Today I would like to talk about, of all things, FATHERS. I could talk about my son-in-law as a father; I could talk about each one of you individually as fathers; or my ex-husband as a father; but I think I won't to go there.
I want to talk about three specific fathers. How they treated their children.
We all know something about the parable of the Prodigal Son. We know how the younger son demanded his portion of the inheritance and left his father's home to go live his life as he saw fit.
According to Deuteronomy 21:17, the elder brother received his share of the inheritance along with his younger brother. In fact, according to Jewish law, the elder brother receives two thirds of the inheritance and the younger brother would only receive one third.
Typically, a son would receive his inheritance at the time of his father's death. The fact that the younger brother instigated the early division of the family estate showed a rebellious and proud disregard for his father's authority, not to mention a selfish and immature attitude. The older brother gets his fair share but keeps silent.
The father was extremely sad and dismayed at his son's request, but he honored it anyway. This father opened the door for his son to go and experience life, good or bad.
So the younger brother set off to live his life. And, yes, we all know how that turned out. He grew to regret all of his squandering, his unhealthy and lonely lifestyle, and began to wonder if he could get a job as one of his father's servants.
Scripture tells us that when the son was far off, the father noticed him and ran to greet him. Look at the joy on the father's face at the return of his wayward son.
During that time it was not the custom of men to run, yet the father runs to greet his son (vs.20). Why would he break convention for this wayward child who had sinned against him? The obvious answer is because he loved him and was eager to show him that love and restore the relationship. When the father reaches his son, not only does he throw his arms around him, but he also greets him with a kiss of love. He is so filled with joy at his son's return that he doesn't even let him finish his confession. Nor does he question or lecture him; instead, he unconditionally forgives him and accepts him back into fellowship. This father opened the door for his son to return.
I believe what Jesus is trying to show us is that the father running to his son, greeting him with a kiss and ordering the celebration is a picture of how our Heavenly Father feels towards sinners who repent. God greatly loves us, patiently waits for us to repent so he can show us His great mercy, because he does not want any to perish nor escape as though by the fire. The Son had been transformed from a state of destitution to complete restoration.
That is what God's grace does for a penitent sinner. Not only are we forgiven, but we receive a spirit of sonship as His children, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, of His incomparable riches.
That is just how much our Father in Heaven loves us, no matter how long we turn away, no matter what we do that displeases Him, He is always there to forgive and welcome us home. He "opens the door for our repentance and acceptance."
During Lent, I read a 30-day devotional entitled "Peace of Heart." The next father I want to share with you is Pietro di Bernardone, a very prosperous French silk and spice merchant. By the time Pietro and his wife returned from one of their many business trips, they had a son, and Pietro renamed his first born son to Francesco (Francis) and his family continued to grow.
Because of his wealth, his sons had anything they desired. They and their friends were what we call today as playboys – drunkards, partiers, living a frivolous lifestyle. Although Pietro made sure that his sons had the finest education, he wanted his eldest son to follow him in his lucrative business.
Francis had other ideas, and found himself being drawn to the poor so much so that he left his father's shop and ventured into the world outside his home. He felt a calling from God, and took care of lepers, and ate scraps of food given by others. He claimed a life of poverty, dedicating his life to serving God. Pietro did not understand nor would he tolerate this chosen path his son was on.
The father could no longer control the son. How cruel the method of disciplining your child, a grown man who had the right to make his own decisions. As a father, how far would you have gone with this son? Pietro closed the door to a relationship with his son.
What drastic measures he took to save his son, only to have his son denounce him as his father; and from that time only chose to serve God as his father. The door was closed forever.
Pietro certainly had different parenting skills than the Father of the Prodigal Son.
Pietro was the father of St. Francis of Assisi, who lived a life of poverty and penitence and who founded the Order of the Franciscan Monks that continues today.
Would not that have made you proud of your son?
As a father, did Pietro miss the mark?
Some of the actions of our last Father may seem mysterious or cruel at times.
Take the case of the young woman who, engaged to an older man in her village, became pregnant by mysterious circumstances. O can you imagine the talk of that community? The young woman was a faithful servant, and she and her fiancÚ chose to remain together despite the possible ridicule and slander.
As her time draws near to give birth, they find themselves having to uncomfortably travel a great distance. Upon getting to their destination, they are unable to find a 5-Star hotel, and are forced to take lodging in a barn of all places. Then the unforeseeable happens, she gives birth to her son.
Something baffling happens—there are angels singing, and shepherds searching—everything that happened that night went viral, just like on the internet.
Now we all know that God was the Father of this Son, and the Son was Jesus.
Jesus grows up in Nazareth probably just like any other child learning the trade of his earthly father, playing with His siblings, being nurtured by his mother. But God takes things even further with this Son, He opens the door for new learning experiences in the temple.
As He gets older, Jesus wants to learn more and feels compelled to travel, spurred on to serve His Heavenly Father that He has come to know.
He gathers a group of unlikely friends, asks them to leave behind everything they know and own.
God had opened another door—a way for Jesus to share His message. Jesus and his friends share that message everywhere they go, opening thousands of doors for others to learn about God's love and promise.
His popularity spreads and people are changed, but so then does suspicion and skepticism. Leaders are fearful of what Jesus was preaching.
We all have just experienced Holy Week and the cruel things that happened to Jesus. One minute, he is riding on a donkey being treated as a king; the next minute he is on trial. And within no time at all he is convicted and betrayed. How could His heavenly father let this happen? This seems so cruel.
And the torment isn't over. He is beaten and hung on a cross. Does God know no compassion for his son?
But God is far wiser than we give him credit for. Can you imagine giving up your only child to this kind of treatment? My heart wrenches at having to do this.
But God opens this door for Jesus to teach all a lesson. He calls Him home to be in heaven with Him. A reward far greater than anything Jesus has ever experienced before. God opens a door for us to walk through for our own salvation in Christ Jesus.
This is our kind, loving, forgiving, compassionate Heavenly Father. His door is always open, all we have to do is repent, praise his name, step through and honor him.
No matter what path we take, no matter what we do wrong, no matter the horrible things we say and do, this door to the Heavenly Father is always open — 24/7.
The father is the head of the household. In many cases, he is the breadwinner, the disciplinarian and the religious head of the family. As fathers, how have you treated our daughters and sons, your grandchildren. Sometimes as humans, we are not always loving, patient and kind. It may not be possible for us to hold our temper. Occasionally, we need to ask our children to forgive us. I bet there is not one parent here that hasn't, at least once, screamed at their child. Fathers, be loving, kind, even tempered, but firm; and you will give your children and grandchildren many opportunities of open doors.
God was not just Jesus' father, God is not just our father; He is eternal, everlasting, undying, enduring, forgiving, loving, nurturing, and compassionate to all.
The only time we lose that is – IF WE WALK AWAY. Ultimately, God's door is always open. We just have to experience as the Prodigal Son did, that the grass is not always greener on the other side; and trust that, with forgiveness, we can go back home.
God welcomes us back into the comfort of His open arms. He gives us opportunities of open doors to share His love and light; and His promise in Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters, rich, poor, lonely, lost, family, friend and enemy.
The scripture in the 7th chapter of Matthew verse 7 assures us, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you:"
Heavenly Father, Please show us the way. Amen!
The song that we will hear now is entitled "With Every Act of Love WE bring the Kingdom Come". Fathers, teach your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to praise God's name in all things. Teach them to be compassionate, patient, loving, tolerant and charitable. Teach them to be a door through which they can let God's love shine through.
God opens a million doors for you go through and to let your light shine. Which doors will you choose to share God's message through Jesus, the Christ?
But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. "Your brother has come," he replied, "and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound."
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.áBut he answered his father, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"
"My son," the father said, "you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." — Luke 15:22-32