Today’s Scrip-Bit   27 April 2022 Luke 15:17a.

Luke 15:17a. And when he came to himself…

Wednesday’s looking good! But would you believe that the temperature right now is close to freezing, and there was some frost on the land last night, and a few flurries a while ago? That at the end of April. But that’s how it goes these days; nothing sure and steadfast except Jesus. We need to remember that, every day we awaken and His breath of life still flows through our body…ONLY Jesus cares…and ONLY He has the power to do anything different. 

And today we’re going to check out a rather interesting poem written in the early 20th century by Toronto’s ‘Jail Poet.’ That’s John McDonagh, who according to a recent story in the Toronto Star Newspaper, in the days leading up to Easter 1907, was fined $5 for selling his poem ‘The Prodigal’s Return (Written from Real Life)’ on the streets of Toronto without a license. I guess we could call him Toronto’s first Poet Laureate, because it seems like he made a decent living from his many writings. 

And the ‘Jail Poet’ name apparently came from his being incarcerated several times at the Langstaff Jail Farm north of the city, where convicts served short sentences and did agricultural work, and then writing the very popular poem ‘The Man Behind the Wheelbarrow.’ Unfortunately, not much was known of McDonagh’s background, but he seemed to travel much in the province selling his work, and most of his poems have apparently been lost. It seems he spent his money on food and stuff for others. He also appeared to have addictions and mental problems, and was sentenced to confinement at the mental hospital at 999 Queen Street. 

But the poem we’re going to read today was published by the Star in 1907. It’s aptly titled ‘The Prodigal’s Return,’ with the subtitle (Written from Real Life.) Please read with me: ‘For a great many years I wandered about and I lived on the husks as they fell, Yes, the wages of sin it surely is death As the Lord in His word doth us tell. Yes, I wandered about, from pillar to post, and my substance in riotness spent. But the Lord followed up, and laid on the stripes No matter wherever I went. 

I’m the Prodigal son, and I came to myself; I’d been “feeding the swine” as of yore, But I turned ‘about face’ and started for home with a heart that was bleeding and sore. My father saw me while yet afar off, He knew ‘twas His Prodigal boy, He fell on my neck, and kissed his poor child While his heart was o’er flooded with joy. With a ring for my finger and a chain for my neck My Father did welcome me home. Yes, he welcomed me back though a poor erring child And no more from my Saviour I’ll roam. 

For I tell you, dear friends, if you sow to the wind ‘Tis the winds you surely shall reap For ‘tis thus that we read in the Lord’s Holy Word And his word with a vengeance he’ll keep. For ‘vengeance is mine’ he also hath said And he says, “I will surely repay.” ‘Tis a great stubborn fact, and millions on earth Are reaping the whirlwind today. So I say to you youthful when starting in life Trusting in Jesus, make heaven the prize, And don’t ever list to Old Nick’s luring voice For he’s surely the “father of lies.” 

He’s an oily tongued monster, with poisonous fangs. A fact which I’ve proved real well, Yes, he lured me right on, ‘till I stood, my dear friends, On the verge of a fierce, yawning hell.” And I say to you aged, who are still out of Christ, ‘Tis a terrible place where you stand, The Lord in his mercy is beckoning still Oh, why not reach out for his hand? So pray for me, brothers, and pray for me sisters, The Master’s great cause to maintain And help me win souls for heaven above since I’m back to my Father again.’ J.J.M. McDonagh. Belleville, June 28, 1907. 

Wow! What more can I say friends? I like it, a sermon in poem form. He hit all the right spots in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32. He certainly knew God’s Word better than many of us do today. I like how he talks about spending his substance ‘in riotness’ and then living on the husks as they fell, referring to the Prodigal son after wasting his wealth on riotous living, feeding pigs in a foreign land, the lowest state a Jewish person could ever come to. Jesus said it thus: ‘And he would fain (gladly) have filled his belly with the husks (carob pods) that the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him.’ (Luke 15:16) 

But please note what McDonagh says: ‘But the Lord followed up And laid on the stripes No matter wherever I went.’ Ah friends, our wonderful God allows us to roam freely, but at a price, and if we’re lucky, blessed and wise, we’ll reach the point like Jesus said: ‘And when he came to himself…’ Oh my people, so many of us in these tempestuous and turbulent times so badly need to come to ourselves and realize that Jesus is the ONLY way to go and accept Him as Lord and Saviour, like the prodigal son finally did. ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father…And he arose and came to his father.’ (Luke 15:17b-18a, 20a)

I like how McDonagh puts it: ‘But I turned “about face” and started for home with a heart that was bleeding and sore.’ Yes friends, that’s where Jesus excels; in healing wounded and broken hearts, of giving comfort to the comfortless! He’s the Master of that! He’s Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals! And please Remember ‘the Great Invitation’ (Matt. 11:28-30) So, if today you’re wounded and hurting and needing comfort, then the best place to turn is to Jesus! He will never turn you away…for remember, that’s who He came to save, the sick, the hurt and wounded. 

And just like the prodigal when you come to Jesus, He knows all about you. ‘My Father saw me while yet afar off, He knew ‘twas His prodigal boy, He fell on my neck, and kissed his poor child, while his heart was o’er flooded with joy.’ And that’s the exact reaction that Jesus has when we come to Him! He knows us because He’s been keeping watch over us all the time, just waiting for us to come to our senses. And oh, the joy that flows in heaven when we come to Him. Listen to Jesus on the subject. ‘I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just (upright) persons, which need no repentance.’ (Luke 15:7) 

Yes friends, there is indeed great joy in heaven when the lost is found, when the wayward comes home and those living in darkness, see the light! And it’s our job to help those who don’t know Jesus and His marvellous attributes to see the light, the error of their ways and turn to Him for succour, salvation and eternal life. And for those of us who are sincerely trying to do that, let’s go home now declaring (chuh!!!) our Wednesday Wail, letting all and sundry know of our wonderful position in Christ Jesus. 

Altogether now: ‘Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday: I’m so glad to be alive on this Wednesday! Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday: Thank God the breath of life is still flowing through me on this Wednesday! I am halfway home. My hands are fixed securely on the plough, and I’m not turning back. I’m not looking back at the past, not focusing on what has gone before. But my eyes are fixed straight ahead; straight ahead to a glorious future with Jesus. Glory Hallelujah!’ 

And a gentle reminder to us all…if we endure unto the end, then that future will be even more glorious than we can ever ask or imagine. Wow! That means enduring to the end my people! Much LOVE!

…even when we walk away from Jesus…He keeps us in His sights…patiently waiting…for our prodigal return… 

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