The Rev. John Hellams, executive pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Lebanon, Tenn., took “home” as his theme when he addressed students, faculty, and staff at an Erskine chapel session Sept. 21. Focusing on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke, he examined the meaning of the text, connected the passage to the meaning of Christmas, and spoke about why this familiar story is so significant.
In the parable, the son dishonors his father by asking for his inheritance in advance, leaves home, and leads a dissolute life, wasting the wealth his father hands over to him. Faced with his own failure and in the grip of hunger and poverty, the son decides he will return to his father’s house and ask to be taken on as a servant. As the prodigal nears the family home, his father runs out to meet him and hosts a celebration in honor of the undeserving son.
“The story of the prodigal son is a glimpse into our Father’s love for us,” Hellams said. “When we take a step back from the Bible story, what we really see is a picture and a story of all humankind.”
Like the prodigal, human beings are in exile on earth, having lost their true home through sin. It is only through Christ, who became homeless for us, that we can find our true home.
Hellams noted that Jesus was “born homeless” in a stable where animals were lodged, and cited Jesus’ words in Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
“Christmas means that Jesus left His home in heaven so that we could find our home in Him. He left the ultimate home in heaven so that we could experience life,” he said.
Hellams urged students to consider seriously the redemption won by Christ, who offers us a true home. “No matter how ‘unsavable’ you feel today, no matter how weak you feel today, no matter how hurt you feel today, Jesus Christ came to save you.”
John Hellams, shown above at right, is the son of Interim President Dr. J. Thomas Hellams, shown at left. This is his second visit to the Erskine campus as chapel speaker. He and his wife are the parents of three young daughters.