Text: Luke 15:11-24
11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 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. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
Subject: Forgiveness 101: Finding Our Way Back Home
Maya Angelou once wrote these words, “I long as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” It is my belief that in this journey called life, we will all at sometime or another leave what we consider to be our home. At this very moment, sitting in your pews, many of you may be reflecting on the subject of home right now. Perhaps some of you are thinking that home is the city and state which you live in, or that home, is the house or apartment building that carries your address. Home may be the place where our favorite sports team plays, such as the Washington Redskins or the sorry Dallas Cowgirls!
Home may be the place where some of our fondest childhood memories of joy and pain were experienced. Home may be the place where you met your first childhood friends. Home is that place we all had to go when the street lights came on. Home is the place of some of our most intimate secrets. Home could be the place where our loved ones reside, whom we often miss so much when were apart from them. Home is a place of safety and refuge. If we’re lucky enough, home can be that place where we’re used to eating those delicious and soulful home-cooked meals. I don’t know about your house, but I loved coming home to mom’s homemade buffalo wings, potato salad, dad’s fried fish and collard greens, or my wife’s sweet potato casserole and stuffing. We all know about home-cooked meals! You know what I’m talking about, that fried and baked chicken, smothered pork shops, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, butter beans, yams and 7-UP pound cake! Oh and let us not forget the sweet tea. I’m talking about home!Home is that place where no bed anywhere else, has ever quite felt like our own bed. Where our pillows are broken in specifically for us. Home is that place where we can lounge how we want to lounge, walk around how you want to walk around, and relax and be comfortable like no other place. I’m talking about home y’all!
Home is that church, where we learned how to sing. Home is the church where we first walked down the aisle and gave our life to Christ. Home is the church where we first got baptized. Home is the church where your children we’re baptized! Home is the church we go to, for homecoming service! Home is that church where we were taught the Bible stories in Sunday school and learned about God. Home is that church where we enjoyed the fellowship and the preaching. Home is your home church.
Home is the college or university we called home for 4 years, that we go back to for homecoming; Im talking about North Carolina A&T, Shaw, UNCG, UNCC, Virginia State, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, Duke, Virginia Union, St. Augustine, North Carolina Central, or even UMASS. We all have some fond memories about our school days. Being away at college was the home where we exercised our independence that was not ours while living at home with our parents. Free to stay up all night long. Free to stay out as long as we please, free to dance the night away. While away at college, we can call home and say one thing to our parents, all while doing a totally different thing. The freedom not to attend class, the liberty to not wake up and go to church, and the freedom to meet new people. Some of us still have friends that we met there, still talk to and look forward to seeing at homecoming. For most of us, home is a great place! I ask you again, have you ever been away from home before?
The dictionary defines home as the place where one permanently lives and in other cases the place where something or someone flourishes. Meaning that home can be and is for some of us more than just a place where we lay our heads or have lived at. Here this! If home is also a place where someone or something flourishes at, that means home doesn’t have to be limited to a physical place! As people, we can grow and flourish in wherever and whatever place or situation God allows us to be in! Home can be that career that we excel in. Home can be that positive atmosphere that we do our best in. Home can be the place where our gifts and talents flourish the most in.Home is where we find love, peace, joy, acceptance, support, and did I say love? Home can be the place or situation where we are mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually flourishing into our best selves!
I believe we all have a home! I believe Michael Jackson was at home on the stage! Michael Jordan was at home on the court! Oprah is at home on our television set. The late-great Maya Angelou was at home when she had a pen in her hand! Denzel Washington is at home on the big screen. It was once said that “Home is where the heart is.” I don’t know about you, but if home is the place where I can grow, flourish, and feel loved– then, I love being at home! Home is truly where my heart is!! I know I’m not by myself, Ray Charles and Willie Nelson loved home so much, that they sang Georgia because Georgia was always on their mind! If we read between the lines, Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross (I don’t know if it was big or small Luther) sang “A house is not a home, if there’s no love there!” In The Wiz, Diana Ross sang, “When I think of home I think of a place where there’s love overflowing, I wish I was home, I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing!” If we go hip-hop, Sean “Diddy” Combs rapped, “I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world I’m coming home!”
Nevertheless, for some strange reason, no matter how much love we find at home, no matter the acceptance, no matter the joy, no matter the growth, no matter how good the food is, no matter how great our relationships are, or how comforting home is, we all decide to leave Home one way or another. If you don’t believe me, then go with me again to the 15th chapter in the Gospel of Luke, where we read about a young man that had everything he needed and could want at home, but still chose to leave home!
In this chapter, we encounter our matchless messiah, Jesus Christ preaching and teaching in the town of Perea, while in route to his ultimate destination– Jerusalem. In the midst of his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus stirs up some controversial discussion amongst the Pharisees, as to why he hangs out and eats with the sinners. The people wanted to know why Jesus being who he was, hung out with the crowd that would be considered the least of these. The word had spread through the grapevine that Jesus surrounded himself with a group of people who according to the text– were sinners. Jesus was known to hang around some shaky characters! If I can pause for a moment, perhaps this teaches us that is Christ-like to hag around some sinners! If all our friends know Jesus, how can we share the light of Christ with the folk who don’t know Jesus? Please note that Jesus is currently preaching in the town of Perea, which means, “on the other side!” Jesus had no problem hanging “on the other side” of town! Jesus didn’t mind hanging across the tracks! I like Jesus’ style, he hung out with the common folk! Jesus hangs out with people who didn’t know the scriptures, didn’t go to church, didn’t know who Richard Allen was, or Kirk Franklin! Instead, Jesus hung out with folk who loved to partake in communion, listened to Teddy Pendegrass and Young Money, and frequented the gentlemen’s club! That’s the folk Jesus surrounded himself with! To explain why Jesus fellowships with the kind of people he hung with, he shares a parable about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son who left home!
It is in the parable of The Prodigal Son that we encounter a young man who learns the hard way that “there is no place like home.” In this story, we see a young man who was anxious to leave home, and experience freedom outside the comfort and supervision that he was used to growing up. As we examine the life of the young man, we notice that his story and testimony may be similar to our story and testimony. This young man has reached a certain age and he is ready to leave home. This son who is nameless, reaches a point in his life, where he is now ready to pack his bags, say his goodbyes, and leave the incubator that has molded him into the man that he is. He was no longer interested in being at home with his family. Not only is he ready to go, but the young man also wants his share of his father’s inheritance.
The text lets us know, that the son received his whole share of the property, animals, and money set aside for him since birth from his father. Daddy gave him the cars, the money, the houses, the clothes, the jewelry, the investments, and his share of the family business! The father made sure that his young son was sent out into the world prepared to make a decent life for himself. Now church I have to admit that while reading this text I was a little confused as to why this young son was in such a rush to leave home. I mean his older brother still lived at home, life couldn’t have been that bad. The text says nothing about him going away to the local state college or joining the military. The text doesn’t say anything about him having a fight with his father and being kicked out the house, it just says this young man was ready to leave home.
Sadly, as we move along in the text, we notice that this son went buck wild when he left home. It says that he packed his bags and went to a distant country. The description of the country being distant infers that he went to a place totally opposite of what his home life was. At home he grew up in a Jewish household, but now he was living in a world that didn’t embrace a Jewish style of life. He was now in a place where the Greek culture was dominant. At home he was raised in an environment that had a strong belief in God, but now he was in a world that wanted nothing to do with his God. At home he was raised in an environment that promoted education and strong family values, but now he was living in a world where the kids dropped out of school and came from broken families. At home he saw examples of respectable men and women, but now he was living in a place where the men disrespected the women and treated them less than the queens that they were. Home was a loving and supportive atmosphere, but now he was in an atmosphere that was cold and neglectful. Home was a place where he could grow and hone his skills, but now he was in a place of stagnation. Jesus tells us that the young man went into this distant country, a place that was antithetical and the opposite of what his home was like!
This young man lost his mind. In my opinion, he not only left his physical home and location, but he left his spiritual and mental home! He left home, because he was now in a place where he was no longer flourishing and growing! Remember our working definition of home; its a place where people live and where someone or something flourishes and grows! The scriptures say, he lost his mind, he spent all that he had, he wasted all of his money, he squandered all that his father gave to him, and he found himself working with in the fields with the pigs, but eating the food that the pigs ate. It says he was living undisciplined, immoral, self-indulged, and riotous. He was living what Ricky Martin would call, “La Vida Loca.”
Now, in my opinion to be at home mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually is to be in God’s will! Ideally, I believe that God wants us to be healthy, whole, prosperous, and balanced mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually. To me, when all 5 areas are aligned with God’s purposes for our lives, we are at home. Furthermore, when we strive to live a life of obedience and worship to God, we are at home! The Bible says in Romans 12, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” In other words, when we allow our whole being to be committed to God, we are at HOME in God’s will! Home is living in God’s will! Home, is where God wants us to be! Is this making sense? I hope I’m not confusing you!
However, when we leave home, we are outside of God’s will! Whenever we leave where God wants us to be mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually; we then leave HOME, because we have left God’s will! When we leave God’s will, we leave home! When we leave home, which is out of God’s will, we then begin to live a life of sin! When we live a life of sin, we have to live with the consequences of sin! We all sin, but God doesn’t want us to deliberately and unrepentantly to live in sin! Living in sin causes us to live in shame! Living in sin causes separation from God! Living in sin causes selfishness! Living in sin causes us to keep secrets and live a life of secrecy! Living in sin causes us to lose our way! The young man in this text left home, which caused him to leave God’s will! Which caused him to live a life characterized by sin, selfishness, shame, secrecy, and separation from God!
So, if being at home is the place where God desires for us to flourish and grow mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually; but on the flip side, leaving home is where we live a life of sin, shame, selfishness, secrecy, and separation from God, how does the Prodigal Son and those of us who have also left home, find our way back HOME in God?
That’s the question of the hour, how do we like the Prodigal Son, find our way back home into God’s will and how do we as the Body of Christ, assist in this process?
Church, I believe that the most important factor in finding our way back home and helping others to find our way back home is the act of FORGIVENESS! In my opinion, while there may be many themes in this story, above anything else, the importance of forgiveness resonates with me! As men and women of God, forgiveness is the key that opens the door back to God’s will and purpose for our lives; and likewise forgiveness is how we help others get back in line with God’s will! With that being said, there are three things that I want to share about FORGIVENESS, as it relates to this text!
The first thing that FORGIVENESS causes us to do is to Respond in Humility! I believe that it is impossible for us to forgive others and to forgive ourselves without humility! Humility is one of the keys to forgiveness! When we Respond in Humility, we are able to self-examine our own lives, and not think too highly of ourselves! Humility helps us to not be prideful and arrogant, but modest, loving, and a person of service! Humility allows us to emulate Jesus, who was said to be meek and mild! Humility helps us to seek forgiveness when we’re wrong and seek forgiveness even when we’re not in the wrong! It takes courage to Respond in Humility!
In verses 18-20 of the text we see 2 examples of humility in action; it reads, “18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” Church, it takes great humility to admit when you have messed up! The son in this text finally realized that leaving home was not God’s plan for his life! He finally realized that leaving home caused him to live a life of sin. However, I praise God for this son, because he humbled himself and decided to go back home and ask his father for forgiveness! He realized the error and mistake of his ways, but wasn’t too proud to leave where he was, what he was doing, and who he was with to go back home and seek forgiveness! That speaks volumes to me because there are times when we all need to respond in humility and seek forgiveness! Someone in here today needs to humble themselves and ask God for forgiveness, ask someone that you harmed for forgiveness, and also ask yourself for forgiveness! Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves! St. Mark, it doesn’t matter what it is, or how long ago it was, we all need to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness! It may be a spouse, your best friend, your neighbor, a church member, a child, a co-worker, or even that person you saw looking back at you in the mirror this morning, but whoever it is, I encourage you to ask for forgiveness!
Not only does the son Respond in Humility, but the father also responds in humility! Watch this– the text says, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” This is significant if you understand Jewish culture. See back in those days men would where very long tunics or robes to cover their legs! In that culture, it was humiliating and shameful for a man to show his bare legs in public! In order for the father to run to his son, he had to lift up his tunic so that he wouldn’t trip and fall while running! The father was willing to show his legs and be humiliated, so that his son could be forgiven! That’s what the father will do! A real father will do anything on behalf of his children! Now if our earthly father will do this, what about our heavenly father? The father will humble himself and send his son through 40&2 generations to earth to be humiliated and to die on an old rugged cross for our sins! Church, just like this father and our heavenly father, we are asked to Respond in Humility and forgive others who have wronged us!
The 2nd thing that FORGIVENESS allows us to do is Restore broken Relationships! Church, on our journey back home to God’s will, there will come a time when broken relationships need to be repaired and restored. Let’s be honest, there are some people that we are still at odds with or at odds with us, because of an offense that was committed! Its hard to be friends with someone who hurt you! Its hard to be friends with someone who broke your trust! Its hard to be friends with someone who stole from you! Its hard to love someone who cheated on you! Its hard to love someone who left you! Its hard to like someone who did you wrong! Its hard to be in the presence of someone who turned their back on you! However, God is telling us, that true forgiveness should and has to compel us to Restore and Repair Broken Relationships!
In verse 20, the major reason that the FATHER ran to his son, was to restore the son’s broken relationship with the family, but also with the community! In preparing for this sermon, I learned that if a Jewish son lost his inheritance among Gentiles and returned home, the community had a tradition of taking a large pot, breaking it in front of the son and yelling, “you are cut off from your people!” So the father ran to the son, not only to restore him back into the family, but also to keep him from being cut off and ostracized by the community! Relationships are key in forgiveness because God has created us for relationships!
In the Garden of Eden, God walked and talked with Adam in the cool of the day! God had a relationship with Adam! The Bible says, that God is a jealous God! God doesn’t like for us to have relationships with any other false Gods!When we have healthy relationships, we are in God’s will, and when we are in God’s will we are at home! In order for us to be at home in God’s will, our vertical and horizontal relationships have to be restored and repaired! Sin causes separation from God and others, but forgiveness causes us to restore and repair broken relationships!
When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, people are able to be all that God has called them to be! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to save marriages and build healthy families! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to build healthy churches and communities! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to stop the violence, stop the fighting, put down the guns, and stop the killing! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to enact policies and pass legislation that all people can benefit from! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to respect each other’s differences! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, like the brother of the Prodigal Son, we have to realize that everybody won’t be happy about our forgiveness! However, when we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we can do just like this father does! Bring out the best robe, bring out the ring, bring out the sandals, get the fatted calf and kill for a celebration! When the father brings out these fine clothes, a ring, and animal, he forgives and restores his son back to his rightful place! This was a cause for celebration!
In other words, the last thing that FORGIVENESS causes us to do, is Rejoice! This truly is the best part of the whole story! The text reads, “let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate” The son was living a life of sin, which equals death, but now he’s back in the father’s will, which equals life! Rejoice! The son was out there lost, but now he’s found! Rejoice! The son left home, but now he’s back home! Rejoice! The son was on his way to hell with gasoline drawls on, but now he’s got eternal life, Rejoice! The son was living with the effects of sin, but now he’s living in the overflow of forgiveness, Rejoice! The son was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore, Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more; But the Master of the sea, Heard his despairing cry, From the waters lifted him, Now safe is he. Love lifted him! Love lifted him! When nothing else could help, Love lifted him. REJOICE!!
Church, this son received the father’s forgiveness and found his way back home in God’s will, so we have a reason to rejoice! We can rejoice, because we are this son! We too were sinking deep in sin, but God heard our cry, so REJOICE! We we’re out there doing everything that we were big and bad enough to do, but God forgave us, so REJOICE! We were given a 2nd chance by God, so we all have a reason to REJOICE! God looked past our faults and saw the best in us, so we have a reason to REJOICE! If an earthly father can celebrate his son coming back home, can you imagine the celebration in heaven when we do what God calls us to do, it ought to make us REJOICE!
Is there anybody in here that has a REJOICE in their soul? Is there anybody in here who is willing to Rejoice?
- Can you rejoice that God woke you up this morning?
- Can you rejoice that God has allowed us to see another day?
- Can you rejoice over his many blessings; food on the table, car in the driveway, clothes on our back, roof over our head, a reasonable portion of health!
- Can you rejoice just because God’s been good!
- However you rejoice, just rejoice! Clap your hands, shout, cry, lift up your hands, say amen, shout hallelujah, just rejoice!