Monthly Message

Pastoral Message
His Father doesn’t accuse. He doesn’t berate. He only whispers two simple words:  Come Home.
Almost five years to the day, the prodigal son emptied his bank account, packed his clothes, and snuck off to the faraway country. Again.
I’d bet that’s what went down.
     The first year back, he was just glad to be home. He licked his wounds, put on a few pounds, worked on tarnished relationships with his family and friends. The second year was toughest; he still couldn’t get the taste of the pig slop out of his mouth — not to mention the shame that chewed away at his soul. The third year things leveled out a little. He started feeling more at home, back in touch with his former life. The fourth year, certain little things began to irk him — the same things that irked him before he left the first time. Some of the old itch, for a no-strings-attached freedom, began to demand it be scratched.
     And the fifth year, it happened — the buzz he’d experienced blowing his dad’s money. More than the raw guilt of hurting others, he could recall the intoxicating thrill of out–of-this-world pleasure. “Come join the party,” his heart called out. “Come join it again, old friend.”
      And so he did. The prodigal relapsed. Re-sinned. Re-destroyed his life.
     You know him, or her. Maybe it’s your brother. Maybe it’s your best friend. Maybe you gave birth to her.
      Or maybe it’s the person staring back at you in the mirror. That thing you swore you’d never, ever, in a million years, do again, you did last night. You fell off the wagon. You wandered from the straight and narrow path. You opened your heart to the former pleasures that once destroyed you. And will again.
     The prodigal sons and daughters, whoever they might be, whoever you might be, will eventually find themselves right back in the pig pen. I remember when I did.
     The music has faded, your friends have all ditched you, and the temporary euphoria of so-called freedom has been replaced by the horror of shame and guilt. And you stare in horror into the shallow eyes of the mirror and see what? You see your soul. You see and know what you’ve become. Again.
     In that moment, on the war zone in your heart, two vast armies line up in verbal battle. Heaven and hell fight within you. Hell shouts, “Now you’ve gone and done it. You stupid, idiotic, piece of garbage.  Listen! Can you hear your older brother as he tells all his friends that he knew you’d go and do it again. Can you hear the congregation whispering, ‘Oh, I suspected he wasn’t truly and sincerely repentant the first time’?
     You’re a lost, lonely, hopeless cause, so hell accuses. I remember that voice, well.
     But there is another voice, not shouting, but whispering, into your heart. It’s the voice of heaven, the sound of your Dad’s voice, He doesn’t accuse. He doesn’t berate. He only whispers two simple words:  Come Home.
      Come home a second time. A thousandth time. It doesn’t matter. The Father will not stay on the porch, arms crossed over his chest, and stare down at you as you come crawling on your knees to beg for mercy. The Father will not, this time, serve you liver and brussel sprouts and monitor your behavior as you sleep in the dog house.
     The second time, the thousandth time, He will sprint like an athlete to meet you down the street, throw his arms around you, kiss you, and command that the fattened calf be barbecued and the beer keg tapped. Second and third repentances are not met with half-assed parties in the Father’s house. He goes all out, every time his son comes home bruised, guilty and shamed from that faraway place.   Let the older brother act like a jerk as he questions your motive and the “truth” of your repentance. Let the townspeople shake their heads and question the forgiveness of the Dad. Let certain religious groups whisper and point secretly to you as an example of what happens when Fathers’ forgive too readily. You know better than they do, how much evil lurks within you still — and how much the Father forgives even that.
      Come home. The front door will always be unlocked for you. The Father is standing on the porch, his hand shading the sun from his eyes, scanning the horizon for the familiar image of the one who is, and will ever remain, his precious, beloved and forgiven child. Come home.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Tom

Rev. Tom Henkes is Pastor to Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, Page, AZ.  A California native and life-long Lutheran, he attended a Lutheran elementary school, graduated from Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He has served two congregations in the Phoenix area.

  Crystal River of Life - Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5