Selling Everything?

Text: Matthew 13:44-52

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

I must admit that I kind of have an obsession with Bible verses like the first verse of our gospel reading today and it’s not really a healthy obsession. Jesus tells us a parable here in the first verse of our reading. It is a parable about a man who finds a treasure hidden in a field. Having found that treasure, he quickly hides it again so that he can make arrangements to purchase the field where the treasure was found. But, this is not a man who has spare cash on hand with which he could purchase a field on a whim. No, instead this man needs to sell everything that he has, everything, in order to raise enough money to make the purchase. And that is exactly what he does. He sells everything, buys the field and the treasure is his.

Jesus tells us right at the beginning of the parable that the “treasure” that this man found is the kingdom of heaven. The man found the kingdom which Jesus has brought into this world and upon finding it realized that it was a treasure beyond any other. It was worth more than anything that he owned or could ever dream of owning. So he sold everything for the sake of acquiring that treasure.

The catch here, and this is where my obsession comes in, is that the implication for you and me is that Jesus is calling us here to give up everything that we have for the sake of acquiring His Kingdom. That is a hard thing to hear. This is not the only place that Jesus says something like that and every time I hear or read things like this from Jesus and I want to explain it away. I know that “sell everything that you have…” is not the kind of thing that people want to hear. Frankly, it is not what I want to hear either. For North Americans like us this might be the most difficult thing that we could be asked to do. I think some people would be much more willing to give up their actual lives rather than give up everything that they have. Even if we don’t think we have much stuff or don’t think it would be that hard to sell everything when it came right down to selling that clothes off your back or the roof over your head it would get pretty tough. Like the rich young man who came and asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, when we hear those words “sell everything that you have” our heart sinks. We know we can’t do it.

It is important, I think, to let those words sink in a bit though. We need to hear these words from Jesus and recognize that our obsession with stuff, with possessions, is not healthy. It is especially not healthy if the things we have in life are coming between us and our Saviour. But, at the same time, we need to realize that Jesus is doing more here than just dumping an impossible heavy load on us and asking us to get rid of all our earthly possessions. There is more happening in this little parable than meets the eye.

In order to really understand what is happening in our gospel reading it is helpful to take a look at our Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy chapter 7. Verse 6 of our Old Testament reading says, “you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession.”

Moses spoke these words to the people of Israel after God had led them up out of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry ground. Look at what he calls that people. He calls them “His (the LORD’s) treasured possession. You and I, like the people of Israel before us, are God’s treasured possession. We are His treasure.

Notice also that it is not that the people were somehow worthy to be called “treasure.” Moses reminds them that God did not chose them because they were the greatest or most powerful nation. Instead, God chose them because He is faithful to His promise and He loves them. He loves them and has made them into His treasure, His most valuable possession. He has made them His own. In the same way, we are by no means worthy to be called treasure. We especially are not worthy to be called the LORD’s treasure. And yet that is what we are called here. Not because we are worthy or deserving, but because of our God’s unending love and mercy for us. We are His treasure!

If we take that good news and bring it over into our gospel reading today it sheds new light on what Jesus is saying here. Jesus talks about a man finding treasure in a field and selling everything that he has in order to buy that field. We naturally put ourselves in that man’s shoes and take his actions as the lesson we are to learn from this story. But, there is more happening here. What if we are the treasure, just like our Old Testament reading says? If we are the treasure then Jesus is the man who finds the treasure in the field. What did that man do to get the treasure? He sold everything that he owned. What did our Lord Jesus do to make us His own? He gave up everything that was rightfully His, the glory of heaven, His seat at the right hand of the Father, and took on our human flesh. He walked among us and suffered the afflictions that we suffer. He even spent His own life on the cross to pay the full and final price for us. His love for us is so immeasurable that He would pay a price that we can’t even imagine paying. He paid it, He paid it in full, He paid it because you are His treasure.

That changes things, doesn’t it? All of a sudden this is not a parable about what we need to do to make the kingdom of heaven our own, it is a parable about what God has done to make us His own and make a place for us in His Kingdom. This is a parable about the price that God would pay for us.

Does that mean that we don’t need to worry about this whole, “sell everything that you own” business? Not really, no. Jesus says that other places too and we need to grapple with what He is saying. But, it does put what Jesus is saying about our worldly possessions into perspective.

When Jesus challenges us with the words “Sell everything that you have…” he is not calling us to do some great act of dedication or show our commitment to Him with a grand “everything must go” garage sale. Jesus does not need us to sell everything. Instead, Jesus is calling attention to our obsession with earthly possessions and is inviting us to imitate Him. He did sell everything in His possession to make us His own. He even gave His own life. And now, He reigns enthroned in Heaven sitting at God’s right hand.

Jesus does not invite us to sell everything, not necessarily, but He does invite us to recognize that nothing that we could possibly possess on this earth is worth comparing to the treasure that He has prepared for us. In fact, Jesus is telling us that nothing is worth comparing to the treasure that we have right now, the treasure that we have inside of us as He dwells in our hearts through faith. Nothing, not our homes, not our cars, not even the clothes on our backs are worth comparing to the glory of that treasure and what Christ Jesus Himself means for us. None of these earthly things promise treasure in heaven, only Jesus does.

Above all, we ought to see here what a remarkable thing it is to be called the Lord’s treasure. That simple fact alone is beyond comprehension. Our epistle reading from Romans 8 even talks a bit about what it means to be God’s treasure bought with the precious blood of Jesus. It says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” and a bit later, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we are God’s treasure, if we have been bought with the blood of Jesus, how much more certain can we be that nothing in this life and nothing in the life to come could ever hurt or harm us? We are His treasure. He bought us with a price. Do we need to sell everything that we have to have this assurance? No. But we could if we needed to because we know that all our needs, now and into eternity, will be provided by our loving God because we are His treasure purchased with the blood of Jesus. In Jesus name. Amen

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Listening Ears On

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

When I still lived in Edmonton, before Leah and I were married, my sister would often ask me to babysit her kids. She also lived in Edmonton and, as the uncle living in the same city, I was the go to babysitter. When I babysat my nieces I remember my sister saying to one of them right before she left one time, “Turn your listening ears on.”

I did not realize it at the time, but this was an example of the kind of plea that parents make to their kids before leaving them with a babysitter. It’s like a last chance, last hope, begging kind of plea that the kids will behave themselves for the babysitter so that this person might be willing to babysit again. I do it now when we leave our kids with someone. I pretty much beg them to behave and not cause too much trouble for the babysitter.

Anyway, my sister would say this thing to my niece, “Turn your listening ears on.” My niece would respond by kind of twisting her ears, making a “click” sound, and telling her mom that her ears were on now (somehow it eventually turned into a “listening nose,” but I’ve never understood how that happened!). The whole reason for saying this little phrase was that there are different kinds of listening. We can listen to something without paying much attention to it or we can listen to something and really hear it and take it to heart. My niece was good at doing the first kind of listening when the second kind of listening was required. As is often the case with kids (and adults sometimes too), important instructions can be listened to but not really heard. They can go in one ear and out the other without registering in the brain on the way through. In order to really, truly hear we need to “turn our listening ears on.”

In our gospel reading Jesus says his own version of “turn your listening ears on.” Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” This is one of those things that Jesus says when He really wants us to pay attention to what He is saying. Often this kind of thing comes along after a parable that might go over our heads (or straight through them) without us understanding what Jesus is saying. Jesus is telling us here to turn our listening ears on.

What does Jesus want us to listen to? A parable. The parable of the sower. Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear,” right after he has finished telling the crowds a parable about a sower who went out to sow seeds in his field. Jesus wants His hearers, you and me included, to really hear what He is saying here.

The parable of the sower that Jesus tells is really quite simple. A sower went out to sow seed. He threw some on the path or road but it did not grow because the ground was too hard. The birds swooped in and ate the seed instead. Some other seed fell on ground that was filled with rocks, there wasn’t much soil there. The seeds had enough soil to germinate and spring up, but the sun quickly dried them out and they died. Still more seed fell among thorns. That seed germinated and grew up too, it lasted longer than the seed in the rocks, but in the end it was choked out by the weeds. Finally, some seed landed on good soil and it germinated, grew to maturity, and bore fruit. Pretty simple.

We need to ask ourselves here though, what does Jesus want us to hear in this parable? Jesus clearly explains to His disciples and to us exactly what this parable means and what pretty much every part of the parable represents. The seed is the Word of God about His Kingdom. The Sower is Jesus. The soil (both the good and the bad) is the people who hear this word about God’s Kingdom. That means that all of us are the soil and it means that as we put ourselves into this parable we need to think about what kind of soil we are.

Are we like the soil on the path or road? Roads in those days weren’t paved like our roads and up in Galilee where Jesus was they probably weren’t paved with stones either. We’re talking about a dirt path kind of road. A road that exists not because someone mapped it out, but because everyone walked there and the foot traffic from people and animals made a road. Are we like that dirt? Are we so beaten and trodden down by life in this world that we aren’t even able to hear God’s Word anymore? Have we become calloused and hardened against God’s Word? Does the seed, the Word of God, just bounce right off of us and sit there on the surface to be eaten by birds? Does the devil snatch away the seed before it even has a chance to take root?

Or are we like the rocky soil, the soil that has no depth? Does the word of God cause us great joy initially, send us on some kind of uplifting, feel good, high but then let us down when the going gets tough? Do we hear God’s Word, get excited about the message, and then wonder where the good feeling has gone? Do we look for the high all over again and not find it? Do we feel let down when the sermons and Bible readings we hear on Sunday aren’t quite as inspiring and uplifting as they were last week?

Or maybe we are the soil filled with thorns and weeds. Do the cares and concerns of life threaten to choke out our faith that the Word of God has planted in our hearts? When we try to listen to God’s Word in church what other thoughts are floating through our heads? Are we worried about work tomorrow or what might happen when we get home? Are we wondering where the money is going to come from for this or that? Are we distracted by other things? What comes between us and reading the Bible at home? Does day to day life seem more important than God’s Word?

Or, finally, are we the good soil, the soil in which God’s Word takes root, grows up, and produces a crop?

One of my favorite little details about this parable is that Jesus says nothing about how to be good soil. This parable is not a “how to” instruction manual. Jesus does not say, “Try your best to be good soil so that you can hear my words more effectively.” The parable doesn’t even say anything about the sower clearing out the field to get the bad stuff out of there or plowing or tilling or anything like that and it certainly does not say that the soil needs to try harder to be better soil. Jesus does not want us trying to figure out how we can be the good soil. Soil doesn’t work like that, it can’t improve itself. He doesn’t want us to try to figure it out because it is not our job.

Many things about us and around us make us like the soil that is totally unsuitable for the Word of God. So much of who we are and what we do makes us an unfit place for God’s Word to take root and grow. And yet, in spite of who we are and what we do, God’s Word, the seed, finds a home in our rock hard, stone filled, thorn infested hearts and takes root and grows. Our Old Testament reading today said this about God’s Word and it’s power:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God promises here that His Word will do what He sends it to do, it will not come back to Him without doing the thing that He sent it to do. This is the power of God’s Word. God’s Word has the power to break into rock hard hearts like ours and make faith. This is what God’s Word has done in us.

The parable of the sower is not about the soil, it is about the sower and His seed. It is about Jesus and the Word of God that He brings to us proclaiming His coming Kingdom. That seed, that message, bears fruit and produces. It bears fruit and produces because the sower, the one who planted the seeds, Himself bled and died so that even the poor soil could bear fruit. He gave His life so that the rocky, down trodden, thorn infested soil of our hearts might be cracked open, turned over, and cleared of weeds by His blood shed for us so that we could bear the fruit of everlasting life.

“He who has ears, let him hear,” Jesus says, “Turn on your listening ears.” Hear this good news from Jesus, take it to heart, read it, learn it, mark it, inwardly digest it, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Because this word of God, the Word of Jesus, is a powerful thing. It is alive and active, it changes hearts, it proclaims the forgiveness of sins won for you by Christ on the cross, and it brings you life everlasting. This Word, the Word of Jesus, has created faith in Your heart and will sustain that faith until the day when the sower comes again to reap the fruit of the harvest He has sown. On that day He will gather you in, the fruit of His harvest, and we will live with Him eternally. In Jesus name. Amen.

Rest in a Restless World

Text: Matthew 11:25-30

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I will give you rest. Who doesn’t want rest? For me, as a parent of three young kids and especially with a two month old in the house, even just a little more rest sounds like a great thing. I’m not even the one who gets us most of the time in the night to feed Olivia, but I still feel like I could use more sleep. A couple of weeks ago Leah took the kids up to my parents’ house and spent a Saturday night there. I was on my own at home. Leah probably doesn’t want to hear this, but I got the best sleep I’ve had in months that night. It was great. The only problem is that now I know what I am missing every other night. That one good night’s rest just makes me want more!

It’s not just the kids either. Sometimes my mind just doesn’t want to turn off and rest is hard to find. Instead of resting I’m worrying about this or that, trying to solve a problem, making plans, or even writing sermons in my head. My head isn’t always a very restful place. Maybe you can relate to that too.

I know it’s not just me who wants more rest because over the last few months I keep hearing ads over the radio for some kind of fancy pillow. The makers of this pillow promise that if you just try their pillow you will never lose another night of good sleep again. It seems a little over the top, but it’s what people are looking for, a good rest. Everybody wants rest.

Everybody is looking for rest and, in our gospel reading today, Jesus offers up that rest. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. Of course, Jesus is talking about much more than a good night’s sleep. Jesus is not talking about comfy pillows or sleep that isn’t disturbed by over active brains or restless children. Jesus is talking about a much deeper, much more significant rest than that. The rest Jesus is talking about is a rest for body and soul. It is a total complete rest for our whole being. Sleep is great for the body, but it doesn’t do anything for the soul. Jesus offers rest for the soul. The song we sang at the beginning of our service had a nice way of describing that kind of rest, I think. It said this, “What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My comforter, my all in all—Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

When fears are still, when strivings cease. That is real rest. That is wellness and wholeness of body and soul. That is peace. When our fears, the things that frighten us, are stilled like the waters of the Sea of Galilee as Jesus brought the storm to an abrupt halt with His Word. Or when our strivings, the things that we chase after, no longer seem so important like how the disciples who once argued about which of them was the greatest watched as Jesus, their lord and master, washed their feet and the died on a cross. When fears are still and when strivings cease. This is real rest, rest for the soul; the rest that Jesus brings.

We may not realize it and most people in the world certainly do not realize it, but we are all looking for exactly this kind of rest. Every religion in the world offers some kind of inner peace or rest. There are self-help books galore offering you the same thing. Everybody is looking for it, but no one seems to know where to find it.

In Jesus day people were looking for this kind of rest too. And, at least on the surface, it would seem like they were looking in the right place. They looked to God’s Word, to the Bible, to the Old Testament Scriptures, and to God’s commands to try and find this rest. If only they could live out these commands and follow those rules, then they would have this rest for their souls. Or so they thought.

You can’t find rest that way though. It will never work. You can try all you want, but it will never bring this kind of rest. It’s not like there is a problem with God’s commandments or anything though. God’s commandments are good and holy. The problem is in us. We can’t keep those commandments. Try as we might we will always fail. If this is the way to find rest then we will never find it. But there is another way.

The whole point of what Jesus is saying in our gospel reading today is that this is not the way to find rest. You can’t find rest for your soul through trying to keep God’s law with all your might, the way to find rest is by coming to Jesus. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The most important words there are “me” and “I.” “Come to ME,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest. Don’t look anywhere else, don’t try to find rest for your soul somewhere else, come to me.”

The question that confronts all of us today then is, where do we try to find rest? We try to find rest in all kinds of different places. We think things like, “If I only had a little more                                               (fill in the blank: more time, or money, or vacation days, or family time, or alone time, more leisure time, a more understanding family, a better job, a comfier retirement, better health, or whatever else) then I would have rest.” We tend to think that there is something out there that if we had more of it we would have rest. But the more we get the more we want and the rest is always missing. What we really need is the rest that only Jesus gives.

To understand the rest that Jesus gives and how much we need it we need to understand first where our restlessness comes from. Why does rest seem so elusive, so hard to find? Why do we all feel this need for rest?

The world was not meant to be the restless place that it is. God did not create it that way. In the beginning everything was very good. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden, the worked to take care of the garden, and life was not a chore. Their work was not a burden. Life was filled with rest. But then they sinned and the whole thing fell apart. After they ate the fruit God said this to Adam:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Life changed when Adam and Eve ate that fruit. Paradise ceased to be paradise. Life became a chore. Rest became hard to find. Life would be hard, working the ground would be painful, by the sweat of their faces (their hard work and effort) people would eat something as simple as bread. Rest would be hard to come by. But even way back then the promise was made that God would undo this whole mess by sending His Son who would bring the rest of heaven to His people.

“Come to me,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.” When Jesus says those words He is pleading with us, begging us, to come to Him for rest. Rather than turning to someone or something else Jesus invites us to come to Him directly and enter into the rest that He has prepared for us. He begs us to come to His table today and receive that rest right now.

Through His death on the cross Jesus has opened up the rest of heaven to you right now. He gives you this rest, the wholeness of body and soul, right now. It comes to us through the forgiveness of our sins. The curse that was laid on Adam and Eve after they sinned has been undone because Jesus has taken that curse upon Himself. He has suffered the reality of life in this world of sin so that we could enter into the rest that He has prepared for us.

Jesus brings rest to you right now. He brings you the rest of knowing that you do not have to work to get right with God. He brings you the rest of knowing that all of your sins, each and every one of them, are freely forgiven. He gives you the rest of knowing that no matter what happens to you in this life, no matter how dark things get, no matter how much anxiety builds up, not matter how much fear seems to surround you that nothing will be able to separate you from His love, nothing. He brings you the rest that comes from knowing that He has died in your place and risen from the dead so that you will never die eternally but with rest with Him in paradise. Jesus brings this rest to you.

Fancy new pillows or a night without kids or some other thing might help you get a good night’s rest, but real rest comes from Jesus. Everything else is just a band aid. Band aids are good, but they just cover up the problem, they don’t bring healing. Jesus brings healing, He offers a cure. He offers rest to you today for free, there is no cost, “Come to me,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.” In Jesus name. Amen.

 

The Family of God

Text: Matthew 10:34-42

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today in our Gospel reading Jesus said these words: “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Those are kind of hard words to hear. They aren’t the kind of words we’d expect to hear from Jesus. We would probably expect to hear something a little more family friendly from Jesus than this. When we think of Christianity and the teaching of Jesus family values are probably a big part of that in our minds. Shouldn’t Jesus be telling us to love our family no matter what? Shouldn’t He be reminding us that family comes first? Shouldn’t He tell us that the most important thing is that we stick together as family and stand up for one another?

That’s what we want to hear Jesus say about family and other places in the Bible do say things kind of like that, but Jesus says something very different in our Gospel today. “I have come to divide,” Jesus says. “I will divide children against their parents and parents against their children. Your enemies will be the people in your own house. If you love your family more than me you are not worthy of me.” Wow, that is some serious stuff. What could Jesus be getting at here?

Jesus is not advocating family disruption or violence, He is not encouraging you to hate you family or even asking you to leave your family. He is, however, asking you to think about who your real family is.

We have a picture frame in our living room hanging over our couch. It’s one of those collage kinds of picture frames that you put a bunch of different pictures in. It’s filled with pictures from various stages of the growth of our family. We have wedding pictures in there, baby pictures, baptism pictures, pictures from fun times together, and there is always the potential for new pictures to make their way in. We still have to get a picture of Olivia in there. Every once and a while, as I am wandering around our living room I look up and admire the pictures with a certain sense of pride at the family I have been blessed with.

At my parents’ house they have something similar. On top of the piano in their living room there are many pictures of relatives far and wide. Pictures of my siblings, grandparents, nieces, aunts and uncles, cousins, and many more. Again, when I visit I end up there at the piano at least once admiring the family photos.

I talked to someone not so long ago that doesn’t really have that much family. No children, no living relatives. Not many people whose picture would hang on his wall. This man was not discouraged by this, however, because he had different pictures to hang on his wall. He told me he has a large collection of icons. Icons are pictures of saints, Christians who have died in the faith many of them who did remarkable things in the name of Jesus. This man has these icons, these pictures of saints, hanging on his walls at home. He told me, “They are my family.”

That is a profound thing to say and it is not far off from what Jesus is asking us to think about in our gospel reading today. As Jesus says this stuff about a person’s enemies being the people in his or her own family He is challenging us to see that our brothers and sisters in Christ, our fellow Christians, our fellow saints are our true family.

A little bit later in the gospel of Matthew, in chapter 12, we see this reality play out very clearly in Jesus’ own life. Jesus was sitting in a house teaching people and answering questions from people like the scribes and Pharisees one day when His mother Mary and His brothers came looking for Him. They had heard some of the things that Jesus had said and had heard about some of the things that He had been doing and they had concluded that He was out of His mind. They came to the house that day to collect Him and take Him home to Nazareth. When word reached Jesus that His mother and brothers were outside the house looking for Him Jesus responded, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” He look around the room where He was sitting and looked at all the people gathered there listening to His words and He said, “Here are my mother and bothers! Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus identifies His real family with these words. His real family are the ones who believe in Him. They do the will of His Father in Heaven. God’s will is that all people would believe and trust in Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life. These people do, they hear Jesus’ Words and the trust in Him, they are His brothers, sisters, and mothers. They are His family.

We who also believe and trust in Jesus are also His family. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus. We are members of the same family, children of the same Father. This is our real family.

We joined our biological earthly families by birth, but we joined this one, eternal family by our rebirth in the water of baptism. We were reborn through that water and were joined into an eternal family, a family that won’t be ripped apart by death, a family that will endure into eternity because this family is founded on the death and resurrection of Jesus that bind us all together in His love. This family will inherit the eternal life that Jesus has won for us.

The reality of this eternal family is what Jesus is trying to draw to our attention in our Gospel reading today. So many things in life distract us from this family, from the family of faith that Jesus has called us into. Some of those things that distract us from this family are inherently evil like hatred and anger, jealousy and frustration, or pride and vanity. Other things that distract us don’t seem evil at all. Family, earthly, biological families, could be an example of that. If our earthly family is coming between us and our family of faith, the family of Jesus, then Jesus calls us here to lay aside even our family relationships for the sake of following Him and being a member of His family.

That’s still hard to hear, isn’t it? Family matters so much to us that we can hardly even imagine what could ever lead us to think of our own family as enemies. This only makes sense if we understand what a precious thing it is to be a member of the family of God through Jesus.

The story of the prodigal son can help us to understand what a precious thing this family is. The prodigal son asked his father for his share of the inheritance so that he could leave his family behind and go live his own life. He wanted to be his own man, live his own life, and do things his own way. Amazingly, the father listened to his son’s request and gave him what he asked for. The son took the inheritance that he was given, sold whatever he could sell, and disappeared to a foreign country with whatever money that he had. Sometime later, when the money was gone that son realized what a foolish thing that he had done. Being his own man, living his own life, and doing things his own way hadn’t paid off that well. He decided to go back to his father’s home and offer to work as a servant. He knew that he did not deserve to be part of the family anymore. But when He arrived home his father messed up all his plans. His father did not want another servant, he did not need a slave living in his house, he wanted a son. So that father rushed out to greet him, threw his arms around him in a warm embrace, sent the servants to fetch fine clothing and jewelry, and threw a fantastic feast to celebrate return of his son. “My son who was lost is found, he was dead but now he is alive again!”

The same is true of us. We all have wandered in sin away from the family of God. We have all acted rebelliously and taken advantage of the loving, caring nature of God our heavenly Father. We have squandered the blessings He pours out on us by chasing after our heart’s desires. By all rights we have no place in God’s family at all. But now, God our heavenly Father has rushed out to us with a warm embrace to welcome us home. By His arms stretched out wide on the cross as He bled and died for the sin and rebellion of the entire world, Jesus gathered us in as His brothers and sisters, children of the Father who is in Heaven. Though we ought to be treated at best as servants who work for their pay our God has welcomed us home as children through the blood of Jesus. This is a precious thing.

Without a doubt, we rejoice in earthly families and in the brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers that God has given us here on this earth. They are a blessing from heaven. We admire the family photos with pride and joy and give thanks to God for what He has given. But even more we rejoice in the heavenly family, the eternal family, the family of God which we have been made members of through the blood of Jesus. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus. Children of God. And we, with all the other members of the family who have gone before us, will live eternally side by side with our brother and Lord, Jesus Christ, in paradise. In His holy name. Amen.