if they had my favourite food, spiteful
yes, stupid no.
And so his father goes to his room and begged him to
come down and this is the brother’s response Luke 15:29-30 He replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved
for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all
that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on
prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
You know who was to blame
here right?  Yep, the old man.  If what his oldest son said was true, and we
have no reason to doubt it, then Dad fell down here by taking his son for
granted.  He probably thought his son
already knew how he felt and how appreciative he was, after all he had given
him the farm.  And as parents and spouses
and employers and teachers and as a church we can learn a valuable lesson from
that. 
But whether it was
verbalized or not he was honoured that way, he would have things that his
younger brother would never have.
And for those of you who
have “always” been Christians, you will have some things that those who come to
know Christ later will never have. 
Including making the trip without having to haul around a pile of
baggage with you. 
But his Father was
correct in his response as well Luke 15:31-32 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have
always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this
happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost,
but now he is found!’”  There does
need to be a celebration of Grace when someone comes into the Kingdom.  It’s not a little thing it is an eternal
thing.  There were lost but now they are
found, there were dead and now they have come back to life.  Jesus said that the angels rejoice when one
sinner comes to repentance, and we should do the same.
And remember it’s not how
you start the race; ultimately it’s how you finish the race that counts.