This past Sunday, our sermon was about not being a party pooper. Literally. The sermon was on the parable of the lost son. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you can read it here. As a brief overview, a father had two sons and while one son worked diligently for his dad, the other one asked for his inheritance early and went and squandered all the money on prostitutes and partying. When the money was gone, he was literally broke and was starving – the pigs he was feeding were eating better than he was. He remembered that his father treated his servants better than he was being treated as a servant, and he decided to go home and ask to be a hired hand there. But, while he was in the distance, the father saw him and was rejoicing that he had come home. The father decided to throw a party for his son. His brother, however, was angry and refused to go in, saying that he never got a party even though he worked hard and did the right thing. His father said something to the party-pooper son to effect of, “everything I have left is yours, but you should party now that your brother who was lost is now found.” In the same way, there are parties in heaven for lost souls who become believers.
Growing up, I felt for the brother who always did the right thing but never got a party for himself. It didn’t seem fair that a party was thrown for the brother who had squandered away the father’s money on unrighteous living. But, I find that God often teaches me lessons about His love through my kids. So, I’ll share a story with you that made this story come alive more for me. When we first moved here, Ryan was three years old. We met friends at the East Lansing Art Fesitval, which includes lots of tents of art stretched over miles of the campus. They had three boys, and so did we; their middle son and Ryan are the same age and about the same height. We were counting heads as we walked, and without making the story too long, we discovered that we had lost Ryan. The mamas had went to make a purchase and the dads thought the younger kids were with us and we thought all the boys were with them. When we got back and realized that Ryan was gone, we looked for him frantically. Hundreds of people were around us. We retraced our steps, we shouted for him. And as each minute flew by, my heart sank. I literally have never been so scared in all my life. As more time went by, I was terrified he might get hit by a car on Grand River. So, one of the parents went that way to look for Ryan. We split up looking for him to cover more ground. More time passed. I had this terrible feeling that someone had taken him. I was shaking, sick to my stomach, and literally screaming his name, hoping he would hear my voice and come to me. Others joined in the search for him. But, let me pause here and say that Ryan’s brothers were very concerned about him. They, too, were helping us look for him. They were little, but they loved their brother so much that they wanted to find him as much as we did. Eventually, someone came up to us and said that a little boy had been found by police and was at the security tent that was on the opposite side of the festival. We ran there. When I was reunited with Ryan, grateful tears sprang from my eyes. He had seen a puppy and went to pet it and somehow in that moment of us going to make a purchase and shuffling of the kids, we misplaced him. I never thought I’d be a parent to lose a kid, and I’m SO grateful to God for returning my kiddo to me. The fear I felt that day is indescribable. It still makes me shake to think about it. But, the rejoicing I felt afterward was all the more sweet because of how terribly scared I had been. You know what I noticed that day and it really stuck out to me? The mom of the other family was crying happy tears with me when Ryan rejoined our group. She FELT it with me. She understood and was right there celebrating, too. The rest of the group was happy at Ryan’s reunion. None of them said, “you didn’t cry or rejoice over me when I did the right thing and stayed right here with you.” No – they were glad! They rejoiced! They joined the celebration! And as Christians, this should be our response as well. It’s not about us doing the right thing. Our reward will come. But, when someone who is lost becomes found, we shouldn’t be a party pooper but rather celebrate with the heavens! We need to care more about other people than ourselves.
If you don’t know what it means to be “found” or “saved” and are unsure of where to start, please feel free to call me or send me a message. I want everyone I know (and even those I have yet to meet) to be at the party in heaven!!