Can Come Home Again
any reprobate sons and daughters have mumbled to themselves the immortal book title of Thomas Wolfe, You Cant Go Home Again. They heard it quoted sometime back in high school and it has sadly been deposited in their negative memory banks. Most folks fight against those treacherous untruths overheard from unknown sources. But, our Good News from this story told by Jesus Christ is that You Can Come Home Again!
A parsonage family in our conference was torn to pieces by the disappearance of their son. Gone for several years, they could only imagine what nightmarish fate had fallen their beloved firstborn. No phone calls, no notes, no news for years. Of course he had been reared in the Sunday School, and church, and in a wonderful home, but something beyond himself seemed to compel him to run away. Was he even alive? In what far off ditch was his body ditched?
Then one day when the father was home alone for lunch, a familiar knock came at the back door, and there he was. All he had left was a pair of dirty overalls: No shirt, no shoes, no wallet, no watch, no rings. The father could only say through tears, "Boy, lets get you cleaned up before Momma gets home. It was amazing how much he ate, and how dirty the shower water was. Then a quick trip to buy jeans and shirts and shoes. And when Momma, and the other children got home, there was a great celebration, for the son who was thought to be dead, was alive. They had relived this central truth of Jesus "Parable of the Prodigal, You Can Indeed Come Home Again!
Robert Frost said it best, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in." (Complete Poems of Robert Frost, "The Death of the Hired Man", p.53) What kind of father would out Father be if he turned our repentant hearts away? The core of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is grace and forgiveness and new life in Him!
What can we say about this favorite of Jesus stories that has not been already said a thousand times? Probably nothing; but thats the point. Repetition of the familiar roots deep, imprints in our minds, the reality of repentances reception back home. A teenage boy lost in Los Angeles, the city of angels, and devils too, can remember just barely some sermon on the story of the lost son who repented of his sin and returned home to his family. We cant hear it too often. If it were the only parable of Jesus that we had, it would be enough to call us home.
You dont have to run away from home to be a lost child. The eldest son in our text stayed home and worked hard, but was lost. There are persons occupying church pews who have never outwardly rebelled, but inwardly they are lost. To be lost and still at home is perhaps the greater offense. To appear outwardly to be at home, but to have ones heart longing for some far off hell is the most deeply entrained aloofness of all--- To be in a family, a church, but to be over yonder all the while.
Funny how life turns out sometimes: Here the young son who wasted his inheritance in "riotous living" repents and becomes a hero; but, the good son who never outwardly transgressed, becomes despicable in the worlds memory. Nobody loves a hypocrite, but we all love a person who has had their life turned around by God.
Most secular schools of thought teach that a person can not change. We are somehow permanently doomed to be a product of our genes, our education, our environment, or whatever is popular in current self help books. That basic notion of "self help" is a fallacy. We need help from other sojourners, and we absolutely need help from the Father. In fact, the God who sent His Son, also sends His Holy Spirit to be our helper, and teacher, and nudger.
The poet Frances Thompson wrote, "The Hound of Heaven", as a description of a loving Father who follows us into our far country, or secret sin nature at home, and haunts us with His grace, and compels us with His love. We are restless until we rest in Him. Blaise Paschal expressed it succinctly, "Every human heart has a God shaped vacuum that God and only God can fill." When He fills us with his himself, can we be considered anything but new?
God specializes in making old things new. Nissan has an advertisement for completely restored 1970s 240-Z cars. The ad said that they had new warranties because they had been completely remade by the factory and were "New Older Cars." That caught my attention because I love the Z cars, as did so many others that they will never be able to fill their waiting list for them. The ad also caught my eye because this is exactly what the Holy Spirit wants to do within our lives. Sure, we are still an older model, but we are completely restored and can be called a "New Older Person." Reprobate lostsons can be made clean and new. Counterfeit sons and daughters who have faithfully served at home, waiting for the Father to die so that they might inherit his fortune, can also be spiritually made into a genuine model.
This multifaceted parable is also about the inclusion of the whole worlds population into the family of God. We lost children who come home, not to replace the Hebrew children who were there all along, but to fulfill the promise that every beating heart could by faith in Christ be included into the household of redeemed humanity. "Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world."
But we always must remember that we dont have forever to decide. This life will soon be passed and then there are no more choices to make. I must point this out because the repentant son in my first illustration who came home to his loving father with only a pair of dirty overalls was later killed in an airplane crash in the Florida Everglades. He had responded to the call to become a missionary but on a return flight from South America his young life was cut short. However, there was rejoicing in heaven when he appeared at the front door, this time, wearing a crown of gold--- for another redeemed child of the Father had come home.
Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor