Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jesus, Paul Simon, And Mr. Popular


Jesus told a parable about a father and his two sons. No. Not that one. I’ll preach about that family in Luke 15 in a few weeks. (I’ll try to get those on the sermon player at the bottom of this blog later.) I’m talking about the father who asked his two sons to go and work in his field. Listen to Jesus.

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” 
Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Jesus tells us a simple story about a man with two sons who asked them to work in his vineyard. The first told his father to go jump in the lake. He absolutely would not waste his time working in a vineyard. The second promised to hustle right over and find the foreman for his assignment. The first regretted his harsh words almost immediately. And he went to the field and found the foreman, punched his time card and put in a sweaty day tending grapes. The second, and presumably younger son, did not show up. We might say he laid-out and went and played TRON with his homeys down at the Video Shack.

Jesus asks his audience which son actually did the will of the father. The unanimous response was the older son, who actually went to work. Jesus then chided the religious elite in the crowd and told them in essence, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

We don’t know what happened to the younger son. Maybe he got distracted. Maybe he lost his way. Maybe someone attacked him. Maybe someone shot at him. Maybe he got hurt.
I’ve been at this ministry thing for a long time and I’ve been shot at few times, sometimes the Devil is actually the one pulling the trigger! Sometimes we get hurt, lost, distracted. We start off strong. We say to the Father, “I will go.” And we never really fulfill the will of the Father, because things come along. I mean, a 1/3 of the angels started off good, but ended up bad. If the angels can mess up--so can we.
It happens to many believers. It happened to Paul’s apprentice Demas. We don’t know what happened to Demas. He is mentioned three times. Paul calls him Demas my faithful soldier in Philemon, then he reports that Demas is with him in Colossians, and lastly, to Timothy, he says that Demas has forsaken him. We don’t know what made Demas start off so strong and flitter out at the end. Maybe it had to do with the fact that his name means “popular” in the Greek. Who knows. I do know that Gal 5:7 is one of the saddest verses in the whole Bible. Paul writes, ” You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

I don’t want my last days to be more bleak than my beginning. And as a pastor, I don’t want any of my flock falling away or forsaking their strong start with years of complacency. I have seen it of course. And so I know the hurt that Paul had in his heart writing of Mr. Popular’s desertion.

If you are my age or older you might remember these words from Paul Simon.

You Just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

Yes, I guess there are Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover

Patty and I are working hard on 21 years. And I have no plans of leaving her or letting her go out the back.                            Jack.

But as a pastor, I have seen and experienced many hurtful things.
I was there when Jack, sliped out the back.
I have seen Stan make a new plan.
I’ve heard Roy be coy along with Gus, discussing much in the church parking lot.
I’ve had Lee, trying to break free, drop of his keys.

I’ve seen many start so strong, only to end up getting tripped up. See, there is more than one way to get tripped up, to stumble, and to get lost. Speaking of Luke 15, sheep wander--coins roll away--sons rebel. But do you know how to tell that a sheep is a sheep and not a goat? A goat is happy being lost, but a sheep is miserable.

If you’re miserable today—as you read this, if the only joy in your life is a dish-washing detergent, maybe you’ve left your first lover. Revelation 3 says the church at Ephesus left its first love, it did not lose it. They LEFT their lover.

Yes, there is at least Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover, probably more. But there is only one way to get back. The older son did the will of the Father. Won’t you ask Him to reveal His will to you today?

The Father stands on the front porch of heaven and cries out, “Come home, little one. And all will be well.”

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