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“This is your home. Tell all your friends.”

May 26, 2023

Daily Scripture

Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

1 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. 2 The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

11 Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. 13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.
14 “When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. 15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28 Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29 He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

As Jesus reached out to sinners and outcasts, the “Pharisees and legal experts” grumbled. They believed God despised “those people” who were different from them. They thought it was “righteous” to snub them. But Jesus spoke and acted as if God deeply loved all people. Like the pastor in Jesus Revolution, he refused to let the disapproval of self-appointed guardians of “righteousness” stop him from carrying out God’s call to welcome home anyone who responded to God’s love.

  • Jesus told this story to answer a complaint from the religious leaders that he welcomed sinners, even ate with them (Luke 15:2). Few characters in Jesus’ teaching are less “deserving” than this grating, ungrateful son—but all that mattered to his father was that he came home. How do you react when God (and God’s family, your church) welcome people you see as undeserving sinners? How, if at all, have your feelings changed over time?
  • Have you ever identified with the boy in this story? How did people you considered righteous receive you? Scholar N. T. Wright noted that “in a culture where senior figures are far too dignified to run anywhere, this man takes to his heels as soon as he sees his young son dragging himself home.” * This is one of Jesus’ great pictures of what God is truly like. How does this picture of a father’s joyous welcome speak to your heart about your heavenly parent’s welcome of you?

Lord God, sometimes I’m careless, sometimes I’m stubborn. Keep bringing me “to my senses,” making me willing to come home to you, again and again. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe & his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 & were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew & Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

As I was considering this week’s theme of Jesus as a Revolutionary, I was reminded of one of my favorite hymns, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which has been traditionally sung in churches this weekend. (I still recall, pre-Covid, getting goose-bumps when the Resurrection Choir performed this hymn.) So, as we prepare to commemorate Memorial Day & the start of barbeque season, let’s unpack this hymn & it’s meaning for us today:

     Aside: My friend tripped & fell into his outdoor barbeque grill.  All is okay – only a few broken ribs.

Our hymn’s background is a bit convoluted. The melody is from a camp-meeting hymn from the early 1800’s: “Say, Brothers Will You Meet Us.” Here’s a snippet of the lyrics: “Say, brothers will you meet us–on Canaan’s happy shore. Glory, glory, hallelujah–For ever, evermore.” This hymn became popular in the anti-slavery movement, with the vision of Canaan’s happy shore representing freedom for all.

Union soldiers, already familiar with the abolitionist hymn, were stationed where the famed abolitionist, John Brown, was executed, and began to make up lyrics about John Brown & sing them with this tune. The lyrics of the song, “John Brown’s Body,” were rather blunt: “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave–His soul is marching on. He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord–His soul is marching on.”

Aside: I attended a barbeque last weekend with a rather rude pit master. He just gave me a cold shoulder.

A friend approached a prominent writer, Julia Ward Howe, & suggested that this tune was too good to be wasted on such coarse lyrics. Perhaps she could make the song more inspirational & uplifting. (Mrs. Howe was already quite accomplished. She was a recognized poet who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson & Charles Dickens. She & her husband were passionate abolitionists, detesting the institution of slavery. She was also a staunch suffragette for the woman’s right to vote & would later be an early advocate for Mother’s Day.) After meeting with Abraham Lincoln in 1861, Mrs. Howe was motivated to re-write the lyrics & her work was published on the cover of the Atlantic Monthly in 1862. The song became one of the most popular songs of the Union during the Civil War.

Dr. Martin Luther King quoted the opening verse, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” in his speech the night before his death in Memphis in 1968. It evokes an optimistic vision of the 2nd coming of Christ.

The 1st stanza confidently states that the risen Christ is going trample on all the evil & oppression with a righteous vengeance. The sword of justice will be swift & terrible for the foes of what is good & holy. There is no doubt: God is going to be triumphant.

     A fun theological fact: In Eden, Adam & Eve were fond of cookouts.  As a matter of fact, in some texts we read of Adam giving Eve a spare rib.

The 2nd stanza vividly illustrates that preparations are being made for a great battle between good & evil with the vision of the camping soldiers’ watch fires lighting up the nighttime sky. The soldiers have built an altar to Him & are inspired by His words of justice. This is no longer just a battle between armies; this is a battle between God & evil.

Julia really gets fired up in the 3rd stanza. The gospel is now a fiery document that requires a choice of us all–will we be on the side of good or evil? The Garden of Eden & Revelation are evoked with the vision of Christ crushing the serpent’s head/evil once & for all. Julia’s pulls no punches in her opinion of slavery’s immorality.

In the 4th stanza, Christ is blaring the trumpet as a call-to-arms. Today is the day when we must join the fight. With Christ in the judgment seat, which side will we be on? The author is jubilant because the battle lines have been drawn.

The closing stanza emphasizes that this great battle actually started with Christ’s birth, which marked the dawn of a new era where justice would prevail. We are reminded that Christ died for our sins to make us holy & likewise we may be called upon to die to make men free. (Post Civil War, the lyrics were modified to “live to make men free.”)

The hymn was an instant hit among the Union soldiers. When it was performed for the 1st time for President Lincoln, he was so moved, he shouted, “Sing it again!” (They did.) Its popularity has not dimmed with the passage of time. The hymn inspired Labor Movement rallies in the 1920’s, Civil Rights marches in the 1960’s, & Billy Graham’s revivals in Russia in 1990’s.

So, what might this stirring hymn mean for us today?

  • At times we may feel overwhelmed & think that injustice & immorality is permanent. Our hymn reminds us that evil’s victories are always fleeting & God will indeed triumph in the end.
  • We all have choices to make. Will we choose to do what is right & honorable in God’s eyes?
  • Finally, this Memorial Day is the perfect time to pause & offer thanks for those who sacrificed their lives on our behalf so that we may continue to enjoy the blessings of our freedom. We should never forget just how fortunate we are to live in a country like ours.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to order tickets for a cookout showing the premier of the new movie “Barbie.” They are calling the event the “Ultimate Barbie-Q.”

If you’d like a re-fresher of this great hymn, click on “Battle Hymn of the Republic” w/ the Mormon Tabernacle Choir LIVE from West Point | West Point Band – YouTube.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 188.