Sermon Starters

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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

Lent 4
Series C

Option One: Rev. Kelly Bedard

"Divine Indulgence"
Luke 15:11b-32

 A. The Sins of Law-Breaking (Prodigals) and Law-Keeping (Pharisees)

 B. The Savior of Law-Breakers and Law-Keepers


 1. Arrogant young man insults father ("Give me what I could have if you were dead!"), leaves home to make his fortune (familiar enough then and now), hits rock bottom (especially as a Jew ending up in the piggery), comes to his senses and goes home (motivation far from noble at this point). Father, not knowing anything but that the son is coming, abandons cultural norms of fatherly dignity, runs to embrace son . . .  

Notice: the father does not know the mind of the son, that He has repented, so it is not about loving people after or if they have repented. (William Loader)

  2. In the parable of the loving father, the younger son's prodigality turns out to be less damning than the elder son's self-righteousness. At the end of the story it is the older brother who is standing outside in the dark, perfectly right and perfectly alone (15:1ff).

 Jesus has a relatively easy time with sinners. Their hearts are already broken, so it is not hard for him to get inside. But the righteous are like vaults. They are so full of their precious values and so defended against those who do not share them that even the dynamite of the gospel has little effect on them. "Woe to the Pharisees," Jesus wails at them, "for you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God" (11:42).

 He cannot seem to make his point often enough. Self-righteousness kills, not only those who are bludgeoned by it but those who wield it as well. Sometimes it kills them softly with gossip and cruel humor. Sometimes it works systemically, consigning some people to live in grim buildings with broken plumbing while others stroll neighborhoods full of thick green lawns. And sometimes it works violently, getting people in the middle of the night to light torches and break windows.

 Jesus does not preach humility because modesty is becoming. He preaches it because it is the only cure for the deadly pride and arrogance that make us want to kill each other, whether the murder is as subtle as purging someone from our circle of friends or as bloody as nailing someone to a tree. The only cure is to recognize each other as kin, united by the only one who was ever right. "Why do you call me good?" even He protested. "No one is good but God alone" (18:19). (Barbara Brown Taylor)

 3. This poor man lucked out with neither of his sons. He loved them both and they both were goofs. The first was too wild, the second was too rigid and nasty. Neither one appreciated their father's love. Both tried to exploit him. What's more, He knew they were exploiting him.

 This is not a story of a prodigal son, but of an indulgent father, indeed of a hyper-indulgent father. Note that He runs to meet the first son and cuts off his phony speech. Note too that He is incredibly patient with the mean-spirited and ungrateful second son. This story is not supposed to provide a model for family life. Rather it tells us that God loves us like the indulgent father, so much that by human standards, He's quite over the top. (Andrew Greeley)

Option Two: Rev. Wayne Dobratz

A Lost Son And A Seeking Father
Luke 15:1-3; 11-32

Intro: It has been called "The greatest short story ever written." As you learned in English class, a short story has these elements

I. C0NFLICT-rejection of ideals and rebellion—tension between chief characters.

 A. Tension between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding who is acceptable to God, v. 1-2

 B. The Younger Son in the Story rejects his father's ideals and rebels against him, v. 12

 C. So we, by nature, are disobedient-Rom. 5:19a; Rom. 1:18; Rom. 2:5.

This results in . . .

II. ALIENATION-separation from his Father's love and discipline, which led to:

 A. Idolatry-worshiping things rather than God-Rom. 1:25

 B. Wild living, v. 13—sexual sin, drunkenness, wastefulness.

 C. further alienation from God-Rom. 1:24

 D. Degradation-v.14-Pigs were unclean animals for a Jew

 E. Starvation-physical hunger now followed upon his spiritual hunger.

III. PATHOS-depth of emotion within the lost son

 A. Being separated from God-Eph. 2:19a.

 B. Seeing where his sin had led him, now evidenced in his . . .


IV. SHOCK OF RECOGNITION-see what you've done? Here you sit among the pigs-you've come a long way!-v. 17

 A. Realization of his innate sinfulness, as in Prov. 26:11-12

 B. What to do after you've fallen-"I will set out and go back to my Father, and say: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.'"



 A. The Father's longing to forgive-v. 20 "while He was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him."

 B. His loving reception-

 1. The embrace and kiss-as Joseph embraced his brothers in Gen. 45:15ff.

 2. The Celebration-v. 22-25

 3. Jesus says there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents-Lk.15:7—He should know; it was His sacrifice that made our reception possible—Cf. Eph. 2:13-16

 4. There is a celebration planned in our Father's house at the end of time, cf. Mk. 14:25


Conclusion: Each short story has POTENTIAL. The writer doesn't tie up all the "loose ends" He leave us to wonder. The remaining part of this story is yet to be written by you and me, Christ's followers today. How will we respond to the conflict between good and evil, between sin and obedience? When we sin, will we wallow in the muck? What will we do when we are shocked into reality? Will we confess our sins, trust our Father and go home? Or will we remain in the far-away country of sin and death? And how will we respond when a sinner comes home? With joy as the Father does? Or with indignation, as with the Older Brother/Pharisee, v. 28-30 You're still writing your story. You writing what you're living. People are reading your story while it's under construction and it will be read when you're dead and gone.

Matthew Henry summarizes the sinner's reception by Christ: Having viewed the prodigal in his abject state of misery, we are next to consider his recovery from it. This begins by his coming to himself. That is a turning point in the sinner's conversion. The Lord opens his eyes, and convinces him of sin; then He views himself and every object, in a different light from what He did before. Thus the convinced sinner perceives that the meanest servant of God is happier than He is. To look unto God as a Father, and our Father, will be of great use in our repentance and return to him.

Thus the repenting sinner resolutely quits the bondage of Satan and his lusts, the prodigal arose, nor stopped till He reached his home. and returns to God by prayer, notwithstanding fears and discouragements. The Lord meets him with unexpected tokens of his forgiving love. Again; the reception of the humbled sinner is like that of the prodigal. He is clothed in the robe of the Redeemer's righteousness, made partaker of the Spirit of adoption, prepared by peace of conscience and gospel grace to walk in the ways of holiness . . . .

Ministry Health Sermon Starters
Copyright 2001 Ministry Health, LLC
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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Director

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