In mid-September I attended the NC Synod Rostered Leaders Convocation at Lutheridge. While there, the keynote speaker had a bit of an aside comment that stuck with me. He spoke about Jesus’ parable about the Prodigal Son, a parable I have heard countless times and yet continue to hear something new from it. His comment was about two words the younger (Prodigal) son uses in the story.
As the son speaks to his father about his inheritance, he uses a word which translates basically to mean “give.” “Give me my inheritance.” We know that the son squanders all he is given. When he humbly returns to his father he doesn’t ask for his father to “give” him anything. He asks his father to “make” him a servant, no longer asking for “things” given, but asking to be changed.
This difference, I think, informs us on how it is we approach God in prayer. When we come to God are we like the son at the beginning of the story, asking God to give us things? Or rather are we like the son at the end of the story, humbled by failure and the realization that “things” do not save us, and instead asking God to make us into God’s servants in the kingdom?
This difference also illuminates a distinction people make in why we come to church, and whether we do so putting our-selves first, or God first. Putting ourselves first leads us to ask questions such as, “Do I have fun,” “Do I like the music being played,” “Does it rejuvenate me for my daily life?” Those things aren’t bad if they hap-pen, but if they are the goal then we are focused on ourselves.
Rather we should ask questions such as, “Do I experience Christ’s presence in this place,” “Is God molding me and making me into a more faithful follower through this community,” and “Is worship here Christ-centered, and is the Gospel proclaimed?” These questions recognize that God and God’s desire for the Body of Christ, the Church on Earth, is what is most important, and we desire God to make us and mold us into people who work for God’s purpose and not our own.
We are all somewhere on the path from self-centered lives to Christ-centered lives, being shaped in faith so that we ask God to “make us” instead of “give us.” No one is the “perfect” Christian, getting it right all of the time. So it is that we come together in worship, confess our sinfulness, and con-tinually ask God to “make” us new, and live into our baptismal identities as Children of God, and workers in God’s kingdom.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Micah