Lent 8 – Invitation to Come Home

Drops of sweat blurred his vision, but he didn’t slow his pace.  He didn’t even notice when people pointed and stared as he passed by – he was simply too busy rehearsing his speech.  This was his last option, the only way out of the pit he had dug for himself.  It felt like a lifetime since he’d been home.  Would his family even speak to him?

He dreaded the look of disgust his father would surely give him.  How could he even bring himself to look his father in the eye?  Just then his thoughts were interrupted by a painful growl in his stomach, and he knew he had to keep moving forward.  He had to try.  This was his only hope.

Meanwhile, a father grieved.  Taking frequent breaks from his work, he would walk to the end of his property and gaze down the long dirt road.  Hoping.  Waiting.  Longing for his son.  Would his son ever choose to end this nightmare and return home?  Would father and son ever be reunited?

We know the end of the story.  The prodigal son returns home to find an unexpected gift – a father running to meet him, showering him with presents, cutting short his speech about what a louse he was.  The father will pay any price to have his beloved son back.

Now fastforward from Bible times to 1962.  A boy is born with cerebral palsy.  The doctors tell the parents their son will be a vegetable for the rest of his life and they should have him institutionalized.  The parents won’t even consider this option.  They take little Ricky home and lovingly raise him alongside his two brothers.

At the age of twelve, Ricky is given a special computer that allows him to speak and communicate with his family.  Although doctors predicted Ricky would never be more than a vegetable, he is able to attend (and graduate from) high school, and eventually college, too.  While still in high school, Ricky hears about an athlete who has been tragically paralyzed.  Wanting to help, Ricky asks his father if they can participate in a 5-mile benefit run so that Ricky can encourage this athlete and show him there’s always hope.

Ricky’s father, Dick, is willing to make this happen, even though Dick is still recovering from a heart attack earlier in the year.  After the 5-mile run, Ricky says, “Dad, when we run, I feel like my disability disappears.”  This profoundly impacts Dick, and the two of them begin competing in other races.

Eventually, “Team Hoyt,” as Dick and Ricky become known, are competing in full, 26-mile marathons, with Dick pushing Ricky in a specially designed wheelchair.  But they don’t stop there.  They go on to compete in triathalons, and over time they become regular participants in the most gueling of all competitions – the Iron Man.  This is a true test of physical endurance, with a 2.5-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26-mile run.  If you’re ever fortunate enough to see Team Hoyt in action, you’ll see more than mere physical strength displayed by this father-son team.  There is a love that goes beyond words.

Two different sons, two different stories.  And yet, the stories of these two needy children are my stories.  At times I am the prodigal child who has wandered away from home, fallen into a pit, and cannot get myself out.  At times I am the disabled child who must be lifted into the wheelchair by my loving father because I am too weak to even stand on my own.  Yes, at times these are my stories.  They are your stories as well.

This Easter week, our loving God stands with arms open wide – begging us to come home, shedding tears of blood, offering to exchange his broken body in place of ours so that we will choose to come back to Him.  He’s offering us the use of His hands and feet so that our disabled bodies might be able to stand strong, even to dance, as we head down the road toward home.

This is the story of Easter – a loving Father, longing to be reunited with His children, willing to pay the ultimate price, so that we can live “life to the full (John 10:10).”  The price is unbelievably high – a life for a life.  But He will pay it.

As we come to the end of Lent, let’s take time to remember again the unbelievable gift we are offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It’s a story that’s been told so many times we can forget just how amazing, even ridiculous, it truly is.  The God of the universe is hiking up his robes and running down the road to meet us.  Our Father is offering to tenderly pick us up and carry us when we don’t have the strength to stand.  The King of Kings is allowing Himself to be beaten beyond recognition, tortured, and killed, so that we will never have to live another day apart from Him.   For He is our true home.

As you reflect on these earthshaking mysteries, you may want to take a few minutes to check out the links I’ve given below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPLCaAu_H2U  This is a video of Team Hoyt participating in an Iron Man competition.  As you watch, remember that this father’s love for his son is only a small fraction of our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9PgYH2n8dU&feature=related This is a clip from the movie “The Passion of The Christ,” in which Jesus’ mother, Mary, runs to help Him as He falls, and He reminds her that He is the One making all things new.  If you have time this week, I’d encourage you to watch the entire movie – you will be changed by it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEnKjy6JN2s This last one is just for fun.  It’s an old song by Carmen called, “Sunday’s On The Way,” and it takes a humorous look at a conversation the Devil may have had with the Grave after Jesus died.


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