How Do I See Myself as a Child of God?
Good morning Trinity…I’m a little overwhelmed to have Bill gone and taking the reins of this church. At the same time, I’m really excited to be here and begin this relationship with you. So, let me begin with this.
Over these next three weeks I thought it may be helpful to respond to some of the questions you’ve asked of me in the questionnaire. This week I’ll talk a bit about how I see myself as a child of God. Next week it will be about how I see my role as pastor, and then two weeks from today it will be how I see our role as Christians in the world. Each Sunday I’ll also be sharing a piece of art as a part of the message. This week it’s Rembrandt, a cup and a carving; Amazing Grace, Eagle’s wings and God be the Glory.
Next week I’ll be sharing one of my own creations. And then the following week I’ll share another of my favorite paintings. Following these next three weeks, through the rest of summer and into the Fall I want to expand a bit on how I see our role in the world.
I’ll be exploring seven significant expressions I see in Jesus as he traveled and responded in his world and how, I believe, those relate to our role. But today, let me begin with this story as read by Kathleen.
As I’m sure you already know, the Prodigal Son story is filled with metaphor and challenge. In scripture, it is part 3 for Luke as he explores being lost and found. Just before this, Luke explores the lost sheep and the lost coin, and now we have the story of a lost son – or maybe two lost sons. Let me review it for just a second and try and fill in a few of the blanks that would be assumed as Jesus told this story. Then, I would like to look at the painting and share where I see myself, and will ask you the same question; where do you see yourself in this story and in the painting?
We know that the story seems to focus on the younger son and not so much on the first-born son. Both, we’ll find, are lost.
For me it centers on the part of the story where the younger son finds himself in an untenable situation. Out of it a plan is born. He says, while sitting in the mud of the pigs… “Even my father’s lowliest servants have more than I do. I will go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.’” You can see him in all of his filth walking along the road practicing his line…Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, I’m no longer worthy…over and over and over again until he finally comes to the bend in the road that leads to his home.
So, let’s stop here for just a minute. I have to admit to you that there have been times when I’ve seen myself that way. Look at the painting…I’m that guy that is kneeling before the father, sandal hanging off by a torn thread, shoes worn through, robe filthy and head shaved (a sign of shame). But the story continues…
As the son turns the corner the father is looking for him, waiting for him, and then hikes up his robe, which is seen as totally undignified, runs to the son…but before the father can embrace him, the son begins his practiced line. “Father I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer…” but it’s then that the hand of father covers the mouth of the son. It’s not about worthiness. It’s about love, and acceptance, and grace and forgiveness. It’s about being adopted again into the family of the father, and being found…the robe, the ring, the slippers are all signs of being reinstated. And I can hear the son over and over again trying to convince the father that he’s not worthy…but the father won’t listen. He embraces, accepts, loves and forgives what seems unforgivable. That, I believe is God’s heart for each of us…even me.
For me, as I think about my relationship with God, I see myself most often as the prodigal. At times, particularly times of stress, I kind of move toward the older son. My filters are down, and I have a tendency to be more judgmental, less patient, and more needy. There are times where I see myself as the father in both of his roles, of embracing, but embracing in whatever way would be most beneficial for the one seeking comfort or grace. But what you’ll find is that this painting will be hanging in a the most prominent place in my office as a reminder to me of who I was, who I feel I am, and yet how God sees me. The God I believe in is one who runs to me, reassuring me that I am his child, loved, forgiven, embraced, and encouraged to go and find others who see themselves as prodigals, and to bring them home.
But, there are times when I fail to live up to who God needs me to be…and that’s where the chipped cup comes in…I’m flawed, and that brings me to the small carving. This was created by a surgeon who wanted to offer me a gift before I left Santa Monica. My building tools are there and I will always treasure this. Then, a youth group decided to give me a Jesus action figure, and even that reminds me that I have flaws. Thus the figure of Jesus, hands raised saying like any good parent or guide or friend would say, “What were you thinking…” But within it all, I do see myself as a creation of God, a child of God; loved, embraced, guided, and encouraged by God. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for God’s leading or Christ’s transforming power – even as a prodigal, flawed vessel, or with the what were you thinking Jesus.
Maybe you could talk about that this week as you gather with others. What are those things around you that help you remember that you are a child of a loving God? It’s worth exploring. I simply ask that you be patient with me no matter where I may see myself on any given day. But again, mostly I see myself as a child of a loving God; lifted up on Eagle’s wings where God needs all the glory and where Jesus will forever be my guide. God loves me and you for who and what I am, and seeks to continue to move me toward being the best possible version of myself. Let’s pray…