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“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart” (Ps. 15:1–2 NIV).

*HYMN OF PRAISE             #151  “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”


*INVOCATION (the Lord’s Prayer) Father Almighty, giver and Lord of life, we bless and praise you for your merciful keeping and tender care. May our worship express the true joy that arises from the living Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us, and may we now be brought closer to him and to one another.  Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.


*GLORIA PATRI (Sung together)                                                                   #575

*PSALM FOR TODAY                                                                                            Psalm 32 (NRSV) 

1Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.     

5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.     

6Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.     

8I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; will counsel you with my eye upon you.

9Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

10Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.


OFFERING TO GOD     ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’[1]


*DOXOLOGY (Sung together)                                                              #572


*PRAYER OF DEDICATION  O God, as we bring our gifts of tithes and offerings to you, grant that we may be mindful of the greater gift you have given to us—that of your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And may our giving reflect true devotion as Jesus’ disciples, and may we walk in his ways.



SCRIPTURE READING                                         2 Corinthians 5:16-21  (NRSV) 

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


*HYMN OF PRAYER              insert        “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days”

PASTORAL PRAYER   "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." Matthew 5:43-45                                 Praise God for... young people who strive to live faithfully to God’s word in a culture that is deteriorating around them.

Ask God for... integrity and ethics for those in church leadership; those whose position is an important example for those under their charge.

Thank God for… lay persons who give of their time, energy and talents to the work of ministry.

Healing for... all the people affected by the recent tornadoes and extreme weather conditions, as well as the bus tragedy killing the high school kids.                                                                                          Loving God, who creates in us a new beginning each day, help us to discover your purpose for our lives and to seek our roles in fulfilling this purpose. We praise you for your creation of our lives day-by-day, for your re-creation of hope within us, even when hope seems foolish.  We pray for this world of ours in which cynical self-interest and grasping for power often seem to be the rules by which we live. We confess our responsibility for those thoughts and actions by which we further the powers of evil and destruction in our world; for we know, finally, that becoming human is a process of reconciliation and not of separation, of trust and not of suspicion, of communion and not of coercion. As we confess and acknowledge our needs, our weaknesses, our times of despair and hopelessness, we see your loving purpose in these expressions  of human concern. We feel your loving touch healing us and caring for us as a child is cared for by a parent. We know that you are with us and for us in the midst of our lives. We praise you for this constant love, and in Jesus’ name we offer together the prayer of our Savior.—Sue Farley

*HYMN OF PRAISE               # 46  “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

SCRIPTURE TEXT                                                        Luke 15:1-3, 11-32   (NRSV)

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”


 MESSAGE                     Found

Bud Welch was, indirectly, one of the victims of the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City in April, 1995. His 23-year-old daughter died in the explosion; Bud struggled for years to overcome his grief—first through rage, then through an addiction to alcohol, and, finally, through forgiveness.                                         He recalls an incident that took place shortly after the bombing—one that he suppressed for many years. He had seen Bill McVeigh, father of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh on TV. Bud says:  "...when he [looked at the camera] I could see a deep pain in his eye...I recognized his pain immediately, because I was living with that same pain." [Newsweek, June 18, 2001, page 30]   // As a father, Bud understood the pain that Bill McVeigh was experiencing. Fortunately, very few fathers will ever experience the kind of pain—the kind of shame—that Tim McVeigh's lives with every day. Even though he didn't detonate the bomb, he must feel in some way responsible. He's probably heard the verse in the Bible that says, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6) Maybe he's asking himself: Where did I go wrong? Where did I fail? Whether they believe the Bible or not, most people understand the principle that Solomon taught—that parents are largely responsible for the way their children turn out. If their kids succeed, they're proud. If their kids fail, or become rebellious, they blame themselves.               In the movie Gladiator Caesar Aurelius has a son named Commodus. Early in the story, Aurelius tells Commodus that he will not pass the title of emperor to him. Commodus gives a long speech, saying that he realizes he could never live up to his father's expectations. Commodus says, "All I ever wanted was to live up to you."  Aurelius says, "Commodus, your faults as a son, are my failures as a father."    There's truth in that statement. We are responsible for shaping the character of our children, helping them develop habits and traits that will empower them as they go through life. In many ways, the faults of our children reflect our failures as parents. Does that mean, then, that if you're a good parent, your son or daughter will never do anything wrong, will never commit a sin, will never become rebellious? No, of course not.                                                                                 Jesus told a story of a father who had a rebellious son. He was a good father, yet his son made some awful mistakes. Actually, the father in this story is an example of our heavenly father. He is a perfect father, and sometimes we, his children, disobey him. But this story in the Gospel of Luke shows us how our heavenly father responds to us when we sin, and it shows us how we need to respond to our children's rebellious, sinful actions and attitudes. Your child may never do what the Prodigal Son did, or he may do something much worse. Either way, the principles taught in this story will help you: it will help prepare you for it in case it ever happens; it will give you a reason to hope in case you're going through it right now; and it will teach you how to respond when your prodigal finally returns.                                                Most parents will never have to deal with a child as blatantly rebellious as the Prodigal Son. Your child's disobedience will probably be more subtle, but you have to deal with it nonetheless.                                 If your son or daughter has a defiant attitude, you may be tempted at first to crack the whip and bear down a little harder. However, that's rarely the best solution. The best way to handle disobedience is to deal with your children the way your heavenly father deals with you.   Today, we're going to talk about how to do that—how to treat your children like your heavenly father treats you. If you'll do this, you may never have to deal with serious rebellion in your family. But even if you do, following these principles will help your children find their way back home, just as the prodigal did.                                                       There are three things a parent must strive to do. The first is...           1. Build a foundation for your children. My favorite verse in this story is verse 17. It says, When he came to his senses...        Parents, it's your job to make sure your children have "senses" to come back to; it's your job to give them a foundation for good living. Psychologists say one of the primary characteristics of children in dysfunctional families is that they have to guess at what "normal" is. Their home life is erratic and unpredictable; they assume at first that it's that way for everyone. As they get older, they begin to realize that every family isn't like theirs: there are some parents who don't scream at each other 24 hours a day; there are some families that don't end every conversation with a slam of the door; there are some fathers who don't work 80 hours a week, there are some families that don't get their electricity cut off every month, and on and on and on.                      The problem is that these children lack a solid foundation. They don't know what normal is, because their parents didn't provide them with a normal home. They spend their lives guessing at what normal is, and as they get older, they become more and more likely to drift.              Parents, this is where you can make a significant contribution to the lives of your children. You can build for them a foundation upon which they can build the rest of their lives. You can make sure they have "senses" to come back to. // Ideally, this happens in the traditional environment of a father and mother living together and raising their children together in harmony. That's the ideal, but in the real world it doesn't always happen that way. Maybe you've already been through a divorce, maybe your spouse is neglecting his or her parenting responsibilities, and you are having to play the role of mother and father to your children. Your situation may not be ideal, but that doesn't get you off the hook. You need to do all you can to give your children a solid foundation in life. / What kind of foundation do children need? They need to know that they are loved. You need to show them and you need to tell them. Some people have a hard time saying, "I love you." / Dennis Byrd was a defensive back for the New York Jets. In his autobiography, Rise and Walk, he relates that he and his teammates often ended conversations with one another by saying, "I love you." It's as simple as this: if professional football players can say it to each other, you can say it to your kids.                                                 They need to know that they are not alone. When they have a problem at school, or on the Little League team, or on the job, they need to know that they don't have to face it by themselves.               I'm not saying that you need to solve all their problems for them. They need to learn to solve their problems on their own—but, in doing that, they need to know that they are not alone.                                           They need to know the difference between right and wrong.   J. Edgar Hoover once told the nation, "Send your children to Sunday School so they don't end up in reform school." That's certainly a start, but they also need to see those "Sunday School" values lived out at home.         I read about a boy, Steve, in grade school a friend of his bicycle was stolen while he was visiting his house. The friend left the bike in the front yard; someone came along and took it. He was able to get a new bike for free, though, because his father told the insurance company the bike was stolen from their garage at home. The friend's family was much more "religious" than the story tellers. His dad went to church more times in a week than Steve’s dad went in a year. But he remembers thinking, "There's no way my dad would ever lie to the insurance company just to get my bike back." He would have told me to start saving for a new bike. (And, fondly remembering my father, I'm sure the word "knucklehead" would have worked its way into the conversation.)                                                                        Parents, you need to give your children a foundation upon which they can build their lives. That's what the Prodigal Son had, and it helped him find his way out of the mess that he had created for himself. He was able to "come to his senses" because he had grown up in an environment that taught him some sense in the first place. He knew what normal was, and he knew that there was a better way of living than the way he was living at that time.                                            At some point in their lives your children may insist on going their own way, and may make a number of foolish mistakes. I hope it never happens, but if it does, keep this in mind: The foundation you built for them will help them eventually to come to their senses.               Parents, you need to deal with your children the way your heavenly father deals with you. He gives you a foundation for living: he has revealed his love to you through his son Jesus Christ; he has promised that he would never leave you nor forsake you, so that you are not alone; and he has given you his word to teach you right from wrong. It's the same foundation your children need.                           Secondly, 2. Give them an example of fairness.  After the Prodigal Son came to his senses, he said, How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men. (v. 17-19)                                                                                           The Prodigal Son realized that his father was a fair man, and that he was much better off being his father's hired hand than his rebellious son.  //  I want you to realize that the Prodigal Son made his decision to go home based on what he knew about his father: that he was a man of honor, a man of character. He knew his father would treat him at least as fairly as he treated his hired hands.                               What if the son didn't have that example of fairness to fall back on? Imagine if he had said, "I would like to go home, but what if my dad treats me like he treated the insurance company? What if my dad publicly humiliates me the way he publicly humiliates his employees? What if my dad turns his back on me the way I've seen him turn his back on others who have disappointed him? I don't dare go home, because Dad might treat me the way he treats everyone else."         Your kids notice the way you treat others. If you're fair, they see it. If you're unfair, they see it. And it affects the way they relate to you. The son knew his dad wasn't a pushover. It didn't cross his mind to say, "Maybe I can go back home and talk Dad out of some more of his money, so I can go back to living a wild lifestyle." He knew he couldn't manipulate his dad, and he didn't try. But he knew that his dad would treat him fairly, because his dad was a man of character.    //                 Being a pushover is as bad as being a bully. A parent who allows themselves to be talked into something by their children is doing great damage to the emotional well being of the child.   //  For example, if every time you go to the store your child scans the shelf until he or she finds a toy for you to buy, and you say "No" but then the child begs and pleads and whines until you finally give in—you're teaching your child some lessons that will haunt both of you for many years to come. You're teaching that "No" doesn't really mean "No". And you're teaching that he or she is stronger than you are. The child may be temporarily happy to get the toy, but long-term effect is that he or she will feel a little less secure. And he or she will be more likely to try to manipulate their way out of situations, instead of coming clean and doing the right thing.                                                                                           The father in this story gave his son an example of fairness. It was an example that the son could cling to, even in his darkest moments.       If you want to be an effective parent, you need to deal with your children the way your heavenly father deals with you. He exemplifies fairness. He's not a bully, but neither is he a pushover. He's fair. That's the example your children need to see.                                           Thirdly, 3. Be quick to show forgiveness.   When the Prodigal Son came to his senses and decided to return home, his father saw him approaching from a distance. The father then did something that was, at that time, culturally surprising. Normally, a father would wait to be addressed by the son and to receive some indication of respect before responding. This father didn't wait. The Bible says,...he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (v. 20)                   The son began the speech that he had, no doubt, practiced all the way home... "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." (v. 21)But the Father didn't wait to hear the rest. He said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." (v. 22-24)                                        What do you do when your children repent? Do you fold your arms and say, "You're going to have to prove you mean business before I believe you!"? As time goes on, do you remind them again and again of the mistakes they've made? Or do you allow them to bury the past?   /      Don't remind one another of past misdeeds. If you have to ground a child from using the phone or using the computer, it's never brought up again.                                                                                                  We need to deal with our children the way our heavenly father deals with us. According to the Bible, when he forgives, he forgets. The Bible says, In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back. (Isaiah 38:17) The Bible also says, Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! (Micah 7:19)                                                              Your children will make mistakes throughout their lives. If you have given them a solid foundation, they will eventually come to their senses and repent. When they do, forgive them, celebrate with them, and then bury their sins in the past—and throw away the shovel.                  Don't make your children wait for your forgiveness. Deal with them the way your heavenly father deals with you: forgive them immediately and totally.                                                      /////                                   Some parents may say, "But I don't want to be taken advantage of again and again and again." If you have shown your children an example of fairness, they won't try. And if you have character—if you're neither a bully nor a pushover—they won't get away with it, even if they do try.                                                                                   It's a fact that cannot be denied: your child will sin. Maybe in little ways, maybe in big ways—but he or she will do things that are wrong. When they come to their senses, you must be quick to forgive—like the Prodigal Son's our heavenly father. CONCLUSION Do you know what this story illustrates? A father's love for his son. If you want to be effective parent, you have to spell out your love for your children. Of course, you say it with your words, but you say it much louder with your actions.                                       Build a foundation for your children, a foundation of love, security, and morality...a foundation upon which they can build their lives. A foundation they can come back to if they ever wander away.           Give your children an example of fairness. You have to be a person of character so that you can pass it on to them. Be quick to forgive your children when they fail, because they will certainly fail. When they do, they need to know forgiveness is available. This is how a parent expresses love to his children. You can't do it in a day; it takes a lifetime. It takes a commitment to treat your children the same way your heavenly father treats you. Adapted from (c) Steve May

*HYMN OF RESPONSE                    #271        “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men”






[1] The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, 2005, S. Mt 25:40

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