The Parable of the Prodigal Church Worker

Most of you could probably tell someone the parable of the prodigal son by heart.

Two sons, very different. One sets off for the distant land and follows the desires of his flesh. It goes badly. The other son never sets off, but is just as lost in bitterness and judgment.

We have been these sons. We each have had our distant country. This distant country may have looked obviously steeped in sin, or maybe it was the less obvious distance we have put between ourselves and those who love us. We may have made ourselves inaccessible to those who need us or who know the truth of the darker places in our lives. This too is a distant country of inauthenticity and dishonesty. Often we travel far from God because other things look so much more interesting- even things like church and ministry and theological study.

Other times we stay home with the Father, but lack any real relationship. We go about our work (even church work) but our actual relationship with God comes in a distant second, third or fourth to all that needs to be done. We even railroad through, closing our ears to God’s words of grace, in favor of legalism and comfortable judgment within our hearts.

But still, we are sons. God has declared it. We are his children. And oh “the great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” It is a declarative statement. It can not be taken from us. The God of the Universe calls us His children, even when we are in a distant country, even when we are traveling on the road home, even when we are the prodigal son’s older brother, even when we are embracing the Father in all of His lavishness. The Father’s love is not dependent on the children’s behavior. This pours out of us into our marriage and home. We lavish this same grace and love onto our spouse and children. We lavish this same grace and love on those entrusted to us in our congregations and ministries.

 We are sons and that fills us for our roles as fathers, as mothers, as husbands, as wives, as teachers, as neighbors, in every role, in every moment. We are sons- that is what we are!

This is my Dad, a lavisher of grace and mercy.

The Resurrection Spirea & Marriage

Have you ever watched anything die? Helpless before your eyes?

Master gardeners we are not.

We like to landscape around the back patio, but our soil is rotten and we are constantly trying to just keep things alive. One year we planted a Spirea bush with gorgeous pink blooms. It was so beautiful for one year. The next year we could not do anything to keep that thing alive. We tended it with waterings and special nutrients. We moved other plants out to give it more space. Once it seemed better, the bugs came. Little tiny insects intent on destroying. We tried every natural remedy known to man and finally brought out the big guns- chemical powder. We had to douse the plant in the powder. The bugs were everywhere. By the end of the summer all that was left of our beautiful bush was brown, dried up, twiggy death. We mourned a bit and walked away. We gave up on gardening and moved on with life.

The next spring, while drinking a cup of morning coffee on the back patio, Dave says, “I think I see flowers.” I walked over to the bush and sure enough, there they were- beautiful little, tiny pink flowers pocketed away on one section of the bush. A beautiful little secret waiting to burst forth. Two weeks later, the bush was huge and covered in gorgeous blooms, stronger and brighter than ever. We call it the Resurrection Spirea, died and risen before our eyes. A work of our Creator.

That bush shares a lesson with us related to these verses. Sometimes things need to die, we need to die, desires in our flesh must die for us to Live. Those desires of the flesh, they eat up everything. They destroy our hearts, relationships, families, and churches. When we follow our flesh we work 60+ hours a week, we spew hurtful words, we are inpatient and ungracious with those we love. But we were put to death in our baptisms by the Creator. We rise with Him and He continues to put to death daily, in us, through the Spirit, the inpatient, the unloving, the selfish, and the dishonorable. We are free.

We are Alive in Christ and therefore, different things matter.

People matter, relationships matter, He matters. We emerge brighter and stronger, filled with His Life instead of our own attempts at counterfeit life. We grow and flourish under His loving care.

This is my actual Resurrection Spirea!

The weight of debt

Now there’s a concept most church work families can wrap our heads around.
Not because we love racking it up, but it has been or is a reality in our lives. We write the check each month to the holder of gross amounts of student loans, we still pay for a car we have to fix regularly, or we hope that the cash on hand will cover the grocery bill for the week. Or maybe you are out of this stage and thankful to be in debt to no one any longer. How freeing it is!
Finances are often a contentious issue, individually, in a marriage, and in congregations. So this language in Romans makes sense to us. Debtors we do not want to be. Debt is a shackle, a weight, the opposite of freedom.
So let us live for one who freed us for the very sake of our freedom. (Galatians 5:1) Christ paid our debts on the cross in full. Every sin, every evil thought, every single thing that separated us from God- gone. Paid in full. Can you breath in and feel the weight lift just thinking of it?
And so we hold no debt either. We are released of the burden. So things in this earthly life need not weigh us down either. This is easily said, but financial burden is real, emotional turmoil is real, medical bills and health concerns are real.
What is also real is that we need not “live” according to them. It is easy for these burdens and worries to begin to rule our lives. Anxiety overtakes us, we make enemies of our spouse in an argument because the weight of it is overwhelming, we live in fear of the next thing that will empty the little we have in our savings. This is living according to the flesh, this is a challenge for most of us in the sanctified life.  
Praise God! Just as He has justified us from all sin. He has freed us from every burden. Just as we are His, He then rules everyone in our homes, every thing in our lives, every dollar in our wallet. We live and lay it at the cross. We experience restoration in our trouble through His Word and at His table.
Thank you, Lord for providing for my family. Thank you for bearing every burden. I lay my burdens before you now, knowing you have already lifted them on the cross. This life I live in the Spirit. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Here’s our money envelopes to help us stay on budget and keep arguments to a minimum. 😉