March 29, 2018
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Meals are meant to be much more than simply filling the belly. Meals celebrate that we are back home.
The prodigal son really messed up his life and the lives of everyone who cared about him. With some pastoral license let me say that this rebellious, spoiled, sinful son walked away with $100,000, or more, of his father’s money. He insisted, demanded and wouldn’t take no for an answer. And as fast as all that cash was in his hand he blew every single penny of it. Our text says, “He set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” (Luke 15:13b) His brother, who might have had someone informing him about his brothers activities later said that he had squandered all that money with prostitutes!!
What a fool!! What a loser!! He didn’t have anything to show for that money he was given. You probably know some stories like that – someone has every opportunity but he wastes one after the other. And he burns his bridges, as well.
But this parable is not about a wasted life but about a welcome unlike any other. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
But that wasn’t all – the best robe was placed over his shoulders, the ring of the family was placed on his finger, sandals were put on his feet. “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:23b-24)
The sign over the door said, “Welcome Home!!” And to celebrate his arrival they had a feast. Meals are given for a much greater reason than filling an empty belly – they celebrate that we have come home.
Steve Cohen was with us this past Sunday, Palm Sunday. He is with Apple of His Eye Ministry – an evangelistic ministry to God’s Chosen People. Steve took us through the Seder meal that the Jewish people celebrate at the Passover (which is tomorrow). The Seder lasts about 4 hours. It is more than a meal, it is a word of redemption and a celebration of God’s mercy.
As Steve worked through his presentation his emphasis was on the third cup of the meal – the cup of redemption – where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He spoke about the unleavened bread – the bread that signified that which was sinless – without yeast, the bread was stripped and had to have holes placed in it. This Passover meal, already a meal telling of God’s great deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt, became much greater. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ The he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
The meal is redemption. It is forgiveness and life. As you eat it can’t you hear the words of the Father, “Welcome Home!!” The prodigal, when he had run out of money and friends and excuses, came home. He knew he couldn’t be a son anymore but was hoping that he could be a slave. But the father had no such thoughts. This was his son and his son was home.
At this meal we are home. Redemption is given. Forgiveness of sin is guaranteed. This is pure joy. And in this meal we find our place. When the one that was lost was found and the one who was dead was alive everyone joined in the joy – except the grumpy older brother. Being home means we are not alone. Look at all the others who are here celebrating with you. Maybe we should have some type of group hug after Holy Communion!! Here is what is found in Paul’s words, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (I Corinthians 10:16-17)
It was about a month ago that I knew that this was going to be my sermon title on Maundy Thursday. I was going through Arvada, on Wadsworth, and at 72nd Avenue I noticed a satellite location of Red Rocks Community Church. A huge sign was over the entrance and in bold letters it read, “WELCOME HOME!” Isn’t that great? “WELCOME HOME!” The church is where people, all types of people, prodigals, are to find a home. And is you’re home you’re going to be at a meal.
In my home, as a child, birthdays were always a great event. Often there was some type of party. Gifts. And food. You always got to chose the meal. You picked what type of cake you ate.
But now the meal that we will enjoy is not of our choosing but of His. It is common elements of uncommon gifts. “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus Christ the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (I Corinthians 11:23-26)
The welcoming home doesn’t end when we’re done with the redemption, and the celebration, and the community of other forgiven sinners here on earth. In Matthew 26 Jesus says, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Verse 29)
That event is called the wedding supper of the Lamb. Revelation 19 gives this great picture of the welcoming home and the pure joy at the meal, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.” (Verse 9) It says, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (verses 7-8)
On that final day, when Christ returns in glory, when we are resurrected from our graves and we are given our bodies fully restored, we will hear the words, “Welcome Home!!” We will celebrate our arrival with a meal, the very wedding supper of the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ.
This evening, Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, come to the meal and hear the words of your Father – “Welcome Home!!” Amen!!
(We sing the hymn, “Softly and Tenderly”, 734 WOV)