The Bare Soul - May 11, 2008
The Prodigal Son
Or How to Come to Your Senses and Stop Living for Yourself

The following is part of a sermon I delivered at the Kansas City Rescue Mission on May 8, 2008. To listen to the entire message, click the following link or the one at the end of the sermon text.

The Prodigal Son - May 8, 2008

I believe many of us in this room this evening can identify with the words of Jesus' parable. Let's face it – we're not high rollers if we ended up here tonight. I will wager that not one of us said, "I think I'll leave the comfort of my luxurious home and family to come down and spend a night at the mission. I need to come down and eat and sleep with 50 other guys because I am just getting quite sick of all this comfort and love that I’ve been accustomed to." The truth of the matter is this: Those of us who have spent night after night in missions are there out of necessity and not out of choice. For some of us, this is the “last house on the block”, because all have given up on us. We can relate to the prodigal as he hires himself out to the farmer at the time of famine because he has no other place to go. He is very much like some of you in this room tonight that have exhausted all of your resources. Some of you get monthly checks where you live "high on the hog" for the first few days of the month and then are like the prodigal and are forced to humiliate yourself by relying on missions for a meal and a covering over your head. Others have alienated every friend that you have in regular society because you have used them up like you have “used” throughout your lives with alcohol and drugs. And so, for whatever reason, here you sit once again because you don't have any other option but to rely on the mercy of Christian brothers and sisters that will reach out a hand. Of course there is another option. Every one here has the option of "coming to your senses" like the prodigal did. As I have a finger pointed out at you in the audience tonight, I have three fingers pointed back at myself. I too have sat where you sit. I have heard the appeal of God through someone who has stood where I am standing tonight. The only difference between you and me is that I made a choice to do things differently. This evening, we are going to see how to “do things differently” through the example of the prodigal.

You see, the prodigal was much like many of you when you were younger. Many of you were once part of society before giving yourselves over to alcohol and drugs and then finally to the streets. Back then, you could still give yourself to others and be part of your community because you weren't a total "taker and User". However, drugs and alcohol kept taking from you every bit of selfless living that you once possessed. Addiction is a cruel taskmaster. It bleeds us of every bit of selfless living and makes us demand of ourselves and others to do what is best for "self". It made you a person where all you could think about was your next drink or drug. In so doing, you began using up those people around you where you ended up totally isolated. The "inheritance" of good morals and thinking of others, other than yourself, that your parents or others taught you had gone by the wayside. No longer did you care for anyone but yourself. The time had come where all your inheritance or all that you once had as a self-respecting person of the community had been spent up and now you had hired your self out to your own self destructive behavior. You are no longer your own master, but Satan and your own fleshly alcoholic and addictive nature now rules you. You have given yourself up to the streets just as the prodigal gave himself up to feed swine.

All of us have different “tops” before we hit our respective “bottoms. Some of us had everything at one time – families, good jobs, beautiful homes, fine cars. Others had some of this or maybe none of this. It doesn’t matter. We all had a “high point” in our respective lives before we started the plummet into selfishness, addiction, and sin. Sin is patient and waits for us and grabs hold of our lives at our most vulnerable point, dragging us down to a place of hopelessness. That’s where I was 16 years ago. Years before, I had experienced the streets and was probably closer to going back on the streets than I had been in a long time. Through years of binge drinking and living off of others, I had hit bottom. I had fallen from my own “high point” in life and had wasted the years of love and care that my family instilled in me. It was the beginning of my end.

We have all wandered away from God and man. Your case is just more evident than most, as it was in my case. Other than a brief encounter with God in 1976, my life was a continual running away to that “distant land” as it talks about in the reading. Sure, I had times when I could put together some sobriety, but there were more painful times when I had less than what I see many of you possess. There were times when everything I had was stolen because I was living on the streets and the clothes I wore were filthy. For me, the best thing to do was to keep moving from town to town and city to city, sleeping wherever I was offered a place to sleep. I stayed in several missions and Salvation Army locations throughout those years. Many times I huddled in a covered area in a vacant lot or any other place where I could be out of sight and out of the weather.

So what does it take to come to one's senses like the prodigal? As many of you know, it is not something you can automatically turn on just when you want it. It is not like saying, "Well, that was a pretty horrible experience living on the streets so now I think I will go back to what I had before and become a respectable person once again." If it was as easy as that, many of you would have gone back to respectability long ago. But what you have found is that you are trapped and do not have the will power or the understanding of how to return. I am going to challenge you tonight that very possible the prodigal did not know how to return either, but he made a crucial decision and started on that journey. The scripture states that "he came to his senses". This implies to me that he had not yet come to a place of total repentance, but yet he knew that he must start toward a different live. His senses were convincing him that he had made wrong decisions and now he must remedy his decisions. First of all, he was probably appalled that his clothes were rags. (As I look out in the audience tonight I see that most are dressed quite nice. I am always amazed about this country’s so called "poor". Our street people and poor dress nicer than most of the rest of the world.) Next, he felt the hunger in his stomach knowing that his father's servants were fed much better than what he was presently experiencing. And, lastly but probably even more important, he felt the utter loneliness of being isolated -- isolated from all his former life of family and friends. He was all alone because of the choices he had made and he began to understand this. It wasn't anything anyone did to him. He had a good upbringing as many of you did. Even those of you who did not, it doesn't matter. It was still your choice and the sooner you recognize that you are responsible for the choices you made in life the better. I don't care if your mother and father beat you with barbed wire every Sunday and rammed your heads into the refrigerator on Mondays, it was still you who made the choices that have brought you here tonight. Sure, you may be disadvantaged more than others, but that doesn't mean that God's hand was not there to pull you up if you but have asked and insisted that He do so.

Some of you here tonight would love to get free. You just don't think you know how. The key is to start on the journey back to the Father. Even as the prodigal did not necessarily have all that he wanted when he came to his senses, he knew that in order to get back a portion of what he had lost that he must start the journey back. The scripture says when the prodigal left that he went to a distant country to squander his wealth. The journey back to his father was undoubtedly tough. He had no food, no shelter, and it probably took weeks or months. However, he kept on going knowing that he had no other choice. Was it tough? Of course it was but the alternative was intolerable in the mind of the prodigal. Has the alternative of the streets become intolerable in your minds tonight? It had in mine that is why I can stand before you tonight as a recovering alcoholic of 16 years. When I put the plug in the jug it was just the beginning of my journey back. There are some here tonight that will always scoff at “returning to God”. There are some here who laugh behind the backs of those who have made a decision to enter the Christian Development Program here at KCRM and start the journey back. These are those who have not come to the end of themselves. Possibly, they never will. They will succumb to hopelessness and give themselves to the “swine” of their own circumstances because they don’t have the sense to do otherwise. However, some of you here tonight are on the brink of a decision. You feel yourself on the precipice of hopelessness and you don’t want to fall in, but you desperately want to start to a repentant life with the Lord. How do I start back? Well, like the prodigal you start by starting. You come to your senses and you first tell God that you are ready to start back. Then, you tell everyone in this room that you’re ready to start the journey back. Will it be easy? I guarantee it won’t. Will there be those that will help you? Undeniably! Paul stated in the book of Romans, “Where sin abounds, grace does abound all that much more!!” He is waiting for you tonight to first come to your senses. Understand that you have done a horrible job of steering your life up to this point and that you are ready to begin to have God steer your life back to a life centered on Jesus rather than self.

Lord Jesus, help those that are wanting a changed life to come to their senses tonight and make a decision for you. Let them know that You will be with them every step of the way as they start their journey back to the Father of Mercy. In Jesus name, amen.

The Prodigal Son - May 8, 2008

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

Back to Barefoot Rick's Reflections