Luke 15: 11-31
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
We have made it this far in the service without one dad joke that stops right now.
when does a dad joke? When does a joke become a dad joke? When the punchline is apparent, it’s not near that
funny and I love how some of you started to laugh and then other ones are like, I’m supposed to get it. So now I’ll chip in, what do you call a cow that doesn’t produce any. a milk dud. I don’t know why I like that one happy father’s day, everyone. Uh, we recognize that for some, this is a wonderful day filled with memories filled with anticipation of celebrations.
Later this day, filled with reminders of dreams fulfilled. We also know this day, activates some trauma. It’s a return for some to disappointment, to longings that are deferred or even destroyed for some, we sing and talk about God, the father, we understand that is a light topic for some, but for others, the title father is filled with feelings of abuse or distance or disapproval.
and I think for many or most this day is not clean enough to fit into an all light or all dark category for most, or for many. This day is a collision of both settled space and unsettled space. And I just want to say, however, you come welcome and thank you for spending this day here with us this morning, we’re gonna be in Luke chapter 15.
Uh, if you have your pew Bible starts on 8 21, page 8 21. This is a story often referred to as a story of the prodigal son. Um, probably a little more appropriately named the story of the compassionate father who is a little more the focus of the story, but. It’s a story that many of, you know, nonetheless and we desire to learn from God and to learn from what it means to be a spiritual father from the text from Luke chapter 15, this is Jesus speaking.
And he said there was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, father give me the share of the property that is coming to me. And he divided his property between the two sons. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country there. He squandered his property in reckless living.
And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country who sent him into his field to feed pigs. And when he was longing to be fed with the pods, the pigs ate. No one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself, he said, how many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread? But I perish here with hunger. I will arise and go to my father. And I will say to him, fathers I’ve sinned against heaven. And before you, I’m no longer worthy to be called your son, treat me as one of your hired servants.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion and ran and ran and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, father I’ve sinned against heaven before you I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servant bring quickly the best robe, put it on him, put the ring on his hand and choose on his feet and bring the fat and cap and kill it.
Let us eat and celebrate. for miss. My son was dead and alive. Again, he was lost and is found and they began to celebrate. Now his older son was in the field and as he came junior to the house, he heard music and dancing and he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, your brother has come and your father has killed the fat and calf because he is received him back safe and sound.
He was angry. He refused to go in. His father came out and intrigued him, but he answered his father. Look these many years, I’ve served you and I’ve never disobeyed your command yet. You gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. Young goats, no fatted calf, apparently, but when his son of yours came, who has dev devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatten calf for him.
And he said to his, to him, son, you are always with me. All that his mind is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad. for this, your brother was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found father. We come to this story. We come to this day, we ask you for grace. We know that on this particular day, June 17th, that we are heightened in our awareness of what has happened in our lives with fathers.
And we ask you for clarity and understanding to simply understand who you are and who you in you you’ve called us to be in Jesus name. Amen. This story has meant much to me. Uh, this story for many of you has meant much to you in these last few years. This story has taken on another dimension for. I think initially reading this story and understanding the story.
We, we come to identify right with that younger son, that old prodigal son and, and that the younger son in the story has this outer leaving of home. He wants his life away. He basically is coming to his dad and saying, Hey, I wish you were dead. I want my stuff. I don’t want you. I don’t want home. I don’t want relationship.
What I want is the good that you will give me when you die. So he takes that good and goes and lives his own way. He lives away from home, his outward waywardness. Realizing often as we identify with this, that I am the prodigal son. Every time I search for unconditional love, where it cannot be found. and in the story, he goes looking and eventually ends wishing he had the fulfillment that the pigs had.
And we understand also that there’s, there’s another son in here and it’s, this sun is more complicated. This sun is more confused. This sun is like, I don’t want goat. I want cow. Why do you, why I’ve been so faithful, I’ve been so good. And this son had outer, um, connection or outer. Uh, he stayed home outwardly, but it’s apparent that inwardly.
He was not at home, that he was inner wayward, inner distance, such that he didn’t want his family back. He didn’t want his brother back. What he wanted was ultimately the praise, adoration and stuff that comes with being good. In this story, come to identify. As many of you have is that I am the proud son or the older son.
Every time I try to use my talent, my morality, or my sense of who I am as above or below to determine my identity and to judge everyone else over the last few years. And there’s a book that’s been very influential for me, um, called the return of the pro gold son, um, by Henry Nowan and this in this book and understanding this story, that there is another character being the loving father that of course represents God.
And of course represents who God is, but this character that represents God also gives. Incredible insight on what it means to be a spiritual father. Spiritual maturity is always about being a son, but not just being a son. It is growing into something and someone beyond myself, few mother’s days ago, I got a chance to talk about spiritual motherhood and the incredible rich call in scripture of what it means to, to grow into spiritual motherhood today on father’s day, the privilege, um, to talk to you about what does it mean to grow into spiritual fatherhood and a few things just about the father in this story that he has centered.
Number one on others and not bound up in his own fear, not obsessed with his own comfort, his own wealth rights or reputation. Secondly, he freely joyfully shows, compassion and love with music and dancing he gives and does not hoard third. He fears God and lives righteously, regardless of what those around him might think.
And this type of parenting and business strategy that he employed here would not be viewed well in the community. I wanna talk a little bit about, and I think we have some slides just on what is spiritual fatherhood as an overview? What does, what does it mean to, to, um, become a spiritual father? What are we talking about when we’re talking about this concept biblically and then also co talking about the cues we get in the text of Luke 15, number one by spiritual fatherhood.
We’re talking more about what it means to be a man of. Then a dad of God, the spiritual fathering is the male Christian path to Christian maturity. Whether you have kids or not. I mentioned Henry noun has been deeply formative to me in this discussion. Interestingly, he is not married or was not married.
And does, did not have children. Spiritual fatherhood is the path of Christian maturity for men. What does it mean? The question is to be a godly man. Secondly, spiritual fatherhood is something we grow into over time. Um, there’s so much energy and, and it’s not all bad. It’s, it’s a lot American and it’s, there’s some scripture that we can pull in here, but, but there’s, there’s a lot of energy about live your destiny and, and, uh, build your kingdom and, and, and claim your space and, and see great things happen.
And a lot of that can be really. But oftentimes what happens is that it’s hard to find people in the Christian walk that simply steadily put their shoulder to the sled and seek first the kingdom of God, regardless of the adoration, it brings to their individual worlds. And, and so what we can do, like, like any human being in any culture our time can do, we can do with this within Christian communities is look for gifting.
And this is important, right? Corinthians is big on this is, is to grow into our spiritual gifting without. We don’t accurately show God’s glory. Our gifts are demonstrated to show God’s glory and passion. We talk about passion and passion’s important. It was important to Christ. There are, there are places in scripture where this calling out of passion, revelations, the churches to live an impasioned life is so vital and important without this.
Our faith is cold and lifeless, but there is a danger when we determine Christian maturity by growing into gifting and passion, these things can be dangerous if not grounded in time in contentment, in dispassionate faithfulness, in seasons, where things are exciting. And in seasons, when they’re not. and if you’re here and you’re like, Hey, I I’m six months into this Christian life or, or you’re here and it you’re, you’re in high school and you absolutely love Jesus.
And, and, and you’re hearing me say, well, it takes time. I understand this says like, well, what does that mean? I think it means that the beauty of the thing of Christ is to be with him. And, and in his ways it’s it’s child is it’s shallow enough for, for children to play in, but, but deep enough to drown the wisest scholar, right.
And that’s borrowed from somebody else. But as we grow deeper into Christ, we are always growing more into maturity. The joy of the Christian life is that there’s more to experience. and it takes time. Third spiritual, compassionate fatherhood is the way men are called to be like, God, we are not like called to be like God in every way.
Right? We are not commanding in scripture. Hey, go make worlds, go, come up with ideas for animals, go die on the cross for people’s sins. We are not called. We can do say WWJD. And, and how do we be? Like, God, there are ways we are called to be like, God, but there are many ways where we are not, we are not called to be like God, in his glory, we are not called to be like God, in his control and sovereignty, we are not called to be like God in his constant victory.
And we can want these things, but these are not ways that men are called to be like, God, not very often in scripture. Does it say we are called to be like, God, but there’s this wonder. Poem Psalm 112 called the poem of the Sage. And it talks about, um, a person, a man of God there’s it uses this word canoe, which is used 12 times in scripture, every other occurrence in scripture where this word is used.
It is used specifically about the character of God. But in this poem, one in Psalm 112 uses the same phrase, even in darkness, like shines for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous in Luke 6 36 through 38, the same book of what we read this Jesus simply says, be compassionate just as your father is compassionate.
Compassion. Is one of the deep and lasting ways we are called to be like, God, the father fourth spiritual fatherhood is about having the strength to become less, not the strength to become more, come more. I don’t think spiritual father means you’re doing less or, or even having less responsibility, but spiritual fatherhood is ultimately being less about ourselves, less about our ego living into the beauty of self forgetfulness.
Right. We see these calls when, when, um, in, throughout the new Testament, when they speak specifically to men, Ephesians five, what’s the call for husbands? lay down your very life for your spouse. Young men, first, Peter FYS five, likewise young men be subjected to elders close. You clothe yourself. All of you with humility towards one another.
Jesus. Speaking to his disciples, the very people who would become the spiritual fathers of the early church says this. If you want to be great, learn to be the servant of all, Jesus called them together and said, you know that the rulers of the Gentile lowered it over them and their high officials exec exercise authority over them.
Not so with you. That’s not gonna be the way we do things here. Instead. Whoever wants to become great. Must be your servant. This is laying down the need to have the last word laying down the need to justify. Laying down the need to have that toy laying down the rights to our stuff, to our position, to our advancement.
When I was in college, went on spring break and, uh, had a, I had a question. I was a weird college student and like, I was like philosophical and, you know, annoying. So I would sit with people and then not just want to have good conversations, I would want to have great conversations. Right. And you’re already like, that is so annoying.
Okay. So anyway, I was in Washington and there was this guy there, he was a, a veterinarian. And like, just as this really cool dude and like, um, I met him and he was my buddy’s friend. And like, just really seemed like he was a humble man. And so sitting with him, I don’t know, talking about cows or sheep or whatever you talk about with veterinarians in Washington.
And, and of course I lightly say to him, Can you tell me the difference between a boy and a man, and that had to just annoy the heck out of him. You know, just like, dude, I don’t even know you like and he, and he hesitated and he was very kind to this annoying college student. And he said, he, but he came up with this answer, which has been helpful for me.
He said, a boy thinks the world is all about himself. A man understands his place within the bigger picture. There is teaching out there. And, and again, a lot of it can be good, um, about like find your way and be your destiny and all those things. And I’m not saying those things are all wrong, but they can sneak into our spiritual life of like, how do I become David?
David was playing a harp in the wilderness with no thought of being a. How do I, how do I become become Daniel? Daniel is just a dude who said, you know what? I’m gonna pray to God. And not to other people. When people become heroes of the faith is not because they sought to be something or someone special, right?
Moses is out there in the wilderness, looking, looking after his sheep. He’s not trying to lead his people. So when God comes, he basically says no, and God says again, I want you to do this. He’s like, I don’t wanna be that guy. So when we are, when in our Christian life, as we’re growing in spiritual fatherhood men, our call is not, how do I step up?
How do I be bigger? How do I know more? Don’t go for Jim Moses. Don’t aim for Moses aim for jet row. Aim for men who steadily faithfully put one foot on top of another, put one brick on the wall at a time saying, I want to follow this Christ. And if he taps me on the shoulder to do something else, I’ll obey, but I’m not aspiring or jumping or clawing towards being more fifth.
And again, lastly, on that and I’ll stop yelling and stuff. Um, I think that on the spiritual fatherhood is about having less make movement towards servanthood, not towards legacy five. Spiritual fatherhood starts at home again, spiritual. Fatherhood’s not always being a dad. Starts with difficult siblings can start dealing with your own kids.
It can start with, um, the people that you are closest to. That is the way, and actually the biblical model of spiritual fatherhood we see in first Timothy three, it starts by the love of God, making deep strides in your own family and core relationships. So this is somewhat of an image and of spiritual fatherhood and very simply where we’re gonna go this morning is how, what are the steps to take towards spiritual fatherhood?
How does this happen? I don’t think there’s a guy in here that says, man, I really want to think about myself more or a guy in here. If you’re honest to say, man, my ego is my friend. You know, your ego is your enemy. You know that the, the, the constant thought about image or notoriety or importance or comparison, it’s not something you sit there and say, how do I get more of that?
Right. It’s something we use and utilize because it always momentarily feels good to build the ego, but we know deep down, that’s not a way towards freedom. That’s not a way towards being any type of the men that I respect in my life. How do we move to spiritual fatherhood first? And if nothing else you get, sonship is always the way to spiritual fatherhood.
Only love from God, beget, selfless love towards others. Only love of God fulfills the longings that we often try to fulfill by self obsess. and I know for, for some of you, a gracious father is a mysterious concept. It just doesn’t fit with what you know about fatherhood. It’s not what you’ve seen in your dad.
Your Christian life is often an effort to please a distant father, cuz that’s what you have known. The father that runs the father, that disrobe the father that plays the music and leads. The dancing is not a, a father that you may understand. There is no way to spiritual fatherhood without deeply, fully, truly knowing the love of God.
I’ve said this a number of times, I believe spiritual growth is a process of understanding. God’s love. The first thing we do is understand that God can love. And that’s a journey, right? Cause sometimes you think, well, God, I know that’s distant, scary stuff. I don’t know if that God can love. And, but once knowing God can love a much more intimate, deep, and painful and scary and hopeful step is to say, not only can God love, but God can love me.
And that’s a lifelong journey of understanding. And it’s not just about understanding ourselves, although that’s part of it. It’s about understanding a radical disrobing, lunging sprinting, father of love. And I believe the last as we see this in the book of John is to simply understand not only can God love, not only can God love me, but that God by his very nature is love.
Unless we understand the radical embrace of the father. We will ever be the prodigal or the proud. And honestly, why wouldn’t we be the prodigal? And the proud are trying to get whatever they can away from home. And you understand it outward away from home or inner away from home. They’re trying to get whatever they can.
It’s only when understanding all that home offers in the father. Can we release some of those egos? Uh, I mentioned to you that, uh, a book is important to me in this. This is the conclusion of the book, which is so unfair to read cuz now you’re not gonna read the book, but this is the very end of the book.
The return of the prodigal sum by Henry Nowan living out spiritual fatherhood requires the radical dis discipline of being home. as a self rejecting person, always in search of affirmation and affection. I find it impossible to love consistently without asking for something to return. But the discipline is precisely to give up, wanting to accomplish this myself as a heroic feat to claim for myself, spiritual fatherhood and the authority of compassion that belongs to it.
I have to let the rebellious younger son and the resentful elder son step up on the platform to receive the unconditional forgiving love that the father offers me and to discover there the call to be home as my father is home, then both sons and me can gradually be transformed into the compassionate father.
This transformation leads to the fulfillment of the deepest desire of my restless heart. because what joy can be there for me then to stretch out my tired arms and let my hands rest in blessing on the shoulders of my homecoming children.
Secondly, to be watchful, right? What, in this story, it says the son was a long way off as we build, how do we build towards being spiritual fathers? The, the son’s a long way off. Well, what does that say about the dad? The dad’s looking right. He is watching for him. It doesn’t say that, uh, a whole caravan of people came and said, Hey, I saw this guy doing the pigs.
He’s gonna come this day. So be watching no he’s watchful watching for opportunity. Where is the father? He’s on the porch. It feels uncomfortable or, or, or, or maybe even ungodly to think that we could be caring for other people in this way. But I do think a spiritual father is not just someone who, who like is teaching theology and making big church decisions.
A spiritual father is somebody who’s watching. Who’s looking for opportunity. Someone who’s is a, a man here he’s gone on, but he was here and he would tell me, Ben, I pray for you every day. And I don’t know if, I don’t know if he prayed for other people. I didn’t care. I just knew this was a man who prayed for me every single day.
That’s looking for opportunities being watchful. Third. We developed spiritual fatherhood by building compassion muscles every day. Um, oh, what’s his name? John Eldridge, um, wrote my favorite book. John Eldridge wrote called walking with God, and it was simply his journals and, uh, in his journals, uh, was cool to see of, of his relationship with God.
And he was journaling and thinking about how people want to hear from God at key moments in their life, who should I marry? What college should I go to? What should I do with my 401k? What, how should I buy appropriately? Right. Big questions want to hear from God? And he said, but if we, if we are O only going to the recital, like a violin recital without doing the practicing, it’s gonna be really bad at the recital.
And some of you have heard bad violinist. It is something, I don’t know what it is. Clarinet, violin, beautiful instruments, but for the, the, the growing pains are terrible anyway. And, and he was saying how that we need to be building our connection with God deeply. To build those muscles each day, because then when it gets to recitals, we know how to be connected.
I think that’s for compassion to build over time, um, to just show you what a cool person I am. I uh, wanna tell you that I played the flute. You’re already laughing, um, in a homeschool band in high school. I was not good enough to be the first chair of the flutes in the homeschool band that went to Peter.
Thank you, Peter. I was the second chair in the homeschool. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re like, oh, homeschool band, listen, homeschoolers. We’re bad at a lot of stuff. Okay. I was homeschooled for part of high school. We’re bad at a lot of stuff, but we are good at orchestra. Okay. I mean, there’s, it was one guy in there he like practiced eight hours a day and looks the serious.
And we had this, this teacher in homeschool band and she was so intense. I like lived in fear of this woman. She would go just a little Baton thing and I’m like, she’s gonna stab my eye. I just know what she’s gonna do with that thing. Her hair’s going crazy. And, and I would sit there. This is no lie. And my, my, my really awesome, like girls loved it.
Second chair, flute and homeschool band. Um, and I would sit there and I would move my fingers because it looked like I was playing. And this is what I realized. If I don’t make mistakes, she doesn’t know. So I’m not gonna make a mistake and do the wrong timing and play the long wrong trail thing. So I’ll just do.
And that’s what I did. I faked it. Right. And, and all, everyone else in that orchestra was like, Mr. Holland’s Opus. I mean, they were amazing but guess what happened? When I came to the concert, I looked even more focused. I like Peter would rock back and forth in first chair. So, you know, I did in second chair, rock back and forth and I faked it again, cuz I’m not gonna get there and pretend like I know cuz I hadn’t done the practice and I sure did not want that lady with the stabbing Baton thing to realize that compassion is something that needs to be built every day.
It’s something that is built an inconvenient time, something that is built with difficult employees or bosses. It’s something that’s built when having children that don’t always behave. Like you want them to, it’s something that is built while driving compassion is a muscle that gets built over time.
And so when the father on the porch sees the sun, it’s not complicated for him. It’s not that guy embarrassed me so bad. I have not even thought about it until right now. And it’s all coming back to me now, what he did and all the servants I had to fire because he took the stuff he’s not on the porch wrestling with what to do.
Why? Because he had worked it through, he had wrestled and done the things that he had needed to do. He had built compassion over time. So that for the outward rebellion he had room, but also for his son, that’s sitting there saying, Hey, why’d you do this? And he’s like, dude, what’s wrong with you? He had room.
For also then word being at home himself, building the compassion muscles every day, made him have room for his boys. As you came in, you received a communion cup, and we’re talking about fatherhood talking about God, the father talking about spiritual fatherhood and the role in the Trinity that Christ plays as most often depicted is as the son.
It’s what Jesus called himself. But today as we go towards the table, wanna recall passage in Isaiah nine, a prophecy about Jesus that would come wonderful. Counselor, everlasting father. Mighty God is the title where Christ himself is called the father. Does that mean he is God the father? No. But does he play this role of spiritual fatherhood?
Absolutely. And today we reflect on a spiritual fatherhood that was known not by winning wars, but by wrapping a towel on his waist and receiving a cross,
if you’re a believer in the Lord, Jesus Christ this morning, if you would delicately, um, take off the lid for the bread, just as you holding your hands, I’m gonna give you a couple of moments, um, to reflect and remember of how Jesus himself. laid down his life for his sheep. How he, as a spiritual father for us, led us in the way of sacrifice.
Gonna give you a couple moments to reflect on him, and then we’ll partake together.
Paul writes that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, he took bread right in his own hands, real bread. And he gave thanks for it. And he broke it, knowing that in 20, less than 24 hours, that breaking would represent himself. He held that bread that he physically broke knowing it would represent his body, looked into the eyes of the spiritual fathers of the church.
And he said, this is my body, which is for you do this in remembrance of me.
in the same way. Jesus took the cup. He looked at the wine in his glass, saw the deep crims in color. And he said, this is what my blood’s gonna look like tomorrow. What’s gonna look like actually for him, even that night, when the beatings and the crowns and the trials would begin, and he who did not want to receive the cross and asked the father for another way, did not want to endure the suffering looked at this cup that he had in his hand, saw the Crimson and said, this is gonna be my blood.
That’s gonna be poured outta my body. In the midst of mistreatment, he said, this cup is the new covenant in my blood. And for the sake of this new covenant, he would endure the cross and scorn its shame. He said, whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
If you would stand with me, our blessing this morning, um, on this father’s day on this communion, Sunday focuses on the spiritual fatherhood of Jesus and our calling to be like him. do nothing out of selfish, ABI. These are the words of Paul, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vein conceit, rather in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interest of the others in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature.
God did not consider equality with God, something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient, even death on a cross happy father’s day.
Everybody, we are dismissed.