My ‘AHA’ Moment—Sunday, September 1, 2019
…The rhythm, all of that works together to create an environment where we’re able to go deeper; we’re able to go past the superficial crust that we often put in our lives, and we go to a deeper place. And I pray that in our time together this morning that you will feel free; that you will kind of feel that liberation to go to a deeper place and maybe hear God say something special that was really meant just for you.
Well, we’re talking about parables in the last couple of weeks we’re going to go through a series talking about parables. And what are parables? What’s the purpose of them? Parables are stories. Stories are how we interpret the world in which we live. It’s how we make sense of who we are and what our lives are really all about. But sometimes our stories—our stories that we tell ourselves about the life that we live, our journey, the struggles that we have, or maybe even the predictability that you want; sometimes those stories are not the right stories. Maybe sometimes when we talk about stories that we tell ourselves, we sometimes love to tell ourselves protective stories. We love to say, “Well, it’s not my fault.” “Whatever is happening is not my responsibility.” “I wish God would take care of something…” “I wish God would fix this.” We tell ourselves those kinds of stories. Sometimes we tell ourselves hopeful stories. You know, that, whenever your job is over and you get into retirement, then life will just be great, that in the future, if I can just make it past this hurtle, things will be so much better. If I only had a little bit more money… How many of us have ever told ourselves, if I could only win the lottery, life would be glorious. That’s a hopeful story. Sometimes our lives are like horror stories. How did it get so out of whack, when you’re in the middle of the night and the tears are just coming; you can’t seem to stop and you’re going, “I don’t know what it’s all about.”
We tell ourselves stories, and, throughout the Bible, Jesus used stories to try and help shape how we see the world because sometimes the stories put us in such a narrow confinement; in such a narrow point of view that we can’t see what’s really going on around us, and so Jesus would tell us these stories.
Last week, we talked about The Prodigal Son—about how Jesus told a story in order to get behind your defenses; to get behind all of the stuff that we have going on—in order for you to see your lifea little bit differently. See, that’s what we need in our lives. We need somebody that can help us kind of turn the light on in a dark room and help us get past all of those defenses. It’s what we call the ‘AHA’ moment.
And it’s at the core; it’s at the essence of what church is really all about. What is an ‘AHA’ moment? It’s that moment in time where everything else seemed to be normal, patterns were unfolding, and all of a sudden, you went, “Oh, so that’s what’s been going on. Now I see it from a different perspective.” Right?
What is the church’s mission? To help you see the world; see yourself from God’s perspective—to help you understand what is going on behind the veil of your perception; to help you enter into His story. Because your story does not end with your death. There’s so much more that’s been going on. But, we live in this world. We go to work in the morning, we do our chores, we go home, spend the weekend, and now we look forward to another Monday morning. We go through our routines, until somebody breaks through and you go, “Oh, so that’swhat’s been going on all this time.” Parables allow us to see ourselves, see your stories, see who you are from a different perspective.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It is impossible for a person to learn what he thinks he already knows.” If you’ve come here this morning saying, “but my life is good… I’m making money, got a good house, got a good family, got a good thing going on for me—there’s nothing here for me to learn…” Have you ever been to a church service where after the service, somebody says “You know who really needs to hear that message…” It’s always about somebody out there. Nobody ever is willing to learn what they think they already know, so what parables do is they work behind the scenes; they get you to look behind your story and see your story from the backside.
What’s your life look like from the outside? What does God think of the journey that your on? That’s what parables do. Parables allow you to see yourself from a different perspective.
In Genesis, chapter 3, (we talked about this last week), Adam and Eve have taken a bite of the apple and life has changed as they know, but they try and hide it—they’re hoping nobody else will see, nobody else will know so they sew these fig leaves. Now, in case you’re feeling that you’re a little bit more superior to Adam and Eve (we don’t really wear fig leaves) but we go to a next step; we invest a lot in our clothes and our possessions and our cars and the things that we do. We cover our shame and our fear in different ways, but we’re very similar. And at the beginning, as God walks through the garden, he recognizes that Adam and Eve, just like all of us, are hiding from the truth.
We don’t really like to face the realities of life. And so, as He’s walking through, He asks a question that will permeate the rest of scripture. He asks a simple question in Genesis chapter 3. “Adam and Eve, where are you? Do you know where you are? Can you see yourself? You used to be walking in the cool of the day with the Lord. You used to walk without fear and without shame. But look at where you are now. Do you see yourself? Do you see the story that you’re living?”
So this morning, we want to help all of us come out of this; come out of that dark place of fear, and of shame—out of competition with one another; out of fear of what may be and embrace the fullness of what God has in store for you. For all of us, that is the power of a parable.
Now if I were to ask you this morning (and many of you have been in church for many years) who do you think was the master of parables? If you said Jesus, that’s a good safe answer; when in doubt, always ask Jesus. There was a pastor one time who was talking to a bunch of kids and he was there and he was talking and he said “I want to tell you about this spiritual question and he said first of all I want to tell you about this little animal and he scurries on the ground and he stores nuts in his cheeks and he climbs trees—who do you think that that is? One little boy says, it sounds like a squirrel, but I know that the answer is always Jesus. Sometimes when you don’t know what the answer is, always say Jesus. But actually, I think that one of the masters of parables was an Old Testament prophet.
Old Testament prophets—their goal was to go and speak truth to power. Powerful people don’t like truth that much. But that was his job—to speak truth from God into the powerful kingdom. And there was a story about King David in the time of the kings when they had supreme power over the nation that David did some rather naughty things. He had an affair, and then he had the woman’s husband killed in order to cover it all up. And so David is probably feeling pretty smug—I’ve got this all covered; I’ve managed all of this. Until God goes to Nathan and He says Nathan, “I want you to go to the king and tell him what he did.” And Nathan said, “I don’t want to do that. Kings don’t like the truth.” Imagine if you had to go to a man of power—you had to go to King David, or you had to go to the president—and you go and you say, “I’ve got to tell you the truth: You’re a liar, you’re a cheat, you’re a thief, you’re a murderer; by the way, I don’t like the color of your hair, your clothes are out of fashion, your breath smells bad, and I don’t even like the horse you rode in on.” They tend not to look favorably on that kind of information.
And so King David, (I don’t know that he did this) said that’s okay; that’s all fake news. That’s not what really happened, right? Nathan was very creative. And he went into the king one day and he said Hey king, I’ve got to tell you, the kingdom is running as smoothly as ever; it’s wonderful, things are flourishing, you are doing a magnificent job. He said but there seems to be this problem on the outskirts of the kingdom. He said I’ve heard this rumor that there’s this rich wealthy man; he’s got a big ranch. And he’s got all of these cattle, and he’s got all kinds of sheep, and goats, and camels, galore, He is prospering out there on the edge of your kingdom. But right next to them, there’s this little dirt farmer. He doesn’t really have much; he just makes barely enough for his family, to grow and to survive. And this dirt farmer—he went out and he bought a little lamb for his family. But you know what kids are like… They named the lamb fluffy, and they started to pet it and they started to welcome it into the house and all of a sudden it went from being a lamb to being a pet in the family home. He said, I’ve heard that the rich man had some family coming in from out of town but he didn’t want to use any of his, so, he took his powerful army and he went down and he stole this man’s one and only lamb and then he had it slaughtered so that they could have a feast for themselves at the expense of this poor man.
David is livid. He’s outraged. He said, “I’m going to deal with this.” As a matter of fact, in 2 Samuel, chapter 12, David burned with anger against the man and he said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die.” He must pay for that lamb four times over because he did such a thing and he had no pity.” Nathan got behind David’s defenses and he said “This is what’s been going on in the kingdom.” David was outraged. His self-justifying had just fallen away. And David said, “I’ll take care of this; I’m the King; justice will reign.” And Nathan said, I’m glad to hear you say that, cause you’re that man. And David was broken. That’s what broke David. It was the parable that allowed him to get in behind his defenses.
When we go through our parables; when Jesus told parables, it was in order to get behind your façade. It’s in order to get behind the protective layer that you always carry with you. Allow you to get behind, and for David, to go “Oh, that was me, wasn’t it.” He would’ve never heard it any other way. And when Jesus tells parables, he’s allowing you to get behind and saying, “This is what your life looks like from the outside.” Not in order to berate you, but in order for you to go “Oh, now I see.” That’s the power of parable.
Powers of parables have a couple of things that we want to pay attention to. The first one is, they’re life AWAKENING. For David, it allowed him to see his life and say “Oh, you’re right; I’ve been covering this up, haven’t I? I’ve been pretending all this time. This is not the story that I have been living. I’ve been living in palaces and I’ve been living around royalty and I’ve been living with money, and yet deep inside, I have a cancer in me. It’s called ego; it’s called pride.” But Nathan was able to give him a moment to awaken.
You see, we see the world not as it really is, but as we are, as we want it to be. And you know what? We tend to always pat ourselves on the back, and say, “I am so much better than the rest of these people.”—Until somebody comes in and says, “You’re not as clean as you think you are, David.” It gives us a moment of awakening. But it isn’t just so you can feel bad about yourself; it also gives you a life altering CHANCE. Once David came to that realization that he was not perfect… Well David, what are you going to do now? Now that you know its your sin that I’m talking about, it’s your brokenness, it’s your injustice that I’m talking about, now what are you going to do?
Every Sunday morning, we try and get you to a place of choice, of decision making, so you don’t leave here on Sunday and say “Man, that was a good hour spent…” And no offense, but sometimes, it’s an hour and 15 minutes. But that you say, “I can make a choice. I can be different. You choose your future long before it arrives. You choose the decisions that build up and give rise to the consequences. This morning is a decision-making moment for each and every one of us. It’s another opportunity for God to invite you into His story. What will you choose? When you are confronted with the reality of what God is doing and where you are, what decision will you make? It’s about giving you a chance. Because what God wants more than anything else, he wants to give you life abundance. Once you know what your true story is, you are no longer living a lie.
So many of us spend an incredible amount of energy trying to protect the lie that we’ve got it all together. There is nothing more hurtful for people that are in church than church folk to come every Sunday morning and say, “I’m okay, and you’re okay” and yet broken on the inside, feeling the tears and the brokenness.
You see, ACTIONS prove who you really are; WORDS, only what you pretend to be. It gives you a chance to make a decision; make a choice for a new path.
Last week we started by showing a short video clip that helps us understand a little bit about this prodigal son story. And after showing that video clip, I had a number of people came up going, “I never knew that that’s what the movie was about. I didn’t know that it had these implications to it. And those are those AHA! moments. Those are those parables. This is going to be the last time, but I’m going to have them show the video…
I think that for many of us, sitting where you are, you need that AHA moment. You need that encounter—that one-on-one time with God where he looks deep into your soul and says, “You are more than what you have become. You are more than the job title you have. You are so much more than your bank account; you’re so much more than your possessions or the power that you have. It’s about who you can become.
This is part of a three series. In Luke chapter 15, there are three parables Luke puts back to back to back in order for us to understand what’s really going on here. And in Luke’s Gospel, the parable of the Prodigal Son, where he comes to himself and he finally returns and he says “this is not what I was made for and returns back to the Father. But the two parables that are in front of that give us a different look at what God is trying to do in our lives and our stories. Beginning in Luke chapter one, there are two audiences that Jesus is trying to speak to—trying to get around their defenses. And I need you to think about, which of these two audiences do you most identify with? Now, on one side, there’s an audience of tax collectors and sinners. These are the people that my life is over; I haven’t done anything good; nothing will come good from my life; I’m kind of an outcast; and I’ll never set a foot in a church as long as I live.
And then there are other people on the other side that he says that they’re the Pharisees and they’re the teachers of the law and those are the people that kind of feel smug about their position in the church, and they feel kind of smug about what they’re able to do and how well they’ve risen for themselves, and how they’ve pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and I am the person that I have made myself to be. And so these two are kind of at odds and Jesus is speaking to both of them. In Luke chapter one, he says, “And now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law, they muttered this man welcomes sinners, and he eats with them. And so Jesus told them this story. He told them a parable to get behind their defenses. He said now supposed one of you had 100 sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and then he goes home. He calls his friends and neighbors together and says rejoice with me! For I have found my lost sheep! He said, I tell you the truth, I tell you that in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.
And he goes on to say suppose a woman has 10 silver coins and she loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and she says rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin! Now, in the same way I tell you there is more rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents.
In these parables, both sides are being challenged, but in different ways. One of the things for those that have been the outcast; those that have spent sleepless nights—the tears just pouring down—you’re not as lost as you think you are. Your father is always, always, always looking for you—always calling to you; always inviting you home—searching diligently. In the first parable, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, most of the time, we think that the story is directed primarily at the son who goes away and comes back. But in these first two parables, it certainly is not about the feelings of the coin or the sheep; its about the one who is searching. Jesus is telling us or giving us a different insight into the nature of God. That while we think that it all depends on us, He’s saying it all depends on God. God is searching for both of you. For both of you are lost. Both of you have been separated. He never stops looking.
A couple of things I want us to get out of these first two parables. First of all, you can be lost and never know it. You can be lost and separated from God and look at yourself and saying, “I’m doing fabulously. I don’t need anything or anyone.” And the question that we often wrestle with is, “Where are we in our relationship with the Father?” Are we the lost sheep that has kind of just wandered off and is doing its own thing? Are we the lost coin that has kind of been just slipped away? And after a little while it is no longer part of the body… Both the sheep belongs to a flock; the coin belongs to a necklace. Belongness (and by the way, that’s a word I just made up)—belongness is part of our humanness. We need to belong somewhere. We need to know that there’s somewhere to put our roots down. Our children, as they grow, they need a place where they say this is my home; this is where I belong; these are my people. When we separate ourselves from God and from the community, we lose something of our identity.
The second thing is it is God’s persistence despite our reluctance. It says in Isaiah chapter 30, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you.” God wants to give you things. He wants to be gracious to you. He will rise up early to show you compassion. For, the Lord is a God of justice and blessed are those who wait for Him. God is looking for you—constantly seeking; constantly inviting you to return to that bigger story that you are a part of.
And, so, we come all the way back—all of this is intended to kind of answer that question we find in Genesis chapter 3. As you sit there this morning in God’s house; in God’s sanctuary, hear in the back of your brain that central question, “Where are you? Do you know? Have you felt that you’ve been separated from too long? Do you feel that God’s been calling to you to restore you to the flock? To restore you to the necklace? Or do you feel like you need to come to yourself, and return to the Kingdom?
That part that I love about The Lion King is that time when Mufasa kind of comes out of the clouds. And what is he telling Simba in that moment? Does he kind of condemn him? “Look at what a mess you’ve made of your life… you know you should be doing better than this. Don’t you know that this is not a place for you? Why don’t you get your act together?” Instead, what does he say? He says “Remember.” All we’re asking of you this morning as you think about your own life is to remember who you are. Remember that deep within you is the divine spark; the divine image is always trying to come out; always trying to find air and oxygen to flourish. Remember who you are.
Now if you have been struggling with that for a while—you struggle—we all do—with our identity; we’re going to share in the sacrament of Holy Communion. As long as you take this bread and drink this cup, remember my sacrifice. Remember who you are. As we join together, recognize that the table is open to all who are willing to experience the newness of God’s love.