Monday, February 22, 2016

Dominican Republic 2016, Part Two, Tale of Two Sons and an Amazing Father

As I have already written, the mission of God in Christ has been to bring healing to the world reversing the effects of the fall through the coming of Jesus and the inauguration of the Kingdom.  The Kingdom is God's loving reign--when Jesus became King reigning in the hearts of his subjects.  One of the biggest reasons we cannot effectively participate in the Kingdom of God has to do with our pictures of God.  And how we perceive others that God also loves.

In Luke 15, we see the Pharisees questioning why Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners.  And he engages in a series of stories about God and what God is like.

Back to the Dominican Republic.  Sunday evening, we were being sent out two by two and I thought I would just bring the same message as I had brought that morning.  However, my partner Shirlee Taki, felt a strong impression that Condemnation was a big concern at the little church we were visiting.  Wow... I wondered... what I have to say really doesn't fit.  I looked through my file of sermons and wondered which one would fit.  When we arrived I sat down in the front row and heard, Luke 15.  I pulled it out and put it on the top scanning it for main ideas.  The pastor invited us upstairs to see the ministry space dedicated to children provided for under the banner of Compassion International.   Click... click... it's beginning to make sense.  God perhaps wanted us to paint a picture of the Father's love and deposit it in the hearts of this church.  Not sure what to do with many things I was picking up--motives etc.  I decided, it was not my job to deal with motives but only to bring the word.

I told the story of the kind of God, Jesus was representing.  God is like a woman who loses a coin and searches through the house until it is found.  God is like a shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes after the one lost sheep.  And God is like a Father who loses his son and welcomes him back to the family. But there is trouble in the household... the older son is lost too.  And while the younger son thought himself worthy of being only a servant in his fathers house this father abandons dignity and convention to shamelessly run to his son and welcome him home--not as a servant but as a son.  The older brother is concerned... is his inheritance in the balance?  Certainly, he had worked hard in the father's household... certainly he should have had such a party with his friends.  Angrily, the eldest son charges the father falsely.  But the loving father once again shows his true colors, "son, all that I have is yours."

We are left with a question, "will the older son join the festivities?  Will the older son join in the great welcome home?  Each son was in some sense lost and each son was in some sense in need of the father's love.  While believers remain in the Father's House, there are times when we do not grasp the magnitude of the father's love and we judge... dismiss... demonize others who have perhaps also wandered from the heart of God.  The question remained... would we see as the father sees... that he is for the one lost.  He remains inviting the lost in the household as well as the lost in the streets.

Shirlee shared about how in Christ there was no condemnation and that we had no need to fear the father.  God is love and one who loves us.  She gave an invitation and two came up who did not know God.  She sought to counsel them and invited them to receive Christ.  But they were not ready.  We felt sad but knew that God had perhaps painted a picture of himself that would remain in their sight.  We prayed for those who might have had a picture of God that needed healing.  And we prayed for those who were sick.

I was struck by the innocent requests that often came forth.  Some wanted prayer for headaches and others for seemingly minor things such as constipation.  Their faith was precious.

Finally, a young man came up and asked me to pray for him.  He was a teacher and wanted to learn how to teach effectively.  I prayed for him to have insight, and the teaching of the Spirit, to notice the details and images in the scripture and to discover resources that could help him be an effective teacher of the Bible.  My heart felt pleased to impart something--small as it was.

Wholeness... my word for the trip involved care for those ill but also a healthy picture of God and the great lengths to which God would go to find the lost ones.  Both those lost inside the household and those who had wandered to a far country.  How is God inviting us to see both himself but also those who are not yet back in the fold?

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