Greetings! Welcome to the show today! It’s good to have you with us on this Father’s Day as we talk (at least a little) about this thing we call Fatherhood!
Picture of God— And I’d like to open up out time together with a story. [An elementary school teacher was giving a drawing class to a group of six-year-old children. At the back of the classroom sat a little girl who normally didn't pay much attention in school. In the drawing class she did. For more than twenty minutes, the girl sat with her arms curled around her paper, totally absorbed in what she was doing. The teacher found this fascinating. Eventually, she asked the girl what she was drawing. Without looking up, the girl said, “I'm drawing a picture of God.” Surprised, the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.
The girl said, “They will in a minute.”]
If you were to draw a picture of God this today, what would He look like? Would He be transcendent and unreachable? Would He be close and personal. Would He be angry or patient? You know, it is interesting the different ways we view God; particularly God the Father. And how we view Him can affect how we choose to relate to Him in our day to day lives. And in our passage today (Luke 15) we find a series of parables Jesus gives in a particular social gathering (probably in a house); parables that are meant to give His listeners a picture of who the Father is and how He wants to relate to us.
Luke’s Unique Section— Now in Luke chapter 15, which is part of Luke’s unique section (not found in any of the other Gospels), Jesus is hitting his Jewish audience with perhaps the most unsettling (if not outright offensive) sermon series He could have ever preached in that culture, trying to reveal to them not only what kind of relationship that they are to have with the Father, but what lengths the Father is willing to go to make that relationship possible. And the first of these is of a shepherd and a lost sheep….
A Strange Shepherd— A shepherd is tending to your sheep one day. And at the end of the day he leads his sheep back to their sheep pen. And he starts counting them. But as he does, he realizes that (out of the hundred sheep) only 99 made it in. The other one is still out there. And at this point he does something Jesus’ audience would have thought ridiculous. He leaves the 99 sheep in their pen and go and look for that lost sheep; not a pleasant experience, especially if you had to do it in the heat of summer, which was absolutely scorching in Israel. So imagine being in the middle of nowhere chasing after a stinking sheep that has run off. If you're like me you would be thinking, "Just wait until I get my hands on that sheep. I'm gonna smack that sheep silly." But what is interesting is that the shepherd in Jesus' story never has that attitude. He is eager to find the sheep; and when He does, He has a spirit of love and rejoicing.
Shepherds’ Status— Now when it comes to this first parable about the lost sheep, we always look at this as being a nice, pretty, Psalm 23 kind of picture. But in ancient Middle Eastern culture, being a shepherd was not some beautiful, honorable thing. Shepherds were not only not impressive; they were not the kind of people you would ever want to associate with. In fact many of them were ex-cons. It was just about the lowest, worst job you could have in society; the most depleted life you could have was the life of a shepherd. So this comparison Jesus makes, picturing God the Father (the Creator of the universe) as a poor, dirty shepherd in the middle of nowhere that nobody cares about chasing after stinking ignorant sheep is not at all the picture Jesus' Jewish audience wanted to have of their God. Even while Jesus is sharing this parable, people in the audience are probably getting uncomfortable. That the God of the universe would be likened to an erratic, irrational, shepherd leaving his entire flock to chase after one single sheep; a sheep he could easily make up the loss for in a month or two? Jesus is giving His most important revelation to us by saying, “Your Father in heaven is so in love with you that He is willing to degrade Himself that much; to make Himself that low; to chase after you.”
Woman and Coin— And the next parable steps on even more toes. He says that our Father in heaven is like a woman who, having lost a wedding coin, is searching for it. Remember that Jewish girls, when they were proposed to, they were either given a ring or a special coin. Well that is probably what this coin was. Jewish women would wear it on their head. But sometimes it would fall out. And that is exactly what happened here. Now for us, finding something on our hardwood floors is pretty easy. And you would think she would find that coin pretty easily because houses were so small in those days. But when I went to Israel I got to go into some of these houses. And the first thing you notice is all these stones within the house. And there are all kinds of nooks and crannies that a coin could fall into. And I remember looking at the floor of the kind of house she would have lived in and I thought to myself, "My goodness, you could look for hours in this place and not find that coin. And that seems to be what this woman did. And when she finds it, she (like the shepherd) celebrates.
Not Equals— Now nobody in Jesus' audience would have liked this story. In our culture women are treated as equals. Now that doesn’t always happen, but that is the ideal. But in the Middle East you didn’t have that kind of philosophy at all. In fact it is appalling how most cultures in the ancient world treated women. Now God made immense provisions for women in Jewish culture that protected them, but they were never treated like equals. In fact, a woman’s testimony would not even be considered reliable (if considered at all) in court, which is is why Jesus’ choosing women to be the first witnesses to His resurrection is so powerful. But Jesus says here that Yahweh, the Lord of the heavens and the earth; the Blessed Eternal One who spoke the universe into existence; is compared to the like of a frantic woman, scurrying around a dingy house looking for a lost wedding coin? Even some of the women in Jesus’ audience are probably getting uncomfortable with Jesus’ imagery. Why are you trying to bring God down; and make Him low? And I think Jesus is saying, “If this imagery doesn’t sit well with you, then you have no idea who the Father is.” There is no depth He’s not willing to stoop to; no barrier He won’t cross’ (every pun intended) there’s no amount of dignity He’s not willing to give up if only to find you. This is how desperate the God of the Universe is to have a relationship with you and me.
The Prodigal Son— And then comes perhaps Jesus’ most offensive parable yet; the parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus begins telling the story. It says...
Luke 15:11-12 (ESV)— 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.
What the boy was asking for— Now that word for property is more than just wealth or money. It is the Greek word “ousia” which means “essence” or "life". So the boy is asking for the essence (or the very life) of the Father. This boy wants his father’s life. “I’m not willing to wait for my inheritance until you die. I want it now.” And what he’s really saying to his Father is, “You’re worth more to me dead than alive.”
No tolerance for this— Now just remember the context this parable was written in. If a young man were to do in that culture what this young man did, he would have literally been killed (by stoning) immediately. There was no tolerance whatsoever in Jewish culture for this kind of rebellion. And throughout Jesus’ sharing of this parable, fathers in the group would be shaking their fingers at their sons, saying, “Don’t you dare try anything like this. It will cost you your life.”
What this did to the Father— And what this would do to the father was scandalous. Not only would the boy be dishonoring his father, but would also be dishonoring the town. Not only that, but the father would suffer financial loss, not only in the loss of much of his estate, but the fruit that that half of his estate would have produced over the years had he kept it. And in that time you had no life insurance policy; you had no nursing homes. Your kids were it. They were your insurance. They were the ones who would take care of you. If they leave you, then your life could be placed in jeopardy. Yet that is exactly what this son does. And what is amazing is that the father never utters one hint of argument or rebuke. He pretty much just says, “Ok. If that’s what you want, here you go.” And every person in the room listening to Jesus’ parable is growing angry. “What are you saying, Jesus? Are you saying God the Father; the Almighty Sovereign of the Universe; is like a dishonored man willing to have his child spit into His face again and again; take His life and the wealth and the richness of His blessings and still turn his heart in rebellion towards Him?” And Jesus probably said, “That’s exactly what I’m saying. The Father doesn’t give you the punishment you deserve because He craves a personal relationship with you.” And there is no other God like that in any other religion.
Pakistani Woman’s Conversion— Some time ago I read about the conversion experience of a woman from the Muslim nation of Pakistan. And [For many years, her husband had been a major figure in the Pakistani government. She told about reading the New Testament and how impossible it was for her to believe that people could begin a prayer with the words “Our Father.” One thing she knew about Allah was that he was not like humans. He was greater than human beings and infinitely different; human categories could never be used to describe him, certainly not one as personal and direct as “father.”
She said that when she came to faith in Jesus Christ, her first response was to lift her heart and say, “Father,” and the moment she uttered the word, she fell on the floor in absolute terror of being killed for her impertinence. But instead, the heavenly Father came to her in all his love and compassion, and she heard one word: “Daughter.” She recalled, “I wept uncontrollably at the reality that God in his sovereignty and greatness could belong to me in that kind of relationship.”]
Knowing The Father— In leu of Father’s Day today, I just think it is amazing that the primary picture the first person of the Trinity wants to be addressed is “Father”; not king; not Lord; not master; but Father. A Father who loves us intimately; a Father who is willing to suffer abuse and disobedience and rebellion from us if by any means He can restore us back into His family. And Jesus came to make that restoration possible. He wants to take us home to His Father’s house so that we can be a part of the family of God. Do you know Christ today? If not, ask Him into your life today, and He will make you a part of His family. It’s as simple as saying, “Jesus, come into my life. I receive you today. Forgive my sins; I receive you as my Lord and Savior.” If you’ve never prayed that prayer, do so today. And His family will become yours. Receive Him today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.