geezeronthequad: “How About Them Hogs?” Luke 15:11-24
She nodded too quickly. Anyone jumping in too quickly when I speak to students could become part of the show. Here, at what used to be called the University of Western Ontario (now Western University), she caught my eye. Speaking out of this Scripture, I said, “Nobody should understand the Prodigal Son like college students. You know… the old man’s driving you crazy; you just have to get out of the house.” They laughed. She nodded – vigorously. Pointing at her, I asked, “Where are you from?” Wolfville, Nova Scotia, came the reply. “So,” I went on, “you could be sleeping in your own bed tonight and commuting to Acadia University. Or you could commute the 55 miles to Dalhousie University in Halifax if you were hardcore about drinking Mom and Dad’s orange juice. But here you are in London, Ontario, halfway across Canada(1258 miles, 2025 kilometers, eh?) from free room and board. Worth it?” Her affirmative head pumping would severely dislocate a neck vertebrae in most people.
Sin makes us dumb. Our wants become our needs. Our belly, our glands and our emotions slide into the driver’s seat. We only recognize the voice of God when our mouth is open and our brain disengaged. We infallibly know what life is about and what will make us happy. And we must have it now no matter who else gets hurt. This guy had stars and big city lights in his eyes. And if he was ever going to get out of this nowhere town, it had to be now or he might be stuck here the rest of his life. A mom shook her head telling me about her daughter, a high school friend of my children, who moved in with a boyfriend. “She said she had to go and make her own mistakes.” Nobody makes their own mistakes; there’s no creativity in human fallenness. We go and do the same dumb things as thousands (millions?) before us and imagine we’ll escape the consequences.
Hitting up the old man for an early payoff on the inheritance would be outrageous today but it knocked the top off the charts back in Jesus’ time. A son like this could be stoned to death according to the law of Moses. The old man handing it over without a fuss would earn the contempt of any Pharisee listening. We almost never value what costs us nothing. So the kid took the money and ran. Harry Ironside, an old pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, said, “Where there’s light, there’s flies.” Money draws flies too and I’m sure the son had no trouble finding help in quickly spending every dime on partying.
He came to Himself. Now he had to work hard at work he used to think beneath his dignity. Now he slopped hogs, the most unclean and nasty of animals in Jewish eyes. I’ll say this once; all manure is not created equal. Pig manure is the worst; trust me on this. Jesus reaches for our gagging reflex when He says the young man even ate their food. He came to himself. Sin always makes us pay whether we believe in it or not. Stripped of the fantasy of the party life, his lunches rubbed his face in the lies he lived.
He came to himself. Our culture drowns in the syrupy sweet goo of positive affirmation. Sometimes the occasion calls for something more bracing than merely the need to feel good about ourselves. Sometimes, in a moment of Holy Spirit induced clarity, we are led to say with broken conviction, “I…am… a…jackass”. Maybe we’ve already been there. Truth be told, maybe a few times. Some of us reading this have earned a merit badge in selfish screw ups. Sometime out in the future, it’ll be a lock.
He had to face Dad, admit his wrong, ask for forgiveness for the hurt caused and take whatever consequences would come – in broken humility with no complaint. It’s the same for everybody; the Bible calls this repentance. What we find when we come to ourselves is that we murdered God. Our sin put Jesus on the cross. When two wolves fight over which will be the new leader of the pack, the loser lies on the ground and bares his throat to the winner. He lies exposed and vulnerable to either death or mercy. We come to ourselves in a Holy Spirit moment and bare our throats to the Father Whose Son we’ve murdered on the cross. “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” This sounds tough and it is. But it’s the ticket, not only to the rest of the story but to all the “goodies” of the Christian life – heaven, all the fruits and work of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness and cleansing, healing of body mind and spirit, the indwelling of Jesus. We covet the “goodies” and even feel entitled to them. But we turn our head, avert our eyes, at the cost of the ticket. We must face the Father about the cross.
Only those who own real guilt taste how sweet mercy can be. The rest of us just want off the hook. Mercy ambushes us. It cuts insistently across the grain of everything we know we have coming and doesn’t wait for us to frame the right formulas. The God Who has been chasing us down like a hound now comes running to meet us, knocks us flat in the middle of our confessions with hugs and kisses, calls the caterers and cues the wardrobe people. The son’s partying loser friends only added to the waste of his life. Bad friends do that. But they really know how to party in heaven. Beyond space and time, the old house rocks with depth and force, shock waves of mercy that earth can’t withstand.
Why? The Father pops the cork every time one jackass comes to Himself. Just one. In a world awash in large numbers that often leaves us too numbed to understand, God the Father rejoices over the infinite value of one. A PhD in micro numbers explained to me, “For us, the number one is Mt. Everest.” It’s huge for God too. I wrote a note to a child today that I will probably never see again. He embraced Jesus Christ as His saviour at Vacation Bible School last week. I said, “There will never be anything you can do that will shock God to where He stops loving you and turns away in disgust. You may get places where you can’t find Him. But you will never be in a place where He can’t find you. No matter what. Believe these things because they are true.”
This summer, God know right where you are. Feel alone? One is a big number to God, especially when the one is someone he loves as much as you. Revelation (Rev 1:10-20) opens with a killer vision of Jesus. Look who saw it. Exiled to a penal colony where they worked you to death, John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. Only one person was in church that Sunday. But Jesus showed up…did He ever! For one…like you. Or me. Discouraged at the hardness of hearts around us? The hounds of heaven are all around us, the calf is on the spit and angel tailors stitch robes more beautiful than designer clothes straight from the runway. Maybe this will be the summer where we come to ourselves and in the middle of our broken confession to God, He knocks us flat with mercy, a hug and a kiss. It will be sweet. Take it from an old sinner who still has to shake loose of a few hogs and has many bruises of grace to show for the hard hugs of the Father.
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