Ep.162: Party-Time Jesus.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

In Luke 15, when the prodigal son returned, his father threw a welcome-home party. When his older brother, who was busy working the farm, smelled the beef barbeque and heard the party music, he was angry. His father was rewarding the prodigal’s evil behaviour instead of censoring and correcting it. Any sensible father would assign the prodigal a stretch of probation with hard labor to ensure he’d really changed. 

The brother said to the father, “This son of yours who wasted your wealth with prostitutes shows up and you throw a party? What about me? I’ve slaved away for you all these years, and I don’t even get a skinny little goat to celebrate with my friends. Isn’t my faithfulness worth more to you than his wastefulness?” 

At a retreat once, I had a similar feeling. The man who got all the interest and attention was a guy who had been an alcoholic and had wrecked his marriage and finances and family with drink and sex and drugs; and then he’d had an amazing and liberating conversion. What a great story! But was anyone interested in my story of plugging away at this Christian thing for thirty years with no tales to tell of a miraculous deliverance or remarkable results?

Perhaps Party-Time Jesus has a message for me and for other older brothers. We have been busy working in God’s field, holding down a job, supporting the church, raising a family. We’ve been serious about living righteously and avoiding the temptations of alcohol, sex and drugs. Why does the father throw parties for prodigals instead of showing a bit of support for us? Aren’t we the ones implementing his program here on earth? 

But Jesus kept showing up at parties and telling stories about parties.
..He made buckets of wine for the wedding at Cana. 
..He went to parties with Levi the tax collector and Simon the Pharisee. He partied with almost anybody!

And in his stories,  
..The shepherd partied when he found his lost sheep.
..The father partied when the prodigal came home.
..The servants waited with lamps lit for their master to come home from, you guessed it, a wedding party (Luke 12:36).
..Jesus starts one story, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” (Mat. 22:1). 
..And on the night before he died, Jesus was feasting with his crew.

What is it with Jesus and parties?  

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we are like the elder son. We resent that we work long and hard for you, but all the attention and fun goes to people with stories of deep sin and miracle salvation.

Ah, Jesus, perhaps we who focus on righteousness need a change of heart. Have we grown bitter, hard, and unlovely in our pursuit of righteousness? (Harry Emerson Fosdick. Meaning of Faith. New York: Association Press, 1917. Cited from Good Press ebooks edition, 2019). Pull up the weeds of resentment that grow in us. Help us to accept our unremarkable lives as  your gift. Teach us to party with the prodigals who come home. May we be glad with everyone you welcome into your big house.

And most of all, as we work for your kingdom, help us to know the father. For though we do the father’s work, we are prodigals from the father’s heart. Teach us to come home to the heart of God.


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

Ep.146: The Man Who Wished His Father Was Dead.

Ep.146: Luke 15:The Man Who Wished His Father Was Dead.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.  

One of Jesus’ lost-and-found stories in Luke 15 is about a young man who wished his father was dead. The father lived with two sons on the family farm. The younger son found farm life tedious–a daily grind of chores assigned by a workaholic father who didn’t have a life. The son fantasized about getting a life of his own. All he needed was a bit of money to take him to a happening city.

Unfortunately, the father had to die before the lad could inherit his money, so he said, “Father, I want my inheritance NOW instead of waiting for it.” Surprisingly, his father rolled over, played dead, and gave him the inheritance. 

The son took his money and drew up his personal Declaration of Independence, claiming his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He dissolved his association with the farm, the family, and his father’s values and opinions. He moved to a country far away and spent his whole fortune on wine, women, food, music, drugs, clothes, and friends. Then he ran out of money and friends at the beginning of a famine. He took a job at a pig farm to survive. His rate of pay? He got to eat what the pigs ate. 

Soon the son thought, “Why should I live like a pig? Back home even the  servants have good food. Maybe I’ll go home and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I’m not worthy to be your son. Can you make me a servant?’” 

When his father saw him coming, he ran and hugged him, ignoring the son’s would-you-let-me-be-a-servant speech. He restored him to full sonship, and threw a  party saying, “My son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” 

I have three observations on this story. In 1886 the philosopher Nietzsche declared “God is dead”. Raised in a strict one-parent German home, in an atmosphere of gloomy Lutheran piety, Neitzsche came to despise the church that used God’s name to impose a cheerless lifestyle. He despised the German politics that used God’s name to build a self-serving empire. He despised the rationalism that used God’s name to oppress minds. 

Like the prodigal, Nietzsche declared his independence from God and home. He went into a far philosophical country where many still follow him today. 

A second observation is that our fantasies about the far country are always better than the country we arrive in. Marx and Lenin built a communist utopia in a country far from God, but the place they arrived in was more confining and repressive than the one they left. 

Our western civilization pursues freedom and justice through education, reason, science, and technology. But our brave new world still has mass shootings, populist leaders, rampant consumerism and massive public debt. This is not the way we imagined it. Perhaps we don’t have the wisdom and resources to build the country of our dreams. 

My third observation about the story is the fact that the owner of the farm did die. A man named Jesus who made the world died one day on a cross because the religious and political leaders had no room for him in their country. But when Jesus returned from the grave and went back to heaven, his Father threw a party saying, “My son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Let’s pray.  

Our father, with John Greenleaf Whittier we pray,
  Blow, winds of God, awake and blow
      the mists of earth away.
  Shine out, O Light divine, and show
      how wide and far we stray. 

In the words of the Anglican General Confession
     We have wandered and strayed from your ways. . .
     We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
     We have offended against your holy laws.

Our father, a thousand times we have strayed from you, and a thousand times we have come home. Bring us safely to the time of death, and to our last great homecoming to you. On that day, may we hear you say,
    Rejoice with me!
    My sons and daughters were dead and now they are now alive.
    They were lost but now they are found. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

Ep.144: Lost and Found.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.  

Luke 15 tells us that tax collectors and sinners gathered around Jesus to listen. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.” The Pharisees were Bible-study experts who had created a system of literal interpretation and developed detailed rules for doing exactly what the Bible said. They were offended that Jesus wasn’t more careful about interpreting and obeying the Bible, and they were shocked that he associated with low-lifes who thought parties were more important than Bible study.

Responding to this criticism, Jesus told three stories about people who lost something, and then threw a party when they found it.

Today, let’s look at the first story. It’s about a shepherd with one hundred sheep. One of the sheep wandered off and got lost. So the shepherd left the ninety-nine in the open country (I hope there weren’t any wolves about), and he hunted for the lost sheep until he found it. Then he joyfully brought it home on his shoulders and threw a party, saying, “Rejoice with me, I found my lost sheep.” 

Jesus said, “There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who changes his mind and comes home to God than over ninety-nine righteous people who are certain they’ve got God figured out and aren’t about to change their mind.” 

The story has at least two pointed messages and a number of loose ends. 

Jesus’ first message is to his critics, the Pharisees. He tells them, “You think you have God figured out. You think he wants everybody to be like you, living sober, rigorous lives, keeping all the rules and getting everything right. But you’re wrong about God.” Jesus told them what God wants most is to find people who are lost, so he can throw a party when they come home. 

The religious people had built their own road to God. They knew they weren’t lost, and they knew they weren’t wrong, so they didn’t appreciate Jesus’ suggestion that they were both lost AND wrong! Like the T-shirt that says, “Don’t mess with my faith, my family, my firearms, my freedom”, the Pharisees had locked themselves into a whole worldview about what was right and necessary. And on pain of death, even Jesus wasn’t permitted to mess with that. 

Jesus’ second pointed message is that everybody is lost–both the wandering sinners and the competent middle class who’ve studied how to get it right. John Newton’s famous hymn says, “Once I was lost, but now I am found.” But my experience is that we all keep wandering off and getting lost, and we need Jesus to keep finding us. 

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, we have tried to be good Christians. We have studied the Bible and interpreted it and built books of rigid doctrine and a whole system of religion that tells us how to get God’s approval. We pray the right prayers and keep the right rules. And we are sure that God will notice us and reward us with a place in heaven. And that he’ll keep the bad people out.

Jesus, what are you saying about lost sheep? And about people who need a change of mind? And about party-time in heaven? We had our change of mind when we exited the party scene and put on our religious straightjacket. Have we lost our way again? Is your story an invitation for us to change our mind again?  

O Jesus, lift us up on your shoulders and carry us home to God. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.