Grace in Our Father's House
The story of the Prodigal Son is re-enacted in worship each Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown. The order of our worship parallels much of this truth-telling story. Let’s start with the Younger Son. He asked his Father for his inheritance so he could go to a far country to live on his terms. In essence, the Son wanted the benefits of his Father’s wealth but didn’t want the obligations of submitting to his Father’s will or bringing honor to his Father’s name.
When we sin against God, we become like the Prodigal Son. In sin, we choose to separate ourselves from God, live on our terms, and squander our inheritance of grace. Submission becomes a suspicious word. Bringing honor to God is not on our radar screen of self-interest.
When we squander God’s grace, it leads us to spiritual bankruptcy. The Prodigal Son saw his sin, turned from it, and confessed it to his Father. We do the same thing in worship each week in the Unison Prayer of Confession. When we understand the Sabbath’s ”weekly rhythm of return,” we realize that, like the Father in the story, God runs to embrace us as we approach the sanctuary. The Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Grace seals the truth of God’s merciful embrace.
When we turn from our sins and return to our Heavenly Father, He celebrates our return! In the story, the Father commands his servants to put the ceremonial robe on his filthy son. He also commands them to put a signet ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And then, the Father commands that a joyful feast be celebrated. In our order of worship, the robe represents the atoning blood and righteousness of Jesus that covers the filth and stench of our sins. The outward sign of this atonement is our baptisms. The ring represents the authority God gives us to do His kingdom’s business in His name. The sandals represent the freedom we have in Christ to go into all the world to make disciples and return home to the Father. Finally, the feast represents the Lord’s Supper which celebrates our reconciliation with God and one another.
The Story of the Prodigal Son is a picture of membership in God’s family, the Church. When we profess our Membership Vows, we declare our return to our Heavenly Father. Our vows lead us to abide in God’s fellowship, teaching, commands, warnings, and purposes. Church Membership is a biblical identity rooted in the Triune God, established and sustained by God’s grace, based on our gratitude, and expressed by making God’s name known to each other and our neighbors.
In Acts 2, we see a demonstration of Church Membership. We see that God’s grace brings us together in devotion to the apostles’ teachings, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. These are the means of grace that God provides to nurture and mature our faith so that we might bear the fruit of the Spirit. And from these means of grace comes other wonderful things like miracles, sharing burdens through generosity, and eating and being together. When God’s children abide in His means of grace, the world takes notice, and God adds to the number of His family. The vitality of a church rests in God’s grace, flowing from His Word, into each of His children, to the world, through our worship and life together.
And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.