Last time, I described ten major trends and how we as the church can choose to make a difference in our ever-changing world? First, we pray for a vision from God. Second, we seek to turn the vision into concrete goals. Good ideas but is this what God’s church is really all about?
“Dear Father: Guess you are surprised to hear from me after all this time. I’m surprised myself. I don’t know what got into me, thinking I could go through life without you in it. Growing up you always seemed to be such a stern and controlling force in my life so when I became an adult, I thought I could do it on my own. Besides, I knew I was not something you were proud of. I made all kinds of mistakes and wrong choices and I was different than other people’s children. At times, I thought I was the only one like me. I later found out, there are many in the world like me.”
Chuck English joined our church several years ago. Chuck would be the first to say that for many years, he stayed away from church and even from God. Recently, he wrote a prayer for one of our worship services that beautifully described his journey and his need for something more…
“I have not always been the best child in the family but neither have I been the worst. My own guilt and shame at disappointing you has kept me away more than anything. I was afraid to see the hurt in your eyes… that is if I ever had the chance to look into your eyes again.”
Is this how the prodigal son felt described in the Gospel of Luke? “When he finally came to his senses… I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father I have sinned against both heaven and you and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.'” (Luke 15:17-18)
“I had some experiences recently which made me realize, I do need you in my life. I can’t make it alone. My eyes have been opened to the fact that regardless of how I feel about myself, you have and always will love me, not because of what I have or haven’t done but because of who I am; your child. I know you always had a place set at your table for me. My brothers and sisters told me many times but somehow I couldn’t or wouldn’t believe them… until now.”
God teaches that no one can make it alone. We are the brothers and sisters. What do we say?
“I realize that I hurt you by not behaving as I should and there is no guarantee I won’t do things in the future that will anger you or cause you embarrassment. All I can do is try and be the best I can. I will never measure up… I can never measure up because your standard is perfection.”
Do you remember how the father welcomed his wayward son? “And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) Is this how God welcomes all his wayward children?
“What I am trying so hard to say is: “I want to come home!” I need your love now more than ever and I have no one else but you. You have always been there for me but I chose to turn away and travel the world on my own. Life is a hard teacher but I learned that You are the one constant in the universe. The love of my Father has and always will be there for me… unconditionally.”
The father said: “‘We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (Luke 15:24) While it is important for every church to have a vision and set goals, what will always define us as Christians is: “How will you welcome and encourage all of God’s children including the least, the last and the lost of this world? Will you greet them with cold stares and judgment or will you throw a party?”
“Father, I may be a grown man but I still remain your helpless, hurting child. I want to come home to the refuge only you can give. I want to feel your arms holding me against your chest and your voice gently saying: ‘Welcome home my child: Welcome home. I have missed you!’” Amen!