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Sermons

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For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

August 2019


August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

March 31, 2019

“Grace Forgotten?” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, March 31, 2019, Year C / Lent 4 – Joshua 5:9-12  •  Psalm 32  •  2 Corinthians 5:16-21  •  Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

THEME:  Remember God’s grace reconciling us to him in Jesus Christ and seek reconciliation with others.

 

        Do you ever catch yourself acting or thinking like a Pharisee?  Judgmental and self-righteous?

I certainly do.  Apparently, we’re far from alone. 

I recently ran across the results of a nationwide study from a highly respected Christian research firm.  They suggest we might be more like the Pharisees than we think. 

This study was done 5-6 years ago.  The researchers polled a group of self-identified Christians.  The objective was to determine whether their actions and attitudes were more like Jesus or the Pharisees, as described in scripture. 

Now, bear in mind, all the folks surveyed were self-professed Christians.  Each one was presented with a series of 20 statements with which they could either agree or disagree.

These were statements like, “I tell others the most important thing in my life is following God’s rules.”  That would be more like Pharisee. 

Another statement was “I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.”  Which would, of course, be like Jesus.

Essentially, they were asked to identify with either the qualities of Jesus – love, empathy, faith-sharing – or the self-centered, self-righteousness attributes of the Pharisees.

The results were stunning.  51% of American Christians displayed attitudes and actions more like the Pharisees than Jesus.

As I read today’s gospel passage, it occurred to me that we are being asked to make a very similar choice between what Jesus would do and what the Pharisees would do.

This is the story of the prodigal son.  It’s one of the most popular and poignant stories in the entire Bible.

Initially, Luke focuses our attention on the youngest son.  In a culture where family bonds were absolutely sacrosanct, his self-centered departure from home and family is simply outrageous.  Nevertheless, that’s what he wants.

By law and tradition, the older brother would be entitled to the bulk of his father’s estate.  The younger brother would inherit only a fraction of that.  But neither one would receive anything until their father died.

So, by asking for his share of the inheritance while his father is still alive, this headstrong, hedonistic young man is all but wishing his father were dead!

Not only that, he’s removing himself from the household and the family that has nurtured him since he was a baby.  This is an egregious violation of the fourth commandment to honor his father and mother.

We follow him through his days of dissolute living and humiliation.  By the time he turns up on his father’s doorstep, he’s been completely humbled.  He declares himself no longer worthy to be called his father’s son.  He wants nothing more than to be his father’s servant.

Then we rejoice with him at his father’s tearful embrace and the subsequent homecoming party.

It’s all very much a whirlwind – with all the drama of a Hollywood script.  But, then, just when we think it’s a happy ending, we’re drawn into the bitter complaints of the oldest son.

The contrast between these two could hardly be greater.  While the younger son was sowing his wild oats in distant lands, the elder son remained home, dutifully serving his father.

When a slave tells him his father is throwing a lavish party to celebrate the return of his younger brother, he doesn’t join in. 

When his father comes out to bring him into the party, the oldest son complains bitterly.  He resents being his father’s slave, the very thing his brother willingly seeks.  But in the older brother’s mind, he’s been slaving away and receiving nothing for his obedience and devotion.

The question I’ve been asking myself this week is does he really have reason to feel so mistreated?

By any measure, his father’s act of welcoming home his younger brother and restoring him to the family is an act of extraordinary, lavish grace.  It’s entirely unearned, and utterly unexpected.  But what exactly has the eldest son lost?

With grace equal to that which he showered on his youngest son, his father reminds his oldest boy “you are always with me; all that I have is yours”. 

And there the parable ends.  It’s a cliffhanger – does the eldest son go into the party?  Does he reunite with his brother and share in his father’s joy? 

Or does he stay outside and sulk, bitter, angry at his father’s grace and resentful of his younger brother?

That’s the genius of this parable.  It forces you and me to put ourselves in his shoes.  Luke wants us to make that same choice.  Are we going to side with the father and be on the side of grace?  Or are we going to be like a self-righteous Pharisee?

If we’re being truthful, most of us can identify with the anger and resentment of the elder brother.  Even in our staff Bible Study this week, every one of us sympathized with him.  We can all understand how he feels, right?

But, if we stop and reflect, we realize we’re missing something.  That’s because we overlook the very same thing the elder brother did.

What he fails to remember is the grace his father has already shown him.  And, all too often, the same is true for you and me.

We are human.  We’re inclined to sin.  We are all quick to forget just how gracious God has been to us.  In my experience, the longer we live as Christians, the more likely we are to take his grace for granted.

The sign that this is happening is that we begin to slide into legalism.  Legalism is just a fancy name for believing that our good works are what put us right with God.  

Legalism is a heresy.  It’s one of the major theological arguments our Reformed ancestors had with the Roman Catholic Church 500 years ago.

But, just because you and I are Reformed, doesn’t guarantee we won’t succumb to this temptation.  When we do, we see ourselves – whether we recognize it or not – as earning our own salvation. 

So, instead of being humble and grateful to God, we become judgmental.  We become competitive with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Like the older brother in our parable, we begin to see ourselves as more faithful than others – just like the Pharisees.

And that’s how humility gives way to pride, that most dangerous of all sins.  Pride is the root cause of division within families, communities and congregations.

As bad as that is, though, the real damage is done not to others, but to ourselves and our relationship with God.  To somehow claim we can earn God’s redemption by our own efforts is to say that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was either unnecessary or insufficient.  

That’s why we should always be on the lookout for signs of this Pharisee-mindset within ourselves. 

That’s true every day, of course, but never more so than now.  In this season of Lent, you and I are preparing ourselves for the ultimate gift of God’s grace on Easter morning.  In God’s self-sacrifice on the cross we’ve been offered nothing less than new life. 

As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Friends, that’s the very same ministry the father is undertaking in our parable.  He can’t imagine the party without both his sons present.  And he can’t imagine his two sons present without them being reconciled to one another.

And that’s why he’s outside the party tent, pleading with his oldest son to put aside his Pharisee thinking, and accept the grace he’s already been given.

The father’s ministry is our ministry, too. 

To whom do we need to reach out with an invitation to God’s great homecoming party?  

And do we first need to humble ourselves, remembering that we, too, desperately need God’s grace and reconciliation through Jesus Christ?

We can find inspiration for this ministry in a place you might not think to look:   the animal kingdom.

No one knows that better than the great British primatologist Jane Goodall.  She turns 84 years old this week.  She’s spent most of her life studying chimpanzees in the forests of Tanzania.  Few people have ever had such long-term exposure to these gentle creatures who are some of our closest biological relatives.

One of her primary findings was that you and I are not as different from them as we might think. 

In an interview not long ago, she said, “Chimps are very quick to have a sudden fight or aggressive episode, but they’re equally good at reconciliation.”

After a disagreement or an altercation, one will simply reach out to another in a gesture of gracious appeasement.  Almost always, the other chimp will respond with a gesture of reconciliation – and their relationship is restored. 

Apparently, there are no Pharisees among the chimpanzees. 

Friends, if chimps in the forest can reconcile themselves to one another, surely higher order primates like you and me can do the same.  God wants and expects us to do nothing less.

The question is:  are we willing? 

        May it be so.

Last Published: May 15, 2019 2:15 PM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

August 2019


August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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