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.’”
Good morning. May you enjoy the sweet presence of Jesus Christ in whom God has shown God’s unfathomable love through the power of the Holy Spirit as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. “During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.”
Particularly, I would like to invite you to think about the meaning of incarnation while awaiting the return of Jesus. Incarnation means that “God was in the world in the actual person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel writers explain this in different ways. In Mark, Jesus seems to be adopted as God’s Son at his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. In John, Jesus is God’s pre-existing Word who “became flesh and lived among us” (1:14).” For three weeks, I am planning on preaching about incarnation: Incarnation Showing God’s Welcome; Incarnation Demonstrating Christ’s Obedience; Incarnation Making Sanctification Possible.
Today, let’s think about incarnation as God’s welcome first. The story we read today shows the image of God who embraces humanity. It is generally called the parable of the prodigal son. But, the more important character in the story is the father, not the sons. We are familiar with the story. We already know how sacrificial and unconditional the father’s love is. That being said, unless we read the original Bible written in Greek, we may not comprehend how shocking the request of the younger son for his father’s property and the response of the father were. Verse 12 says, “The younger [son] said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’” It looks like he is simply demanding huge amounts of money from his father. But, the original Greek word which is translated as “estate” means “substance.” In other words, it means “the essential part of something.” Therefore, what the son asked of the father is the most important thing of his father. What was it? The father’s response answers the question. He divided his property between them. Do you know what the Greek word signifying “property” is? It is “life.” Thus, what the father gave to his son is not just money but his life.
The Book of Sirach, which is included in the Catholic Bible but not in the Protestant one helps us understand the story better. Sirach 33:20-24 gives advice to the head of a household in ancient Jewish society. It says, “To son or wife, to brother or friend, do not give power over yourself, as long as you live; and do not give your property to another, in case you change your mind and must ask for it. While you are still alive and have breath in you, do not let anyone take your place. […] At the time when you end the days of your life, in the hour of death, distribute your inheritance.” But, the father in today’s story ignores this advice.
In addition, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 says about a man having two wives. Even if the mother of the firstborn is a woman he does not love, “he must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.” In other words, every son except for the eldest son was destined to be in poverty in ancient times. And, as we see, the father in today’s parable also acts against this customary law.
In short, shockingly enough, this younger son’s “act of requesting his share of the inheritance implies [nothing less than] that he wants his father to drop dead.” And the father accepts the request without argument.
We cannot easily understand the behavior of the father. Simply speaking, he was wrong. He should have admonished his son for the arrogance and rudeness. He could have kicked the irreverent son out of his house. He should’ve taught his son manners if he really loved his son. He should have followed the advice of Sirach and obeyed the teaching of Deuteronomy. But, he didn’t do so. He would’ve looked like a fool. He was foolish.
What is more absurd is the father’s behavior when the younger son came back home after running through his fortune. While his son was still a long way off, he saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. He brought the best robe, put it on his son, and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. He also brought the fattened calf, killed it, and gave a feast and celebrated. What? Are you kidding? How can he accept his son without an admonition? This father is out of his mind. Doesn’t he have any pride? Actually, the first son’s reaction is normal, unlike our general interpretation. In the real world, the father would have acted like the eldest son. The father’s response in the story is unreal.
That is not the end. Even though the first son who looks normal does not welcome his brother like his father who looks abnormal, the father does not rebuke him as well. Instead, he addresses him as “my son.” The father “uses a term of real familiarity, of intimacy […] he returns to a term of childhood, almost as though he is treating the elder as a baby.” And he tries to appease the son’s anger by saying “everything I have is yours.” This story is ridiculous, isn’t it?
But folks, that is what this parable wants to tell us. God who embraced humanness, God who became human in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is like that father in the story who gave everything to his sons, forgave and welcomed them without condition, and loved them without discrimination. Incarnation shows us God’s shocking welcome which is beyond our understanding. Amen.
 . Bernard Brandon Scott, Re-imagine the Word: An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 2001), 70.
 . Ibid., 71.
 . Ibid., 71-2.
 . Ibid., 72.
 . Ibid., 78.
Witness to the Word - November 25
Text: Psalm 145:1-10, Revelation 1:4b-8
Title: Jesus Is Lord
1 I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. 2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. 4 One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. 7 They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. 9 The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you.
4b Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. 7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Good morning. May you feel the presence of the Triune God who reigns over you as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. “The Festival of Christ the King “is both the Last Sunday After Pentecost and the last Sunday of the Christian Year. It is not so much a climax in itself, however, as it is a transitional Sunday leading directly to Advent, the Christmas cycle, and the new Christian Year. [We] are already thinking about Christmas, and the observance of Christ the King can help [us] prepare by stressing the continuity between the celebration of kingship, or sovereignty, of Christ and the expectation of Christ’s coming again in sovereign glory which opens the Advent Season. We have more than a baby Jesus at Christmas; we have a sovereign Christ. ‘Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her King.’”
The Magi knew well that Jesus is the King of Kings as we see in the Christmas story. Matthew 2:1-2 says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”” And, when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh (Matthew 2:11). So, in celebration of Christ the King Sunday, why don’t we ask ourselves this question? What gift can we also give to Jesus who is our Lord?
We may be able to find an answer to the question in this story.
A church bus driver was visiting a poor neighborhood to pick up children for Sunday School. He saw this poor little boy in ragged clothes and asked him if he would like to go to church Sunday. If so, he would come by and pick him up on the bus. The boy was excited and said yes. The driver asked if his parents were home so he could talk to them and the boy said they weren’t home very much so it would be alright.
Sunday the church bus pulled up and honked the horn, out came the little boy dressed in the same ragged clothes. The bus driver was kind and made him feel welcome, took him to church and introduced him to his new Sunday School teacher who was kind like the bus driver. He heard about Jesus that morning in Sunday School and thought the bus driver and his teacher must be like this Jesus because no one ever treated him this way.
His teacher took him into big church and had him sit with her. He was amazed at all the kind people, the beautiful carpet and the nice clothes people wore. They sang about Jesus, the preacher talked about Jesus and then they did something he did not understand at first. Men gathered up front and came by passing a shiny plate up and down the rolls. It passed him and he watched his new teacher put money in the plate and pass it by him. He asked her what that was for, she said it was for Jesus. His heart sank, he’d heard about Jesus, sang about Jesus and saw Jesus in his new friends, but he had nothing to give Jesus. As the man took the plate from him and moved to the next roll he got an idea. He got up and went to the man with the plate and asked him if he could have the plate. With caution the man handed it to him. The boy put the plate on the floor and stepped in it and said, “Jesus, I don’t have anything to give you but me.”
This boy tells us what gift we can present to Jesus whom we consider our King, our Lord. It is not just some of what we have but ourselves. So, in Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul says, “So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer” (Good News Translation). That we give ourselves to the King of Kings means nothing less than that we are willing to allow Jesus to reign over us. In other words, it means to know what God’s will is and to live faithfully according to such God’s will. Closing the Christian Year today, would you like to confess again that Jesus is your Lord and you want to offer yourself to the Lord?
To live according to the will of the King of Kings, we should be reminded of what kind of king God is. In Psalm 145 that we read today, the psalmist praises God by calling God a king. The psalmist lifts God’s name on high while remembering that God has done great things. The praise is reaching the climax. The mood should have been triumphant continually. But it wasn’t. The character of God the king that the psalmist describes is entirely different from the general character of the earthly kings we have known. We are told in verses 8-9, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
[A man] was working in his home office one evening, trying to get some necessary paperwork done. His little girl, who was about 4 years old at the time, was playing around his desk, puttering about, moving objects here and there, pulling out drawers, and making a good deal of noise. [He] endured the distraction with stoic patience until the child slammed a drawer on one of her fingers and screamed in pain. Reacting in exasperation he shouted, “That’s it!” as he escorted her out of the room and shut the door. Later, her mother found her weeping in her bedroom and tried to comfort her. “Does your finger still hurt?” she asked. “No,” the little girl sniffled. “Then why are you crying?” her mother asked. “’Cause,” she whimpered, “when I pinched my finger, Papa didn’t say, ‘Oh!’”
Jesus our Lord is the king who is filled with mercy and love and says, “Oh,” when we are in trouble. Jesus our Lord “will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle and will bring justice to all who have been wronged” (Isaiah 42:3, New Living Translation). Jesus our Lord told the good news to the poor, announced freedom for prisoners, gave sight to the blind, and freed everyone who suffered (Luke 4:18, Contemporary English Version). Jesus is Lord of all. But, he is characterized by compassion, mercy, and love.
We are the ones who wait for Jesus to return. Imagine the King of the Kings coming with the clouds and consummating the kingdom of perfect mercy and love on the earth. Though there are sorrows and sufferings in this world due to evil, we believe that the love of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords will ultimately triumph. That king invites us to rule the world together with love and mercy. That king invites us to dream of the kingdom of God filled with compassion. We can present ourselves as gifts to the Christ the King by accepting that invitation.
“The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message” “Alter your course 10 degrees south.” Promptly a return message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.” The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am the captain!” Soon another message was received: Alter your course 10 degrees north—I am seaman third class Jones.” Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: “Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am a battleship.” Then the reply came “Alter your course 10 degrees north—I am a lighthouse.” In the midst of our [lives], all sorts of voices are shouting orders […], telling us what to do, how to adjust our lives. [Meanwhile], one voice signals something quite opposite to the rest.” That voice says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This is what our king Jesus commands us to do at the forefront of spiritual battle. When we don’t live according to the will of God, when our hearts lack love, when we have trouble in accepting others as they are, Jesus our Lord gently says, “Alter your course.”
We have many last moments in our lives. Today is the last Sunday of Church Year. We will have the last day of 2018 soon. We have the last day of the month, the last hour of the day. Whenever these last moments come to us, why don’t we pray like this? “Jesus, you are my Lord. I always want to follow you. I welcome you. Reign over me so that I may be an instrument of your love and compassion.” Amen.