Der Vasken's Sermon on March 12, 2017

Mar 15, 2017

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

We just heard a great story for Lent.  This story is called "The Parable of the Prodigal Son," but it could just as well be called "The Parable of the Distant Land" or "The Parable of Owning up to Wrongs." There are many ways to look at this well-known story and each way opens a path to God.  This is the perfect Lenten story.

  •   This story points out the road that leads to Easter.
  •   It shows us how love and forgiveness can work in the heart of Christians.
  •   It highlights how we are all different yet we are all the same.
  •   And it defines what Christian forgiveness is all about.

And when we listen to this story of a father and his two sons, we should think about the choices we make on a regular basis and how those choices affect our lives.  In this story, the Prodigal Son, or wasteful son, demands his inheritance from his father and he goes off to a distant land and loses all of it.  This unnamed distant land is more than a place.  This distant land is a way of living--a condition of the heart.  Many people know of this distant land and maybe some of us know people who have traveled there.  It's that distant land where we leave behind our faith and family to follow a questionable way of life.

It happens all the time.  We, or people we love, are lured to a place where wrongful behavior is made to look like fun.  That's the distant land.  But wrongful behavior isn't fun for long.

  • When wrongful behavior becomes an addiction, it's no fun for anyone.
  • When wrongful behavior harms or hurts us or someone else, it's no fun.
  • When wrongful behavior destroys a marriage and a family, it's no fun.
  • When wrongful behavior distorts and bends our life and leaves us isolated from God and from others, it's no fun.
  • Or when wrongful behavior leaves a person morally ruined, where's the fun?

This is the distant land that we are to understand when we hear the story of the Prodigal Son.  The Prodigal Son went to the distant land and there he wasted the inheritance that took his father a lifetime to build up.

Let's fast-forward through the story.  The son is all alone in that distant land.  He is now penniless.  All his friends have deserted him and he fills his empty stomach with animal feed.  And when he comes to realize what he has done to his life, three very meaningful words come out of his mouth.  He says, "I was wrong."  

  • It's the moment of truth for his life.
  • It's the moment when he no longer blamed his father for being too tolerant with him.
  • It's the moment when he no longer blamed society for being too immoral and when he no longer blamed his employer for being unfair.
  • It's the moment when he no longer blamed his immaturity for being unwise.
  • It's the moment when he no longer blamed his birth order for making him defiant.
  • It's the moment when the excuses for his life stopped.

He said, "I was wrong."  That moment is the key to a different future for him and the key to the rest of his life.

How often have we seen people remain trapped in destructive patterns of living and wrongful patterns of living ready to blame anyone or anything else? I think it comes from that child-like desire within us to remain innocent, and so placing blame on others is easier.  They lay blame on their parents and family.  They blame their church and their pastors.  They blame society. People often feel that the teachers are to blame.  They blame what they do on the rising number of the public scandals we hear about every day and because immoral role models are celebrated and the media feasts on these things.

Think about what people tend to say when blaming others for what they do wrong.

  • "He made me do it."
  •  "She pushed my buttons so I had to."
  • "Well, so what?  Everyone's doing it."
  • "You should have done more for me before I reached my breaking point."

The Armenian Church has always taught that it's a sign of spiritual maturity and moral awakening to be able to say, "I was wrong."  The road to Easter lies in our willingness to own up to our wrongs.  Jesus taught the story of the Prodigal Son because He knew that everyone will relate to it.  Every one of us has a little bit of the Prodigal Son within us.  And everyone has journeyed into that distant land at one time or another.  So our place today is to ask:

  • How does the story of the Prodigal Son speak to our lives?
  • Do we connect with it?
  • And when we do find ourselves in that distant land, do we realize that God is there with us to help us up when we fall?

The story of the Prodigal Son speaks about owning our wrongs and shows us how forgiving God is.  Does the story of the Prodigal Son speak to your life? And if so, why?  Something for us to think about.

Amen.