Bible Reading: Luke 15:11-32
No matter how far we may have gone, no matter how bad we may have been…God is always receptive when we repent and turn to Him.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
I graduated from High School in 1973. No, we did not have computers back then. At the time, our family lived in Arcadia, Florida, a small, rural town where the two primary sources of income were cattle and citrus. My father was in the citrus industry and not long before I graduated, he accepted a new job in Bartow, Florida. So, at the end of the school year, instead of moving there with them, I went straight to college at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. My father and mother had been raised in Lake Wales, right in the heart of the state, and I was familiar with that area because I had grown up in the same general vicinity my whole life. On the day that I headed to college I was driving my Ford Pinto along a highway that I had been on many times, before. Suddenly, in my rearview mirror I saw a Police car with its lights flashing coming up behind me. I pulled over to let him pass. But instead of going by me…he pulled up behind me. The Policeman came up to my car and asked for my driver’s license and then told me to follow him back to his car. He motioned for me to get into the passenger side. I wondered if there was something wrong with my car…maybe a taillight was not working. Then, I noticed a small digital readout. It read, “72.3 mph”. “Surely he didn’t pull me over for going 2.3mph over the speed limit,” I thought. The Policeman was a big man, wearing a cowboy hat, and smoking a short, stubby cigar.
He said, “Boy, do you know how fast you was a’ goin’?”
“Well, I guess about 72.3mph.”
“Don’t get smart with me, boy! Don’t get smart with me!”
I said, “No, sir, I’m not trying to get smart with you. That’s what it says right there. But, I don’t understand why you pulled me over. I admit that I was going 72.3mph…but that’s only 2.3mph over the speed limit.”
“2.3…2.3…that’s 17.3mph over the limit. The speed limit is 55mph, boy. Can’t you read? Or, was that long hair in your eyes. You was a-gettin’ it! You musta’ been listen’ to some of that hippie music on those big speakers you got in that hot rod.”
You do remember that I was driving a Ford Pinto…not exactly a “hot rod”. And as for the speakers…they were for the 8-track tape player that was going in my dorm room…I got them at Radio Shack. Oh, and the hair…yeah, it was a little bit longer, back then.
So, here is what happened. For years the speed limit on that highway had been 70mph. However, not long before that day, they had lowered the speed limit to 55mph. I simply had not noticed. I was driving by memory…70mph. And the truth was…that meant that I was speeding. Busted. The Policeman wrote me a ticket…a big ticket. Then, with a smile and a warning, he sent me on my way.
I thought, “This is a great way to start college.” My budget was already pretty thin and I didn’t have any money to spare. Dad and Mom were doing all that they could…but they couldn’t pay for everything. That meant that I was going to have to get a job to help pay my way through college. But I decided to not say anything to them about the ticket. For one thing, I was embarrassed…I should have been more careful. For another, I just couldn’t ask them for more money…I knew that they didn’t have it. And finally, it was my ticket…and I thought that I should be the one to pay for it.
Several months passed and it was Thanksgiving. I went home for the first time since I had left for college. Our family had a tradition of going to Lake Wales and spending Thanksgiving at my Grandparent’s home (Mom’s parents). We would have a huge Thanksgiving Day lunch. Usually, Mom’s sister and her kids would also be there. Then, around mid-afternoon, we would go to my Grandmother’s home (Dad’s Mom) and eat supper with all of the Pennington clan. We did a lot of eating when I was growing up!
That morning, before we ate lunch, I was standing in the back yard when my Granddaddy walked up. We talked for a few minutes and then he said, “Why didn’t you tell me about that speeding ticket?”
I think that my jaw literally hit the ground. How did he know? I hadn’t told anyone…I mean not anyone. I asked him, “How did you know that I got a speeding ticket?”
He told me that on that very morning he was driving down the same highway on business and saw me getting into the Police car. Then he said, “You should have told me. Then, I could have paid for it.” With that, he took my hand and put a roll of money into it. “You let me know if you need any more, okay.”
“Okay, Granddaddy. Thank you. I love you.”
“I love you too, son.”
Believe me, that wasn’t the last time he put a roll of money into my hand. That was my Granddaddy. He grew up poor, never had much. But with what he had…he always took care of his family.
Several years later, after Patty and I were married, my Granddaddy died. He was the first person that I ever buried. It wasn’t easy. We had the ceremony at First Baptist Church, Lake Wales…and it was full. There were people there that he had known for years and years. And, there were people there from the business where he worked. I had worked there the summer after my first year in college and I knew many of them. I also knew that I had seen Granddaddy give many of them money…money to pay bills, money to take their wife to dinner, money to by toys for their kids. During the day they would slip up to him and say, “Mr. Mac, I’m kind of having a hard time right now and was wondering if I could borrow a few dollars. I’ll pay you back.” He’d pull out a roll of money…just like had had done with me…and give it to them. He knew that he’d probably never see that money, again. They would thank him and walk off. Nobody would ever know that he had given it to them. Nobody but them, and me. So, that I day I stood there in the pulpit and talked about Granddaddy and said, “My Granddaddy was gracious man. He would give you the shirt off of his back. I know that…because some of you here, are wearing that shirt.” All across the sanctuary there was a solemn, “Amen.”
Jesus once told a story that is often referred to as, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” It’s the story about a young man who went to his father and told him that he knew that one day, when the father died, that he would inherit part of his money. But, he didn’t want to wait that long. He wanted his share of his father’s money…now. The father didn’t have to give the son the money…but he did. Then the son took off. He headed to the big city. He’d heard that life was wild there, you could do things there that you couldn’t do anywhere else…and he enough money to do them all. We don’t know how long the money lasted…but eventually, it ran out. And when his money ran out…so did his friends. He was completely broke and had to take any job he could get…just to keep from starving. Finally, he couldn’t stand it any longer. He remembered that his father hired men to work on his farm and he thought, “I’ll go to my father and plead with him. I’ll tell him that I have sinned against God and against him. Surely he will hire me and not let me starve to death.” So, he headed home.
The Bible says that one day the father was standing out by the road. Way in the distance he saw someone coming toward him. “That’s strange,” he thought, “that guy walks just like my son, who left home.” He stood there watching as the guy got closer and closer. Suddenly, he realized that it was his son and took off running down the road towards him. I’ll bet that the son didn’t know exactly what was about to happen. Was his father going to chase him off, or knock him down, or what? But it didn’t take but a second for him to find out. The father did almost knock him down…because he ran right into him as he threw his arms around him in a big bear hug and started kissing him over, and over, and over again, on his cheeks. “Dad, I’m so sorry. I sinned against God and against you. Dad…” Before he could go any further the father stopped him and said, “Yes, I know my son. But now, you have turned from your sin and have come home to me. Welcome home. All is forgiven.” With that, the father called one of his servants and told him to put together a huge “Welcome Home Party”. At the party he told everyone that his son was home and that all had been forgiven.
When I read this parable I realize that it’s not only a parable about the son, but it is also a parable about the Father. Now, get this. In the parable, the son represents you and me. That’s right. You and I are like that son. We tell God that we are going to live life the way that we want to. We are going to make our own decisions. Do what we want to do. And then we go…on our own way. When we do that…the Bible calls it sin. So, we really are a lot like the son, aren’t we? Then there’s the Father. Guess who he represents. That’s right, God. God is like that father. Even when we have sinned, even when we have turned our back on Him…He still loves us. And if we are willing to admit that we have sinned and come back to Him…He is willing to receive us back and to forgive us.
The Bible doesn’t get real specific about all that the son had done, while he was away…but it suggests that he had done everything that he could do, while he was away. He did just about everything that he knew that his father had told him not to do. I think that the Bible didn’t tell us all that he did on purpose. Why? So that it could include just about anything you and I might have done. In other words, if the son could be forgiven for whatever he did…then, you and I can be forgiven for whatever we’ve done. Nothing is left out.
My Granddaddy was a gracious man. Like I told you…he would give you the shirt off of his back. That’s the way God is. Except, not only has God given you His shirt, He has also given you His Son. Granddaddy paid for my speeding ticket. But God has paid for your sin. When you sin…confess it to God. Ask Him to forgive you. He’ll pay your ticket…He’ll forgive your sin. No matter what you have done, no matter how bad you’ve been. He’s like that father…waiting, and watching for you to come home.
Love you more than bunches and bunches,