4th Sunday of Lent, March 31, 2019
Readings: Psalm 32; Luke 15:11-32
Being raised by a strict military Dad and a rosary-praying Mom, there were plenty of rules and warnings to help me grow up. My Dad always said, “I’ll trust you until you give me a reason not to trust you!” When I was in middle school, I gave my Dad a reason. Didn’t we all?! Well, a few of my school friends and I were dropped off by one of their mothers at a local carnival. I secretly met an older high school boy at the carnival and left with him instead of the group. Little did I know that the friend’s mom called my parents. Of course she did! Later, the boy dropped me off some blocks away from our house. As I was walking home, my Dad was driving by looking for me and stopped to pick me up. Busted! I don’t remember the conversation or if there was a punishment. I do remember that my father loved me and wanted to protect me and bring me home. He didn’t wait until I showed up, he came looking for me.
“There was a man who had two sons,” starts the Gospel parable. We are told the story of a younger son who leaves the teachings and the security of home to “squander his property in reckless living.” Luke 15:13 (ESV)
We all have been there, not thinking or caring, but in the moment, lured in by lust, self, and the world to leave home, to leave love.
Definition of Reckless: Without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.
What about the older brother, the responsible one? Some of us are the older one, not physically leaving with reckless living, but we are out standing in the field trying to win favor with the Father by faithful performance. In essence not walking away, but not entering the presence of God, not enjoying all that is God’s for us. Not enjoying God.
As the father said to the older son, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
Reflect. Do you identify more with the younger son or the older son? Or both? In what ways have you been “reckless” in your relationship with God? Or in what ways have you been “responsible” but distant?
Psalm 32 celebrates the blessing of forgiveness: “How blessed is the one…who is forgiven.” Yes! The healing properties of forgiveness are expressed as: “You get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean, God holds nothing agains you.” (MSG) In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, forgiveness is in Christ: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Ps 32:5
Don’t we often love the outcome of forgiveness but hold back on confession? Liturgical prayers of confession can help in the practice of confession: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I will be healed.” Memorized Scriptures also open our hearts to confession: “Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:4
Practice of Confession. Take some time to consider where you are in your relationship with God, the Father. Are there rebellious ways you have run away from God, or ways you have been relying on self instead of spending time with God? The disaster of holding in our guilt is reflected in Psalm 32:3-4 “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long… my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” Consider if your silence about your sin has caused you to be listless, depressed, or physically ill. The pain of a broken relationship with God will end when we “acknowledge our sin,” and “uncover any hidden deceits.”
Practice of Confession With Accountability. You may or may not come from a tradition of practicing confession with other human beings. Accountability and confession along with spiritual guidance and prayer, can help restore us spiritually—as well as physically, mentally and emotionally as the Psalmist recounts. If you don’t have a spiritual guide or mentor in your life, consider seeking out someone this week. Pray through this Psalm and open any hidden or locked away sin to an appropriate person who can hold you accountable: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 (ESV)
Practice. Worship. The word reckless has been given a contemporary spin in reflecting on God’s abundant love for us in the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury. Take some time to worship with this song in the official live version in which Cory Asbury tells the story behind the song. (11 minutes)
Cory’s explanation of God’s love as “Reckless”: I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.