A Wedding Feast

…many are called, but few are chosen.  Matthew 22:1-14  After all it was last minute! Nevertheless, to be called to a wedding feast is a privilege and a blessing, definitely something to be excited about. While it’s easy to spend time on the gentleman who was thrown out, I think the parable is more about God’s desire to be in relationship with his people and the wedding feast symbolizes his everlasting commitment to that relationship.  One might say that the first group got the formal written invitation while the second group just got a phone call. It doesn’t matter. The one who has hope in such a blessing will always be prepared to go.

Love Them More

But when he came to himself… Luke 15:11-32  I really like this part of the story, the moment at which a wayward child has a “revelation” about her life. After having made a series of bad decisions we can find ourselves in some of the worst conditions physically, emotionally and spiritually. One of the things I gather from this parable is that the prodigal son has come to this revelation by way of his life experience. He made up his mind about what he wanted and his Father gives it to him. We often want our children to make the decisions we have already laid out for them forgetting that God has a plan for them in the same way he has one for us. It’s usually not the same plan.

Once in a conversation with an aunt about my concerns for some of the decisions made by my son, I expressed some frustration. She in turn shared that her daughter was dealing with something similar with her son. Then she said; “Sometimes you have to let them do what they have in their mind to do even though you already know exactly what is going to happen as a result of the choice they’ve made. When that happens you just love them more. As painful as it sometimes is to watch your child on a not-so-wise path, the joy that you receive when they “come to themselves” is overwhelming.” I didn’t ask but I suspect that she was speaking from her own experience, assuring me that my joy would be the same. So my prayer for us today is that, if in our foolishness we feel as though we’ve lost everything, we too will “come to ourselves” and know that God loves us more than we could ever fathom, and is especially joyous when we redirect ourselves back into his fold.

Luke 15:11-32  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. 

Who Else But God?

“This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-10 Many years ago I was asked what was the most important relationship in my life. While others responded that their relationship with a significant other or children as the most important, I responded that it was my relationship with God. I did wonder for a little while if my feelings were skewed or distorted in some way, but then I remembered that God’s love for me is perfect. The relationships I have with my spouse and children can not compete with that perfection. So it made sense to me to put what is perfect before what is imperfect. This perfect love that God has for me is what I strive for in my relationships. I wouldn’t know how to do that if God had not given Christ into the world (John 3:16; 10:7-10). Because we are imperfect as human beings, in every physical aspect of our lives – life, death and resurrection is an ongoing process until we reach spiritual perfection of eternal life. When we hurt, disappoint and frustrate one another is it not God’s love through Christ that calls us back into relationship (Mark 12:28-33)? This I believe is what the Pharisees and leaders like them today miss. While the physical law” (of Moses or any other law) disciplines, it does not love, it does not forgive. God’s law also disciplines, but it always loves, and always forgives. So my prayer for each of us today is that as we continue to grow in understanding of God’s perfect love for us, we grow and live into the manifestation of God’s perfect love for one another with the knowledge that we are imperfect yet always striving towards the goal that is perfect in Jesus Christ (Phil 3:2-15). “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” Luke 15:1-10

Mark 12:28-33  …you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” …“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.      

John 10:7-10  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Truth And Consequence

The sum of your word is truth; and every one of your righteous ordinances endures for ever. Psalm 119:160

Sometimes it’s hard to know who and what to believe is true. Whenever a conversation about truth comes up I always remember Pilates’ question to Jesus; “What is truth?” Pilate doesn’t even wait for an answer before walking out and leaving the fate of Jesus in the hands of the Jews. For Pilate truth changes according to popularity, benefit or consequence.

When in physical relationships there is always more than one truth. Our children never see things the way we see them. We often see things differently from our parents. Women tend to have a different perspective from men, so forth and so on. As culture and environments change, our perspectives sometimes tend to change with it. When I was ten I moved from what was then a small rural town in Maryland to a major Northeast city. I remember the most significant change was finding myself as one of many after having been one of a few along with the discovery that my new friends jumped with two ropes when my old friends jumped with one. It was a culture shock that could have proved devastating for a ten year old girl without skills. Fortunately, I was always rather athletic and a quick learner. I liked to say that all the transitions throughout my life went as smoothly.  The truth is there were some consequences to not always fitting in with the crowd. But blessed are the righteous whose relationship with God does not depend on the physical, environmental and cultural changes in the world, but rather steadfast belief in his everlasting Word.

Psalm 119:33-40

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
   and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
   and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
   give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
   which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
   for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
   in your righteousness give me life. 

Branch Of Life Eternal

Since the day of resurrection, the message for us during this Easter season is squarely on relationship, God’s relationship with us and our relationship with one another. At the heart of that relationship is love and sometimes we have to encourage our selves in God’s love for us. He has already cleansed us with the power of his word. As we speak his words of truth for others we speak them for ourselves and know that that we will overcome the struggles and that the victory is always in the power of God’s eternal relationship with us. Thus our reward of eternal life is in our relationship with God; the goal that has no end.

Jesus says to his disciples and to us, “I am the true vine.” (And) He uses the word true to help us understand that he is the deeply rooted faithful and steadfast love of God from which all other love is to be connected. In the midst of so many other things that want to take root in our lives, as long as we have this relationship with God, even in the struggles we can be assured that he has not broken us off, but rather we must live in that eternal relationship and remain the branch that reaches out and bears fruit so that others might have that life also.