The Return Journey

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During the season of Lent, I’m preaching a sermon series entitled The Journey.  Along with the weekly sermon, I’ll be blogging on my church’s website.  So I’ve decided to put those posts on this – my personal blog – as well.  Here’s the second week…

The Return Journey

see Luke 15:11-32

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul…                                     
Psalm 23:1-3a

The 23rd Psalm is, undoubtedly, one of the best known passages of scripture.  Even those who are nominally religious know it.  As dependable as death and taxes is the response when you ask a grieving family about scripture for their loved one’s funeral… the answer every time:  the 23rd Psalm.

Another well-known scripture is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, chapter 15.  Of all the metaphors for spiritual growth, the metaphor of a journey is the one I like the best.  I always tell people that Christianity is not really so much a belief system as it is a relationship with a living God who came to us as a person, born in flesh in a particular time and place; who desires to walk with us along our life’s journey.

Long ago I read that sheep can get lost by grazing themselves away from the herd nibble by nibble… one blade at a time, wandering off.  As a matter of fact, Caribou have been known to starve because they come to a cliff or a body of water that is impassible and, having exhausted all there is to graze upon around them, they don’t know how to find their way back to where they started.

The prophet Isaiah says “All we like sheep have gone astray…”[i]  Certainly the prodigal son went astray.  Life must have been pretty sweet living with his father.  All of his needs were provided for.  But he went off looking for greener pasture, so to speak.  He went to a foreign land just looking to have fun and living for the moment.  But when he ran out of cash, a severe famine happened in that land and he must have been a little like that hungry caribou at the edge of the cliff.

If our lives as Christian disciples are viewed as a journey, it’s clear that many of us go off course from time to time.  Not necessarily as badly as the prodigal son did.  But we do find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be.  We find ourselves hungry for something more. Fortunately, like the prodigal son, we are able to process our options more effectively than the sheep and the caribou.  We can weigh out our possibilities and know that no matter what we’ve done or how far we’ve strayed, God will always welcome us home.  He is a Good Shepherd.

The journey of life is hard.  But we never need to resign ourselves to feeling hungry or empty or lonely.  God is there for us reassuring us that – no matter what we might think of ourselves – we are always precious children in the eyes of God.

If you would like to read the sermon connected to this devotion, just go to http://www.trinitylafayette.org/sermons

Join me for a lunchtime study of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes that will take place during the Fridays of March, beginning March 4, at 12:15 p.m. at Sacred Grounds Coffee Shop in Lafayette.

[i] Isaiah 53:6a

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