Well good morning Hope City! We’re glad you are here today. My name is Peter, and I am the Pastor here. Today we are wrapping up our series Behind The Scenes. A good movie doesn’t just tell a good story, it brings people together. It’s been fun to get together every weekend and dig into the truth inside.
Today we are going to continue with another incredible block buster hit, a little flick called “Finding Dory”. You know the story… It’s a blue tang fish named Dory who is quite forgetful and struggles with her memory. Look what happens here…
There is something about this movie that has connected with audiences worldwide. It’s the story of someone lost getting found and someone found getting lost again… We connect to this story because we can find ourself in it. We all have lost something… something that’s important to us, something that has value.
For some of you it was a relationship. She left you feeling alone and abandoned. For others it was financial. The creditors calls sapped your will to wake up and make it through the day. And yet for some of you, it’s right now! It’s spiritual. You almost didn’t come to church today because you were thinking, “I don’t belong at church… If they knew what I’ve done—or what I’m doing—they would just shut me out!”
Today I want to look at a story of someone who lost everything. The story comes from the Bible in Luke 15. You can turn in your Bibles, swipe in your app… The book of Luke is one of the four gospels named after its author. See, Luke was a disciple of Jesus and he wrote down the story of His ministry here on Earth. In Luke chapter 15, starting in verse 11 Jesus tells a parable, or a story illustrating a point, about a Father and his 2 sons.
“There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Luke 15:11
The youngest son chooses to do something ridiculous. He wants to go off and “find himself”… But to fund this expedition he asks for his share of the father’s estate… his inheritance. Do you know what you need for an Inheritance? A DEATH CERTIFICATE! Basically, the son is saying, “Hey pops, I don’t really care about you… I don’t care about this farm… in fact, it would be better for me if you were dead. So, you think we could go ahead and split up the estate and give me what’s mine?”
If my son, Noah did that… if he came up to me and said, “Dad, you don’t mean anything to me… and all I want is your stuff.” I would be CRUSHED AND ANGRY. In my hurt and my grief, I would be tempted to grab him by the collar and throw him out of the house! “How dare you! You don’t want me? Then guess what, you don’t get my name either. You’re done.” That’s just me. That’s my humanity.
But look at what this father does—It’s EQUALLY RIDICULOUS. Luke says, “he divided the property between them.”… he doesn’t toss him out. Instead, he gives him his share. Let’s read on:
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Luke 15:13
Wild living huh? This guy gets his money, splits town and he heads to Vegas!! I mean, c’mon… he’s gonna hit the strip and go crazy! What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. He’s gonna drink until he passes out. He’s gonna hook up with whoever he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants… He doesn’t have to work the fields anymore! I’m gonna live my life—the way I want!
14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
Well, that didn’t go according to plan, did it? After he ran out with his money, his money ran out on him. And now, he’s left with no money, no family and no dignity. He’s hit rock bottom-feeding pigs! And for Jews that was unheard of, in their mind Pigs were the most detestable creatures on earth! You know you’re lost in life when you’re jealous of what the pigs are eating.
You guys know someone whose lost sight of home—just like the son.
GABE FROM NUTLEY
- Lawyer: Smart… Real Estate
- Stress turned him to Alcohol
- Lost his job, his family, his home
- Look in his eyes and see a man who has lost his way and is looking for home.
See everyone knows someone who has lost their way. You can think of that person from your High School that ended up in jail or living out of their car or strung out on drugs.
That’s where this son finds himself. Let’s get back to the story.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ Luke 15:17-19
This is the moment of truth, right? He stops and turns back and says, “You know what? I can’t keep going like this. Even my dad’s servants live better than this.” He packs his shame, and sets out on his way home hoping to fill the role of a servant in his Father’s house.
Maybe that’s what brought you to church today. Maybe you felt like you had enough of what was going on in your life and you needed a change. And you went to the only place that you could think of to get a change. Well, I want to tell you that you’re not alone.
Whatever has brought you away from God or caused you to lose your Hope, whether it’s addiction, or a divorce or a diagnosis… whatever it is. You might be tempted to say, “I don’t belong here… I know what Christians are supposed to look like, how they act, what they say… And I’m telling you: That’s just not me. if you only knew what I’ve done… I wouldn’t be welcome here.”
You see, this church is full of broken people. People who have lost their way in their life. These seats are filled with people who have made tons of mistakes in their lives. Things they aren’t proud of-all kinds of hurts, habits and hang-ups.
Despite how the son felt look back at what he did…
So he got up and went to his father. Luke 15:20
His story couldn’t end with him lost in a pig field. In the movie Finding Dory, her story doesn’t end being lost either. This scene here is gripped me ever since I watched it. Look what happens when Dory heads home…
VIDEO- DORY FINDING THE SHELLS
Her parents set out the shells in radiating patterns hoping that one day She would come home. It was the equivalent of putting out the welcome mat over and over again in every direction.
Look at what the dad in our story does today… In fact today we are going to learn 3 things about the Father’s heart.
The Father’s Heart// PURSUES
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ Luke 15:20-21
I think that the father spent every day hoping and praying that the next person to walk down that road would be his son. He had the welcome mat out. He was focused on the road because he was believing one day it would be the road that brought his lost son back to him. That’s why when he saw him from a long way off –he runs…
You must understand something about Middle Eastern men during that time. They just never ran. Children ran, women ran, but men never ran. For the Dad to run, he would have had to hitch up his tunic and expose his bare legs… and that was something that men during that time just simply did not do. Why would this disrespected and abandoned father run to his son? The Father’s Heart Pursues… If you’re taking notes, the first thing we learn is that the Father’s Heart Pursues.
Why would the Father run to his son? Well, obviously, it’s because he loves his son and because he’s thrilled to welcome his son back home. But there’s another reason why he ran.
Anytime a Jewish son left home and lost his money among the Gentiles and then returned home, the community would perform a ceremony called Kezazah. They would break a large pot at his feet and they would shun him from the community. It was like they were saying, “You cut us off?!? Now, you’re cut off!” The Father ran because he wanted to get to his son before the villagers saw him. The father is willing to be shamed in order to protect his son. [http://magazine.biola.edu/article/10-summer/the-prodigal-sons-father-shouldnt-have-run/]
I remember the moment when Noah learned how to ride a tricycle. I was so proud of him. He was proud of himself. Our driveway had doublewide parking at the rear, and was very level, but from the street to this level spot was a bit sloped, and one day Noah started down that slope heading towards the street. I got up as soon as I noticed danger and pain where in his path. I ran as hard as I could to catch my son. I grabbed him by the back of his shirt to stop him. I gotta tell you, there is nothing in this world that would stop me from RUNNING to protect him. I needed to get to my son first before he got to the street.
Guys, THAT’s the father’s heart! That’s why the father ran. He wanted to get to him first.
God does the same thing for you. He pursues us! He sent Jesus on this earth to pursue us. And he loved us enough to die on the cross for our sins. 1 John 4 says,
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
At Hope City we want to pursue the broken and hurting. We want to go out and make sure that everyone feels WELCOME HOME! That’s why we are so committed to serving our community. We want to get out of our seats and into the streets to pursue people. We put our faith in action here to let people know the heart of the Father.
At Hope City, one group of people that we want to feel WELCOME here are families with kids.
In fact, every Sunday, we have dream team members like Chrissi Pruer, do you guys know Chrissi? She is an incredible woman who is making a difference in Hope City Kids. She serves with a smile on her face and the most enthusiastic spirit. Chrissi teaches our elementary kids and brings joy and excitement in our Elementary Environment.
Let me tell you about an interaction we had recently with a parent. After church this mom stopped us and said, you need to know that my son would never go in to any church program ever. Today, one of your volunteers got down on his level, welcomed him and promised to stay with him all day. And he came out of church with a smile on his face, and asking about when we come back.
You think that Mom feels WELCOME here? You think that kid feels WELCOME here? It’s because we pursue them with love. [Drop MAT]
The Father’s heart pursues people with love. And What happens when the dad gets there?
The Father’s Heart// ACCEPTS
Let’s look in v. 22:
“But the father 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.
In other words the Dad said, get everything that identifies us as one of our own and put it on him. The father dresses up his son. He puts on a robe, a ring and some shoes. He puts his BEST on the son. He is letting the village know… “This is my son! He may have been lost, but I welcome him home as my son!” There will be no public shaming and embarrassment of my son today! The son had rejected the father, BUT THE FATHER put out the WELCOME MAT! He’s saying, “Son, you are WELCOME HOME! You’re accepted. You belong.” Not only does the father’s heart pursue the son, The Father’s Heart Accepts.
What does the dad do in the story? He embraces and kisses his son even though he’s covered in pig slop and hasn’t showered in weeks. In other words, God doesn’t ask us to clean ourselves up before he accepts us. You may feel like you’re unlovable, dirty, and unworthy BUT GOD accepts you! I want Hope City to be a place where we can accept people. Even though they have a checkered past—I mean, even if they have a checkered present!
Church, Hope City should be the place where people feel WELCOMED as family no matter what their background. [Drop MAT] See, we don’t have to get rid of all our sin, and baggage before we come to Jesus or His Church. Because Jesus is where we find forgiveness! It’s not: Clean yourself up before you come to Jesus… It’s: You are dirty mess so get yourself to Jesus! I believe that the church should be the safest place for people to be themselves. Every single one of us has been accepted and we are being accepted for who we are here at Hope City. God loves us the way that we are, but He loves us enough not to leave us the way we are. The Father’s Heart Accepts.
Let’s look back at verse 23 and see what the Father says next.
The Father’s Heart// CELEBRATES
23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:22
This guy throw’s a party! This was a once in a lifetime type of party. A fattened-calf party—the type of party where you would invite the whole village and everyone would come. It’s like what we do with weddings. You invite all your friends, because you’re throwing a big blow out bash. They have this celebration… Why? The Father knows something… the son who was dead is now alive. The one who left is once again WELCOMED HOME.
That is the father’s heart! The Father’s Heart Celebrates. The father’s heart says, “There’s nothing you could do that would make me not love you!” I don’t want to condemn you… I want to have compassion. I don’t want you to feel judgment… I want you to feel joy!
And you know what? This is exactly the type of heart that God has for the lost who return home. It’s not just about this father’s heart… It’s about our Heavenly father’s heart—God’s heart! God wants to WELCOME HOME all his lost sons and daughters—those who have lost their way, or feel lost along the way.
Do you know what God celebrates? LIFE CHANGE. Luke 15:10 says,
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10
God rejoices over you! He throws a party! That’s why at Hope City, we value fun. We believe that CHURCH IS FUN! Because we think God likes to party! He likes to celebrate and take delight in you! That’s why we give away 10,000 eggs at Easter. Why we have sno-cones after church. It’s why on September 10th every kid is going to get a Hope City Fidget Spinner. Uh oh, did I just spoil the surprise?
Because when the lost sons and daughters return home, God celebrates… and he throws a party! That’s why today after church we’re going to have a party here at Hope City. We want to celebrate our kids as they gear up for another great year of school.
Now, I wish that the story in Luke 15 ended there… but it doesn’t. Because there’s a 3rd person in the story. The Older Son:
// The Older Son
He goes to his dad and says, “Look!” “You put out the WELCOME MAT for HIM!?!? That’s ridiculous [Throw down mat]! I can’t believe you would do that for him!”
Why is the Older Son so angry? It’s because he is scandalized by the ridiculous nature of the Father’s Heart. He’s so angry because how could a father celebrate someone who has done so much wrong? He didn’t want to WELCOME him home… he wants to keep him out! [Flip MAT]
Let’s be real here for a minute. There are a lot of churches who have the heart of the older son, but not the heart of the father. At some other churches, you’re only gonna get the TRUTH. They just want you to know how sinful you are. But at Hope City, we believe in GRACE & TRUTH. We want you to feel the love of the Father’s heart, even if you’ve lost your way. Truth often stands with arms folded. While, grace stands with arms open.
Conclusion// Hope City Welcome Mat
Right now I want to invite, our Hospitality Team to come forward and hand out some cards. If there is any team in our church that is on the front lines of welcoming people to our church, it is the Hospitality Team. They are the ones Opening Doors, Guiding new guests, handing out programs. All in the name of WELCOMING people HOME.
This card that you are receiving is to give you a chance for you to RAISE YOUR HAND and say, “YES! I want to help WELCOME people HOME!” “I want to be on the front lines of sharing the Father’s heart… I want the opportunity to welcome lost sons and daughters each week… I want to do whatever I can to make sure that people feel WELCOMED HOME.”
Then, will you fill out this card? All you need to do is check this box and our team will get in touch with you this week.
Maybe you want to serve on the Hospitality team, the kids team, or the Roadies Team. Maybe you want to lead a connect group. Would you check one of these boxes…
When I invite my friends and my neighbors to church, we need to be ready for them. We need to be ready for them to be WELCOMED HOME. As your pastor, I want you to be able to invite your family or your co-workers and KNOW that they will receive the WELCOME MAT here at Hope City. That this is a place where they can Find Hope and Experience Home.
Last week I showed you that WE>ME. Today I want you to know that Hope City exists #ForSarasota. WE = #ForSarasota. I believe that God is #ForSarasota, and we are also #ForSarasota. I want this to be a place where grace welcomes people home! As your pastor, I want nothing more than to see people who are lost… people who have sinned… people who are poor, ashamed and covered in pig slop to find home… I want nothing more than to see those people WELCOMED HOME here in Sarasota? Do you guys want that?
God wants to bring people to the Father’s house here at Hope City. He wants to bring them HOME. I think He’s saying, who will receive my people? Who will share my heart for them?
This fall, God is bringing people here from all over the county and from right here in your neighborhood. But, we got to get our house in order to be ready for them. We need you! We need people to put out the WELCOME MAT for all the lost sons and daughters returning home here at Hope City.
We need YOU to share the heart of the father! Do you want to WELCOME people HOME here in Sarasota? Will YOU share the Father’s heart? join the team. Open up your arms. and welcome people home!