Hear It Again

CALL TO WORSHIP: God is a hiding place for us. He protects us from our troubles. He surrounds us and protects us, so we shall sing about the way He has saved us.

Loving Lord, Today we shall hear about a son who came back home after many adventures. As we draw near to You now, we feel that it is like coming home. We can be ourselves in Your presence. You love us for who we are, not for how good a show we can put on.

We don’t have to be dressed in our best, or use special complicated words for You to be our loving Parent. In everything that we do and say today, help us to remember that we are loved, and that Your love is the strongest and the truest that we will ever find. Amen

HYMN: 409 (LET US BUILD A HOUSE WHERE LOVE CAN DWELL-StF)

ADORATION: Lord, You made the world in which we live. You made the whole universe of which it is a part, setting it all in motion. Everything that existed then, and all that exists now was in Your mind from the very beginning. You saw it all when it was brand new; when it comes to an end You will still be there. Lord, You make everything new and we praise You.

You made people to be like You. Every person who has ever lived was made in Your image. You created human beings to know You and to love You. Even when we turned away from You, You had a solution in mind. You sent Jesus to live among us. Through the forgiveness offered in Jesus, we can all have a fresh start, as if we had been made brand new. Lord, You make everything new and we praise You.

We think of a new morning, bright and sparkling, full of possibilities. In the dawning of every day, we can start afresh, knowing that You are with us. By Your Holy Spirit, You go with us everywhere. When we look at the world with our eyes, we see where You are working everyday and You show us how You want us to serve You. You give us new life and encouragement. Without You, we might give up. Lord, You make everything new and we praise You. Amen

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

TALK FOR ALL:  THREE WISHES

am sure that most of you have read a book, seen a movie, or at least heard the story about "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp." In one version of the story, Aladdin worked in a shop that exchanged new lamps for old ones. Aladdin's job was to polish the lamps and make them look like new. One day, as he was polishing a lamp, a genie came out of the lamp and promised to grant Aladdin anything he wished for. With the help of the Genie, Aladdin gained great wealth and won the love of a beautiful princess.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have your every wish come true? You might think so, but the truth is, sometimes the things we wish for are not good for us. That is what a young man discovered in today's Bible story.

Our Bible story today is about a young man who had three wishes.

1. He wanted a lot of money.

2. He wanted to travel and see the world.

3. He wanted to be his own boss.

 

The young man got his wishes, but they were not granted to him by a genie. The young man went to his father and asked him to give him the inheritance that would be his when his father died. Even though the father was sad that his son wanted to leave, he gave him his share of the family fortune and the young man left home and travelled all around the world. He visited all of the places he had always wanted to visit and did whatever he wanted to do. He was happy that no one was telling him what to do. Since the young man had a lot of money, if he saw something he wanted, he bought it, and since he had a lot of money, he also had many friends.

This sounds like a very happy story, doesn't it? Well, that isn't the end of the story. After a while, the young man ran out of money. When he ran out of money, his friends ran out on him. He was so desperate that he went to work for a man who sent him to feed his pigs. The young man was so hungry that he would gladly have eaten the food he was feeding to the pigs. As he looked at the filthy pig pen, he thought about the mess he had made of his life. He thought about his father and the home he had left behind.

"Even a servant in my father's house lives better than this," the young man said to himself. "I will return to my father and tell him that I am sorry for the way I have behaved and ask him to give me a job as one of his servants."

Do you think the father was willing to take him back? Yes, but not as a servant. He welcomed him back home as a son. He called his servants together and told them, "Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was lost, but now is found."

Well, the story had a happy ending after all, didn't it? This story that Jesus told is really a story about you and I and the way we sometimes behave.

Sometimes you and I make bad choices -- just like the young man in our story. We sometimes wish for things that are not good for us. We sometimes don't want to listen to God and obey what the Bible tells us we should do. When we act that way, we really make a mess of our lives. Well, I have good news for you! Just like the father in our story, God, our Heavenly Father, is always willing to take us back if we will admit that we were wrong and return to Him.

Dear Father, we sometimes make bad choices. Thank you for being a loving Father who will always take us back when we come home to you. Amen.

HYMN 247 (I DANCED IN THE MORNING -StF)

CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING: Hear what St Paul says: God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Lord, we know how generous You are, how loving and kind. You are always there to care for us, and You want us to care for others in the same way. We have come to say sorry to You because we know that we don’t always do that.

When we take Your love for granted; Lord forgive us

When we are only kind to our friends; Lord forgive us

When we think we are too busy to show someone loving care; Lord forgive us

We thank You that Your love is so great, that You sent Jesus to die for us so that we might be forgiven. Show us how to care in the Jesus way so that we might offer Your love and comfort to everyone we meet. Amen

READING: LUKE 2:33-35

HYMN 120 (WE GLADLY CELEBRATE AND PRAISE -StF)

SERMON: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (Hear It Again)

What is it that you like to hear over and over? What about what you don’t like to hear?

This is the case with the parable of the Prodigal Son. Sure, we've heard it before. We may even think we know all about it. But that doesn't change the fact that the parable of the Prodigal Son is one of those all-important things we need to hear over and over and over again. Just like the words, "I love you," the parable of the Prodigal Son is an expression of God's radical, sacrificial and abundant love for you and I and the whole of the world.

So, we're going to hear it again because we need to. Only this time, we're going to tell the same story in a bit more contemporary fashion and in our own context.

There was a man who had two children. The eldest was a girl, the youngest a boy. The man owned a car dealerships in Leicester, Wigston, Countesthorpe, Uppingham Rd, Rothley and Syston. He was in the store at Uppingham Rd one day when his young son came to him and said, "Dad, I want a new Mercedes convertible and my share of the family fortune and I'll get out of your way. I'm going off to conquer the world! You'll never hear from me again!"

So the father regretfully divided up the money and got his young son a Mercedes convertible and waved goodbye. A few days later the young son found himself at a blackjack table in London, Sin City. It didn't take long for the young son to lose everything — all the money, the car, everything was gone.

And with nothing left, and after having been kicked out of a small room at the casino, the young man found himself alone, completely and utterly alone. With nowhere to go and no money left, the young son was forced to hire himself out as a pool boy to Elton John. It proved to be a horrible experience.

But then one day the young man came to his senses. He looked around at what had become of his life and said out loud, "How many of my Dad's employees have it better than this! Here I am with nothing, barely existing as a pool boy, and I can't get that Candle in the wind song out of my head! I know what I'll do. I'll go to my Dad and say to him, ‘Dad, I have really messed up, please forgive me. I mean, I really, really messed up. I...well... I...I sinned. I have sinned against you and against God.

I have squandered everything; it's all gone, so I don't even have a peace offering to lay before you. But maybe, just maybe, you'll consider taking me back as one of your employees?"

So the young man set off for Leicester at St Margaret’s Bus Station “King Richard 111 final resting place. When his Dad saw him coming from a distance, he jumped for joy and ran out into the busy traffic and put his arms around his son and gave him...a “Pork Pie”.

Then the young son said to him, "Dad, I really blew it, I messed up big time. I'm a loser. I have sinned against you and God. I lost everything. Can I have a job?"

But his Dad said, "Nonsense!" And then his Dad told one of his employees, "Run up to Leicester shopping centre and get the best suit and shoes they have; and get him a Samsung S21, the newest fashion available. And then call the caterer because we're going to have a party, for my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!" And then the party began.

But the elder daughter was in the Rothley store selling cars when suddenly she heard that Candle in the wind song blaring over the loud speakers and lots of laughing coming from the showroom. So the elder daughter called one of the employees and asked what was going on. She was told that her loser brother had returned and their Dad was throwing a party for him.

Well that made her mad, really mad. So mad that she locked herself in a mini-van and refused to come out. Her Dad came out and pleaded with her to come join the party, but she refused. Eventually she rolled down the window and said to her Dad, "Listen, I've been working myself to the bone all these years! You never threw a party for me and my friends! You never called the caterer for me! I've done everything you've told me to do and then some! You'd think I would be the one you were proud of and grateful for, not ‘that looser over there!

He comes home after wasting your money with prostitutes and losing everything and you treat him like he's something special! What about me? Remember me? I'm the faithful one! Where's the justice? Have I been good all these years for nothing? I want to belong too! I want to be loved too! Will somebody please tell me how to earn your love?"

Then her Dad said to her, "My daughter, you are always with me. Everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and throw a party, because your brother was...your brother was Elton John’s pool boy! And now he's back with us; he was dead and now he's alive; he was lost and now he's found."

You see, it doesn't matter how you tell the story, what language you use, the message remains the same. It doesn't matter how many times you've heard it before or how many different ways you've heard it told, the message remains as timeless as it is priceless.

But what is the message? Is there just one message, just one point to be made? What is it that Jesus wants us to hear and understand? Why does the parable not have an ending? What is the Good News?

Well, we've been calling this parable the "Prodigal Son." But what exactly does the word "prodigal" means? Does it mean lost, wayward and rebellious?  Or does it mean excessive, extravagant, lavish, unrestrained and wasteful?

It means all of the above. Which tells us the Father is a prodigal in a positive sense: he is excessive, extravagant, lavish, unrestrained and lovingly wasteful. And the two siblings are prodigals in a negative sense: they are lost, wayward, and rebellious...each in their own way. So maybe what we have is a family of prodigals and maybe what we have is the church.

If that's the case then we’re supposed to find ourselves in the parable. Who are you? Which character are you most like? Maybe I am a complex person and not limited to just one character. Maybe you see a little Father in me, a little younger brother and a little elder sister.

Maybe when we hear the parable and include ourselves we discover that love and justice are given according to what is needed, not according to what is perceived to be deserved.

Maybe one of the messages of the parable is that God the Father claims His children in an unconditional love, a love that is extravagant, excessive, lavish, unrestrained, seemingly foolish and wasteful — a love we call Jesus Christ. Maybe we need to hear that more often. Maybe we need to hear that over and over again until we really believe it with the whole of our being.

Jesus leaves us with a parable that has no ending. What will happen to this dysfunctional family is left up to us. Do we recognize our own lostness? Do we embody the love of God in all we say and do? Are we reconciled one to another? Would you like to hear it again? Amen.

HYMN 611 (BROTHER, SISTER, LET ME SERVE YOU-StF)

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: On Mothering Sunday, we have a great deal of material for prayer. Some may want to give thanks for their own mother, or to pray for her. Others may want to pray for mothers in their own family. Or some may want to remember mothers in the news, in war-torn areas, suffering hardship, or carrying burdens of anxiety about their children. I invite you to put a blouse, skirt, shirt or a pair of trousers on a table or chair

God of all comfort, we remember that Jesus was born to a human family, and knew the comfort of an earthly mother. He knew the joys and grief of family life. We offer to You now all our prayers for our own families, and for others.

We thank You that we have the comfort of knowing that You always hear. Take our prayers, and answer them in the best way. Show us if You want us to be the answer to someone else’s prayer, or even to our own. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

HYMN 476: ONE MORE STEP ALONG THE WORLD I GO -StF

BLESSINGS: Lord, You have poured out Your goodness upon us and Your love never ends. As we go from here, make us strong to do Your will, so that we may live in fellowship with You all through our lives. And may, the Blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you always. Amen