The sermon text for this Lord’s Day tells one of the best known and best-loved stories in the Gospels: the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Close look at the text and its context reveals that is not just a story about son who went astray, but it is primarily about a second son who stayed home. The two sons represent two groups of people introduced in Luke 15:1-3: sinners and the self-righteous. The story describes a son whose sinful choice left him in the worst state imaginable. But he came to his senses, returned to his father, and cried out for mercy. The father, in an act of amazing grace, welcomed his lost son home. Great joy followed his return. Jesus then told of a second son—a son smug in his own self-righteousness and angry at the father for the forgiveness he lavished on the first son. Thus, the story ends with an ironic plot twist revealing that the second son is in a worse state than his prodigal brother.
The hymns selected for the service retell the story by tracing its themes.
PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
Call to Worship: Proverbs 16:16-20
Hymn 20 (to tune 27, HYMN TO JOY) Abba Father! We Approach Thee
Note: James Deck, author of this hymn, wrote of his youth, “I hoped there was no God.” But his mother’s training pursued after him. He said, “She read to me of Jesus, Of all his grace and love.” It seems that his hymn is a personal testimony,
“Once as prodigals we wandered in our folly, far from Thee;
But Thy grace, o’er sin abounding, Rescued us from miserly.”
Hymn 333 How Sad Our State
Notes: This classic hymn reminds us of the true human condition. Like the first son in the sermon text, at one time we were slaves to sin, our minds held captive by Satan (v. 1). Only God, our loving father, can free us and wash our “spotted soul.”
Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:1-24
Note: We often overlook an important element of this beloved Psalm. It describes David in moment of rebellion in which he contemplated flight away from the presence of God—an impossible task. God “hemmed” him in (v. 5). At v. 17, David’s resentment gives way to wonder and worship.
Hymn Insert God Be Merciful to Me
Note: God calls us to himself requiring only repentant faith as we trust the mercy and grace extended to us through his Son, Jesus. So, we sing words shaped by the repentant prayer of David (Psalm 51).
Hymn 247 Amazing Grace
Notes: John Newton, the author of the most famous hymn, never got over the grace of God that delivered him from his sin. We, like him, must continually remember the grace of God given through Christ. Like the prodigal, we sing, “I once was lost but now I am found.”
Message: A Tale of Two Sons
Text: Luke 15:11-32
Hymn Insert Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
Note: We summon “sinners, poor and needy,” to come to Jesus for grace and mercy. Come to him! Why would you delay! In keeping with the story of the prodigal son, we will retain Joseph Hart’s original wording in the opening line: “Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched.”
Prayer Response: Eric Hicks, Jr.
Benediction: John Miles