The waiting is over (Christmas message)

Preached on: Sunday 25th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:22-32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– A long wait
– Wait for salvation, revelation, hope
– Recognise and celebrate that the wait is over

I wonder what you’ve been waiting for today. I wonder if your waiting has come true and I wonder if there’s anything you’ve ever waited a really long time for. You might have been thinking ‘Oh, Christmas is a really long wait!’ I wonder if there’s anything else you’ve waited a really long time for. Why don’t I give you 20 or 30 seconds just in a moment to turn to your neighbor and say what is the longest you’ve waited for something and what was that something the longest you’re waiting for something and what was that thing you waited for. Over to you just now.

Well, sounds like there’s some interesting stories to share there. And so, what was the longest someone waited for something and what was that something. Anybody willing to share. Fiona? Having Alexanthemos, and what a gift to wait for. Yeah, well great to wait for and good to have him here. What else people? Harris? What was the ….. your birthday every year. Having to wait a whole other year till we get to that point. Anyone else? What’s the longest you’ve waited for something? Rachel? 12 years and still waiting for sleep, definitely! Can anybody beat that? Cara? 10 years to get a dog oh you’re getting pretty close there. But yeah, no definitely. Hope? Waiting for Christmas each year. Leonie? Another dog, as well. Yeah, yeah. six years of asking you eventually wore down your dad. He caved to last. Us softies, we give in eventually.

Well, I’ve been waiting four years to be at a Christmas Day service in person. Yes! I’m here! And I bet some of you were waging ‘Is he gonna make it this year?’ Particularly if you heard the Manse family had to dodge a vomiting bug during the week. it was this close. But, basically we ostracized Hope for a day. She is the best little girl in looking out for her dad and little brother. So, she is a star, So, well done little one, you put up with a lot to help us as a family. But we’re here.

But none of our waiting is really quite as long as Simeon’s waiting. We don’t exactly sure how long he waited but it was probably quite a while, boys and girls, and certainly that’s the idea we get in the passage. And if you read on in the passage you come to Anna and she’s 84 at this point, and she’s been waiting a really long time. But for Simeon we read that he had been waiting for the ‘consolation of Israel’ and I think there’s a lot in that phrase. I think probably it’s he’s looking for freedom for his country because they’re oppressed but I think he’s also waiting for God’s Kingdom to come and to bring the good that God had promised in the Old Testament. And God had painted many pictures in the Old Testament of what it would be like when His Kingdom came and he was waiting for that consolation but maybe waiting also to be proven true that this God, this revelation of God, this faith that they were clinging to, was true. This was the true God and they wanted that to be known. So, now it comes true because he goes on to say ‘Sovereign Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace for my eyes have you seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all nations. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel.’ Jesus was the promise Simeon had been waiting for and He would be the way of salvation, He would be light to see God more clearly so that we could see God’s heart and His ways, and Jesus would prove that the faith and promises of the Old Testament were true and that any who had faith in Him would share in God’s future Kingdom.

Boys and girls, I know that we’ve all been waiting for a really big day today. Waiting for presents and now we begin to wait for that lovely food that I’m sure is coming later today. Waiting to spend time with family and I bet there’s a few of us in the room and at home that are waiting for a rest. But let’s remember what we have in Jesus. Salvation, a revelation of God, and a very sure hope that the waiting is over and the real celebration can begin.

But let’s notice something else from our passage, that no one around Jesus and the family, other than Simeon or Anna, knew what was going on. No one else was expecting God to show up in that way, as a baby, and so, I’m not going to ask you to share but I wonder what was your least glamorous present this year, the one that you’re like ‘Oh, that’s lovely.’ secretly thinking ‘Hmm.’

But, you know, maybe, maybe what is overlooked more often than not, what we think is not that needed, is more needed than we ever knew. It’s more important than we’ve ever realized. That the flashy stuff is here today and then put in a cupboard and gone tomorrow. And so, when I say the waiting is over, Jesus is the salvation and revelation that we need, it can be tempting to go ‘Okay.’ it can be tempting to put on a nice smile, ‘Lovely lovely. Yes good service Scott.’ and we kind of just gloss over this because it’s old news. It’s old news to many of us. We’ve heard it for years upon years. But let’s not be a people who do that to Jesus. Let’s not be a people who just gloss over Him. Let’s be a people who are joyful, who are delighted that this is Jesus. That He is our salvation, He is a revelation of God’s heart for you and for this world, and He is very truly God come in human form. And let’s take that into the new year, to be a people who don’t gloss over Jesus and celebrate what we have in Him and through Him. I hope you have a really excellent day together with whoever you spend it with and enjoy the rest of the Christmas break as well.

Worth the wait (Watchnight)

Preached on: Saturday 24th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:1-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Inconvenient faith
– Waiting for it to pass
– worth the wait

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Our Holy God, we come before you this Holy Night as our hymn has just said, we come with awe and joy, with faith and love. But Father, we likely also come with our doubts and even our sorrows. Maybe sorrows that are very raw, maybe very new and so we would ask, our God, to meet with You this night, to meet with You and to hear from You. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I was trying to switch off from work and so decided to watch a little TV on one of the various apps that I can turn to on my phone and in the adverts, and before and during, there was a comedian popped up and he said this line which probably made me chuckle; I probably shouldn’t ‘I love Christmas but by the end of it I hate everyone near me.’

And, I don’t know if you can sympathize with that at all. I’m not saying that I do, but, just in case my wife’s watching from home, but there are bits of Christmas that seem, at times, a little inconvenient. I wonder if you find any parts of Christmas inconvenient. Because something can be inconvenient if it’s bothersome. Maybe you find the stress of buying presents a little bothersome and thinking ‘Oh, what did I get them this year?’ Maybe the stress of preparing this special meal with all the anticipation and how many courses or parts of potatoes should there be, is it mashed and roast and boiled or croquettes, or all four. Some thinking can be inconvenient if it’s disruptive, it’s Christmas, disrupts our routine. Maybe you really like your job and the idea of taking a holiday just feels disruptive or maybe the prospect of being woken before seven o’clock tomorrow morning. And I’ve already warned my daughter, if the clock says anything beyond or before zero six, she’s not to come to through. Something can be inconvenient if it’s vexing some of us. Haven’t seen our family or friends in maybe a wee while and maybe there’s good reason for that because some of those family and friends can be somewhat vexing. In all these ways, and more besides, it may be possible to see Christmas as somewhat inconvenient.

And I have to wonder that very first Christmas did Mary find some of Christmas inconvenient just a little. After all, here’s a girl, a young girl ridiculed, likely ostracized for being pregnant before the wedding day, and everyone’s a little bit unsure if it’s really Joseph’s or not. Here’s a young girl then at eight months pregnant because of the whim of an emperor thousands of miles away, she has to travel three to four days on the back of a donkey, to cover about 90 miles, all just so that she can have her name, and probably not even her name, written on a bit of paper. This young girl then arriving in said town of Bethlehem and finding nowhere to stay, forced to give birth in a stable as a measure of last resort.

With all these very, very clear inconveniences I have to wonder was Mary just waiting for Christmas to pass to get it done, get to the other side?

Well, knowing a little of Mary’s character I’m not sure she was that kind of individual. You see, nine months earlier in a passage that we’ve looked at earlier in our Advent series she said, in response to the angel ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.’ I think those words marked out Mary’s path because they marked out her character as well. Here is a woman of faith whose maturity of faith, even at such a young age, let’s remember she would be in her somewhere in her teens, her maturity of faith knew that faith had to be combined with action and with actions, that at times, can be very inconvenient. If that’s her character then why did she do it and why did she persevere all the way? Why was she not simply waiting for Christmas to pass?

Well, I think Mary knew that this inconvenient faith was worth it. It was worth it because she also knew whom she carried in her body. God. Who’d taken on human form and come very, very close.

It’s a startling thought to think that the God of all creation would become human, would humble himself so incredibly.

But that is what we remember and celebrate this night and although the joy is not maybe as effusive as we had at the family service, it’s a joy marked with a measure of awe, with awestruckness, and maybe that was what Mary also carried a little off, because, I think, more than her having a blind or a duty bound faith, I think Mary had faith in a God who had come close, who is part of humanity now, and who had come to change the world.

For Mary could also recall these words of the Angel before she had replied the angel had said to her ‘He (this child) will be great and the son of the most high, His kingdom will never end.’ Mary knew that God had come to change things. He’d come to bring hope and, in giving herself through inconvenient faith, Mary got to partner with God and His purposes and it transformed our life.

So, what about us, friends, on the cusp of this new Christmas Day? What’s God’s word for us tonight?

Well, what if friends, the invitation of God at this Watchnight Service is not simply to go through the motions of tradition or duty-bound faith, where we turn up and tick the box? What if the invitation is to see the inconvenient faith leads to life and it leads to great opportunities? What if the greatest inconvenience actually might lead to the greatest opportunity, to let God into your life tonight and in the years to come? That, if you allow Him, the King and the manger to be King in your heart, King over your life, then who knows where inconvenient faith might lead you. Who knows how inconvenient faith might transform your life beyond your imagining.

Earlier today I was on Facebook very briefly because one of my friends whom I follow and it popped up a little notification, and Marion, I met Marion well four years ago this Autumn just leading into Christmas, and four years ago Marion came to faith and she came to faith because someone said to her ‘Marion, it’s not about being a good person, it’s not about this Christianity lark, it’s about a relationship with Jesus,’

and so, bold as brass, Marion, four years later, puts on Facebook about her friendship, her relationship with Jesus and how it has transformed her life. How she has transformed from this woman who was who was struggling and doubting and in a place of real darkness at times, to a place of joy a place of confidence and wanting others to know this very same Jesus.

Friends, you can know this Jesus this year too and we’d love to help you. You can put inconvenient faith into practice by coming to church and getting involved. We all like to have Sunday to ourselves but, if you don’t turn up, you miss out. You don’t get to hear from God through His Word preached and through gathering with His people. You can put inconvenient faith into to practice by reading His Word, the Bible, and praying, giving Him some time and space amongst all the busyness. You can put inconvenient faith into practice by learning His ways and learning to walk in Him and, let’s admit, it’s all horribly inconvenient, it requires a measure of sacrifice but, maybe if like Mary, we’ll respond in faith and entrust to the one who came at Christmas then maybe, we too will find a new and fuller life through Jesus.

Now, you may be someone who’s been following Jesus for a little while you wonder ‘What’s the word to me tonight, Scott?’ Well, I was reminded this past week of Eugene Peterson who said that a mark of being a faithful disciple is someone who lives out a long obedience in the same direction, a long obedience in the same direction. So, maybe tonight, rather than on Hogmanay, maybe tonight, on the cusp of a new Christmas Day, may we make that commitment to Jesus, to keep on keeping on, to keep following, to keep a long obedience in the same direction, to keep on the journey, long though it may be, heavy though the loads may feel at times, because both our journey and the journey of Mary, well they’re just an echo, a pale reflection really of a much greater and more sacrificial journey, that of Jesus who journeyed from the glories of Heaven to earth and took up human form, and became a servant rather than being served, and he kept journeying, journeying faithful all the way to the cross that you and I might know life in all its fullness.

Waiting in hope (Early Watchnight)

Preached on: Saturday 24th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:1-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Why the wait?
– Waiting for hope
– Worth the wait


Waiting and loved

Preached on: Sunday 18th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-18 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references:
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– waiting to be loved
– the message of love


Waiting for King and kingdom

Preached on:
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-11 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Luke 1:26-38 & 46-56
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints
– In the waiting you are seen
– Waiting for justice
– Waiting for King and kingdom


Waiting for restoration

Preached on: Sunday 27th November 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-11-27 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:36-44
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoint:
– Waiting for restoration
– Waiting with hope
– Waiting with watchfulness


Justice: changing the norm

Preached on: Sunday 15th November 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-11-15-Message-PPT-slides-multi-page.
Bible references: Isaiah 56:1-8
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Isaiah 56:1-8
Sunday 15th November 2020
Brightons Parish Church Message
Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word.May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be true and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.Eight months today was our last Sunday service here in the sanctuary at Brightons – it was the 15th of March. Numbers were already down at that stage, people were starting to stay home because of the spread of Coronavirus, and from the Sunday after we have been primarily online. Eight months of waiting. Eight months of waiting to return. Eight months of waiting to get back to some form of normal.

In our passage today, the people being addressed have been waiting. It’s not obvious straight away, but chapter 56 marks the start of a new section in the book of Isaiah. Up to chapter 40, the people were still in the land of Israel and God was calling them to change their ways and warning them what would happen if they did not. Sadly, Israel didn’t change its ways and so they were taken into exile, to Babylon, the whole nation was upheaved and marched hundreds of miles away. Chapters 40 to 55 speak into that time and share promises and hopes of what would eventually come: that the people would return to the land that God had given them and the scattered exiles would be gathered home.

By chapter 56 the Israelites have returned, or at least a portion of them have, for many chose to stay in Babylon… and so the mass return of exiles has not been realised – the great hopes and dreams and promises shared through Isaiah and other prophets are far from complete. The people are waiting. They live in an interim time. They are waiting for a new world to dawn.

And into that waiting, God spoke. I wonder, in our waiting, has God been speaking to you? Have you been seeking to listen? What might you have wanted Him to say? It strikes me that these words from Isaiah may not have been anticipated by His people. Here they are waiting, hoping for other exiles to return and complete the promises God made, of there being a people who belong to Him, living in His kingdom and living by His values. Yet, what God says here is startling:

‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant –
to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure for ever.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants… these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer…’ The Sovereign Lord declares – he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
‘I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.’ (v4-8)

God is going to gather ‘still others’ – others beyond the Israelite exiles – and not just any others, but eunuchs and foreigners, people who up till now have been excluded from worship in the inner places of the temple. This is unexpected! To a people who are waiting, who want to return to the glory days by having the exiles return, this is startling news. In the midst of their waiting, God directs their attention out and forward, rather than back.

Six weeks ago, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met – largely in a virtual way, with a minimal few in the Assembly Hall. At its opening, the Moderator, Martin Fair, brought this message to the church.

In our waiting, what are we waiting for? A return to normal? A return to what we were doing, life that was marked, in many cases, by catastrophic decline? Could it be possible, that in the midst of our waiting, God might come with a message that directs us to look forward and to look out?

The Lord began this section with these words:
‘…my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.’ (v1)

His people were on the cusp of something new; they were on the cusp of God bringing about His righteous purposes such that lives would be changed, transformed,… delivered, saved. But to do that, there could be no returning to the old ways and so the Lord directs His people to look forward and to look out.

Friends, in your waiting, which direction are you focussing on? Is it back, “back to normal”? It’s not easy to look forward and it’s not easy to look out when we feel vulnerable. But if our future is to be other than decline, then we can’t just look back to what was normal, we need to look forward and we need to look out.

Yet in the waiting time, the Lord also had another major point to raise with His people. Not only were they to look forward and out, they were also to evidence His kingdom through justice in the present time. He says to them:
‘Maintain justice…
and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the one who does this – the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.’ (v1-2)

We see again those words, ‘mishpat’ and ‘tzadeqah’, ‘justice’ and ‘doing what is right’. It can seem confusing at first why God would string together justice, salvation and sabbath in these verses, but He has good reason. The Lord wants them to look forward and out, but He does not want them to neglect doing right in the present time either, and doing right involves, once again, seeking justice, justice for all.
Because Sabbath had to do with rest; not just for masters and Israelites, but servants and foreigners as well as for animals. To keep the Sabbath, meant, among other things, that you valued what God valued, that you cared for what He cared for. The Sabbath was not an end in itself, but a sign that you wanted your life to be lived in submission to God, such that you shared His values, including His passionate concern for justice.

In their waiting, the Lord’s people were to look forward and look out, but they were also to evidence the values of the Lord, particularly through justice. They were to be a visible sign that the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world and making itself felt, and not just for those on the inside, or those with status or the right credentials – there was to be justice for all.

I wonder friends, would our local community see this in us? Are we a visible sign that the kingdom of God is breaking into this world and setting things right? That’s part of God’s righteousness, His righteous purposes – He doesn’t just correct sin, He also sets things right.

We sang earlier:
‘Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.’

Do our lives evidence this? Or are they just nice words? Who is in ‘moral proximity’ to us and are we doing anything about their needs? Because in our waiting, there is a world out there who needs to know there is a God who cares, yet His plan is for His people to show His love and concern, and to do that we must share His values.
Brothers and sisters, we are in a waiting time, but may we not simply wait for a return to normal. Instead, may we open ourselves to the Lord’s leading by His Spirit, that this time of waiting might equip us to look forward and out, and also to be a people who seek justice in the present.

I pray it may be so. Amen.

The Father: patient and waiting

Preached on: Sunday 5th May 2019
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 19-05-05-Sermon-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Luke 15:11-20
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Texts: Luke 15:11-20
Sunday 5th May 2019
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Last week we began our sermon series on Luke chapter 15 and we took quite a broad overview of the chapter, looking at each of the three parables Jesus told.

In the first two parables, Jesus spoke about a shepherd going in search of his lost sheep and a woman going in search of her lost coin. In the third parable, we explored the story of a father and his younger son. To help us understand what Jesus is getting at with these parables, we need to remember what He said to His disciples:

‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ (Mt. 11:27) Here Jesus helps the disciples understand that He knows the Father perfectly, that Jesus is the ultimate authority on what the Father is actually like, and that part of His mission is to reveal the Father to others.

So, in our three parables from Luke 15, Jesus is seeking to help us grasp the character of Father God, and to see what the Father prioritises and how He interacts with the world. Last week, we saw that Father God loves with a seeking and prodigal love, that in the example of the shepherd and the woman we see a God who seeks us out, so as to rescue us from our lostness, because God never writes us off.

And then in the example of the father and his lost son, we see a God who loves with such extravagance and such reckless generosity that He can truly be described as prodigal.

In the coming weeks, we’ll take some time to dig a little deeper into some of the other traits which Jesus gives us of Father God, and we’ll also ask some of the questions that arise out of these parables, especially the parable of the prodigal father and his two sons.

Since arriving here in Brightons, I’ve generally had a Friday off to look after my daughter Hope. A common feature of my days off to go swimming together and we’ve been doing that since she was about one year old.

Now-a-days, I know not to fit in too many things before or after swimming, but in my foolish youth, I often attempted to fit in a bit of shopping as well. When Hope was younger, it generally worked quite easily, because she would sit in the trolley, interact or eat away on something. But when she could start walking, that brought its own challenges, because my daughter refused to go in the trolley any more.

The experience helps me empathise with a short story I read this week: a man is in a supermarket, pushing a trolley which contained, among other things, a screaming baby. As the man proceeded along the aisles, he kept repeating softly,’Keep calm, George. Don’t get excited, George. Don’t get excited, George. Don’t yell, George.’

A lady watching with admiration said to the man, ‘You are certainly to be commended for your patience in trying to quiet little George.’

‘Lady,’ he declared, ‘I’m George.’

How I feel that father’s pain! Keeping our patience is such a difficult thing, whether with children, or colleagues, or family members, neighbours, or even here, we can rub each other up the wrong way.

Patience has been defined as a state of suffering with fortitude, as the ability to endure evils without complaining. The word comes from a Latin word meaning ‘suffering’, and has the idea of being able to endure much, to be ‘long-suffering’, of enduring without giving way to fury or to flight.

In the parable we read today, the third from Luke chapter 15, we are reminded of the younger son’s request and of the father’s response. Last week we saw how shockingly offensive these remarks by the younger son are: ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ (Lk. 15:12) To say such a thing in the context of Middle Eastern customs would be the equivalent of someone here saying: “I can’t wait until your dead. I want the money now.”
And then, to sell that portion of the estate, whilst the father was still alive, showed a total lack of decency and effectively said of the father, “To me, you don’t exist any more.” Ouch!

In all of this, the younger son rejects his father, he rejects the Father personally, he rejects the fathers ancestry, he rejects the father’s way of life and what he stood for.

Now, I find it hard to keep my cool when Hope decides she doesn’t want the lunch I’ve prepared – a lunch she specifically asked for, let me tell you – and yet here is a child causing untold hurt on multiple levels as he rejects his father so completely.

At this point in the story, following the customs of the time, the original listeners would be expecting a traditional Middle Eastern response from the father, which would have involved him driving out the son from the family with nothing less than physical blows.

And yet, the father, does nothing like that. We read that: ‘So the father divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, and set off for a distant country.’ (Lk. 15:12-13) Instead of responding with blows, the father patiently endures a tremendous loss of honour as well as the pain of rejected love. Ordinarily, when our love is rejected, we get angry, we retaliate and do what we can so that we don’t hurt as much.
But this father maintains his patience, and so his affection, for his son. The father bears the agony – he is truly long-suffering, he endures without giving way to fury or flight, and he doesn’t compile rejection upon rejection.

And in this wonderfully moving story, we see a portrayal of our heavenly Father, who loves with a seeking and prodigal love, and does so with great patience towards us, His children.

I wonder, to what measure do we reflect this kind of patience? It is a of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, it should be increasingly seen in our lives if we are followers of Jesus.

Leonardo da Vinci once said:
‘Patience serves as a protection against wrongs, as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be less powerful to vex your mind.’

This quote reminds me of what a friend once said: Christians should be the least offendable people anyone knows. Christians should be the least offendable people anyone knows. If makes sense, if you think about it a moment – if we are growing in the fruit of the Spirit, particularly love and patience, then we really shouldn’t take offence at very much, should we?
Paul says to the Colossians that we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, as well as bearing with one another and forgiving as quickly and fully as we have been forgiven by the Lord. So, we should be the least offendable people around, should we not? But, let me ask: how quickly do you take offence? How long do you hold on to a grievance? What hurts are you still holding on to and allowing to vex your mind?

These are hard questions to face up to – but we must, because we are called to reflect our heavenly Father. So, maybe it is time friends, for us to face up to the lack of patience in our lives? Maybe it is time to face up to all the ways we are short with one another,…
or where we become easily irritated, or hold onto a grudge or offence made against us? Because, the God we serve, and whom we call our heavenly Father, He is prodigal in His patience towards us, and we are called to reflect Him.

In addition to the father showing great patience and longsuffering at the beginning of the story, in response to such terrible treatment by his younger son, we also see another facet of the father’s patience and a little later in the parable.

In v20 we read: ‘So [the younger son] got up and went to his father. 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 round him and kissed him.’ The younger son has come to his senses, he has realised the folly of his choices and the selfishness of his actions, indeed, he probably realises the great shame he brought on his father and so the pain he also inflicted. But in his desperation, he still goes back to his father. And what do we read? ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him…’

His father saw him. His father was looking out for him. Who knows how long the father had been watching? Long enough for his son to burn through a fortune, then become desperate, so desperate that he will work on a pig farm, which is offensive to Jews, and still longer than that because the son endures part of a famine as well.

The father likely waited a long time. He was longsuffering. He was patient. Who knows how many days he squinted in the sunlight, peering into the horizon, for the slightest hint of movement? Who knows how many nights he lit a torch and walked the boundaries of his home waiting on his son?

But the father did it, and he did it, because he loves with a prodigal, seeking love which will not allow him to give up being patient towards his precious child.

How many of us have waited patiently for something? It can feel like agony, but in these particular circumstances, it surely would have been near unbearable for the father.
To help us get a true feel of this, Christian author, Philip Yancey, has rewritten the parable in today’s context and I’ve made it fit our situation, so let me read it to you.

(READ FROM BOOK: ‘The Father You’ve Been Waiting For’ by Mark Stibbe, pg179-183.)

Her father waited. Her father waited with patience beyond our comprehension, probably with great agony, and he did so because he loved her so very much.

Friends, Jesus told the parable, and Yancey retold the parable in today’s language, so that we could see and appreciate afresh the prodigal love and patience of God – not with a fictional character, but with you and me.
We, each, are younger sons and daughters – we, each, have told God to drop dead, that we want His stuff: life, pleasure, the wonders of this creation, satisfaction in work, the enjoyment of family…many good, good things actually…and yet, we’d rather not have God – in fact, God is as good as dead to us.

Now, you know how much agony it feels when we are rejected, and you can imagine some of the agony the parents of the girl in the story must have felt. But imagine with me the agony God must feel, when we reject Him? Imagine loving with a perfect love – not the measure of love that you and I have towards our children, or the measure of love felt by the girls’ parents – but rather a perfect, pure love, a love that is so holy, so other,…
that it defines love? What degree of agony does someone face when they love that strongly and they are rejected?

Friends, God loves you that much, that perfectly, and His heart breaks for you to return to Him and live in relationship with Him as His child. In His very great patience, fuelled by prodigal love, God waits, God suffers, for you, for you to return to Him.

Let me ask: have you returned to God yet? Would you call yourself a Christian? Would you say that God is the centre of your life? Being a Christian, being a child of God, is much more than coming to church, or giving your offering, or even being loving and patient.

To be a Christian, is to come home to God – that God becomes the centre of your life, such that you build your life upon Him and He shapes your choices, your values, your priorities – that’s when you know you live for God, that’s when you know you’ve come home. That’s true repentance.

And God is lovingly waiting for us, my friends – if you haven’t returned to God, will you come home to God today?

But God is lovingly waiting for any of us who have grown cold towards Him, despite being a Christian – for us too, He waits, and calls us home once more. If that is you, will you hear the call of God today and return home to Him?
Will you come back into His embrace and know His prodigal love for you? Because, even for you, God patiently waits, He waits for all of us to respond today, and every day, to His love.

May we all come home to God. Let us pray.


Preached on: Sunday 27th Janaury 2019
The sermon text is available as subtitles in the Youtube video (the accuracy of which is not guaranteed). A transcript of the sermon can be made available on request. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Acts 2
Location: Brightons Parish Church