Grace…for Me?

A couple years ago I preached a sermon for my kids’ school chapel.  I preached the parable of the Prodigal Son.  It was a sermon in which I tried to get the hearers to marvel at God’s grace towards them.rembrandt139

At the end of the sermon, the principal came up to wrap things up and his words were surprise that this kind of sermon would be preached to high schoolers at a Christian school.  I was a little embarrassed and thought, “Maybe I preached the wrong sermon.”

This Christmas, I am in awe of Emmanuel.  In awe of a God who would come among us in such a vulnerable way.  Thinking about it literally brings me to tears.

I have known of the incarnation all of my life.  I have been a committed follower of Jesus for decades.  I have taught it, preached it, prayed it, and lived it.  But I can still be brought to tears when I ponder Emmanuel.

What would make us too mature to hear a message about God’s love for us and His desire that we come to Him?  What would make us think a Gospel message is the wrong message?

I wonder if it is because the Gospel is for the unbelievers?

I wonder if it is because the Gospel is simply for conversion?  Not just for unbelievers to hear, but specifically for the purpose of conversion.  Like a sales pitch where you put the screws to someone to shell out the cash.

I wonder if it is because it makes us uncomfortable with our sin?  When we preach a message of grace to a group of committed Christian people, it is like we are acknowledging we are still sinners.   That we are still sinners is the very public secret the church believes is private.

To think we, who are followers of Jesus, are still, at heart, prodigals is not a popular thing to say.  At least if such a sermon were preached at a church, one could imagine it is preached for the visitor in the second row.  Preach it in a room full of people who have all publicly given their allegiance to God and suddenly everyone wonders if the sermon is preached with them in mind.

I am ashamed to admit I spend much too much time in the far country with booze, whores, and slopping pigs.  I am ashamed that, having been adopted by God, I have boldly asked for my inheritance now.  I read the Prodigal and my heart leaps.  There may even be hope for me.

It is me, a son, who has left the presence of God.  It is me, a son, who is hoping against all hope God is still waiting for me to return.  It is me, a son, who is finally realizing (again) I would rather be a servant in the household of my Father than out here slopping pigs.

I have preached that sermon several times (it is a favorite of my family and they request it when there is opportunity) and at the end, I talk about the banquet the Father is throwing for the prodigal who comes home.

I always choke up at that point, because I realize there is a banner over the head table, and it says, “Welcome Home,” and, it is for me.

It is for me.

Grace is for me.

I hope I continue to hear stories of God’s grace for 1000 years.  I need to hear them.

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9 Responses to Grace…for Me?

  1. Carol Samples says:

    I love this story very much because it does have a happy ending…he comes back home to his father’s house, and that is also how I imagine it for myself. Thank you for being you, Derrick! God bless you! Merry Christmas and happy New Year!!

  2. C says:

    Grace is a hard sell in a culture where ” self esteem” is our guiding light. Those of us whose former lives left no doubt about our need for grace turn out to be the lucky ones.

  3. c says:

    I used to attend a congregation whose members were heavily influenced by certain heterodox teaching that, among other things, regarded the “L(ucky)” word as unchristian and probably satanic. The accepted term was “blessed” which they invoked so frequently and inappropriately as to make the word sound both trite and contrived – an interesting distortion of God’s eternal purposes which, as far as I can tell, are neither. (It was also a cardinal sin in that place to announce that, “you were a sinner saved by grace”, but that is a topic for another time). In any case, I still say “lucky” every chance I get. Blessings and Grace to you and yours, and peace.

  4. t says:

    Love this one. I am always moved by this story….I am proud to claim the name “Prodigal” because it is my Father’s Grace by which I have been saved. I will proclaim that to my dying breath. There is nothing grander and more beautiful than admitting our need for a Saviour and then living in light of the grace of the Father.

  5. shelli says:

    Are you talking to me?

  6. Wendy says:

    Life is full of paradoxes. One of them is that we don’t appreciate the Father as easily or as much until we realize we would like to slop the pigs for Him.

    In my own arrogance, I don’t want to think of myself as that bad off. But how freeing to know the Father welcomes me with open arms when I humble myself to come to Him… just hoping to slop the pigs.

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