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Sunday, August 4: Day 104 – The Union Church of Istanbul

The Union Church of Istanbul has been meeting in the Dutch Chapel since 1857. The chapel is located just off Istiklal Caddesi, in the heart of Istanbul in one of the oldest buildings in Istanbul. It is an interdenominational English-speaking church with a congregation made up of people from many different backgrounds and nationalities. It is a warm and friendly place to be.

We were informed to come early as there would be a security check and to bring our passports. When we arrived, there were three security guards. They checked our identification, our backpacks were run through an x-ray, and we walked through a metal detector. We had to leave our bags with security.

The early church was very similar but low tech. They met in secret often in the catacombs and had children playing out front. If you made the sign of the fish, you would be led to the gathering of believers. Today it is the same, only different.

Actually, we were informed that it is attached to the Dutch Embassy so that is the reason for security.


Netherlands, England, USA, Iran


All the songs were very familiar to my Western ear.

  • Better is One Day
  • Cornerstone
  • Here I am to Worship
  • Lord, I Need You
  • Holy is the Lord * This song is by Chris Tomlin and my dear friend, Janel Hunt, was able to see him in person on July 26 at the best concert venue ever: Red Rocks in Colorado. One day all three of us are going to dance on God’s Great Dance Floor together!!

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32

Sermon: The Third Son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Vasihar Baskaran

The setting was established in Luke 15: 1&2. Jesus’ audience consisted of two contrasting groups:

  • Pharisees and scribes
  • Tax collectors and sinners

The Pharisees and scribes did not feel that sinners had value. In fact, they despised them.

The theme of chapter 15 is concerning the Grace of God toward sinful humanity.

The three parables of this chapter deal with the lost and found. One thing that they all have in common is that when the lost is found, there was great rejoicing.

Also, the lost became more significant throughout the chapter. First, there was one lost sheep out of one hundred; then one lost coin out of ten; and one or both are lost to the father.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is also recorded in Matthew 18:12-14. However, the Lost Coin and Lost Sheep are unique to Luke 15.

Younger Son

Inheritance was given out upon death. Asking for the money was like saying, “Father, I wish you were dead.” This displayed a serious dishonor to his father and revealed his rebellious nature.

The father allowed it even though it severed connections with his family and society. He displayed selfishness and greed. He wanted his rights without responsibility. He felt restrained by his home and was attracted to the world.

When we value things more than people, we squander our lives. Life is not possessions. Embrace the things that money can’t buy.

The younger son found the work unacceptable and humilitating in the distant land. Verse 16 implies that he was a beggar but no one would give him food.

Sin promises a life that brings death. Romans 6:23 states The wages of sin is death.

We think that sin bring freedom but it delivers enslavement. We settle for earthly possessions when God wants to give us heavenly riches.

He “came to himself”. We only be ourselves when we are with the father.

He rehearsed his speech. A hired man is even lower than a slave. A slave is part of the family. A hired man is only garanteed work for a day. Also, only true children of the father are given shoes. Slaves are barefoot. So the father giving him HIS shoes is significant. You are a son!

Some expositors think that he wanted to use his father again…that conviction is not conversion.

Maybe…but it wasn’t his badness that lead him back home but the father’s goodness. See Romans 2:4


By verse 20, the parable reveals that the father looks down the road often. He is longing for him to return.

One day he saw him and recognized his son’s stride. The father runs out to meet his son. In this culture, it would be improper for an old man to run, especially as he would has to raise his tunic to do so. Exposing the legs is culturally banned.

Additionally, he ran to meet him lest the townspeople gather to stone him since that is what was required. The father must have known this and must have thought, “Let the stone first fall on me.”

The young son was broken, not ruined. He was not unwanted, he was lost. By killing the fattened calf, the whole community was invited to the feast. The community accepted him for the sake of the father. They would be cordial to the son in order to honor the father. The son would be received back into the community.

Older Son

The older son heard music. He should have talked to his father but instead asked a servant. He refused to come in to the party. The father was humiliated in front of his guests. The father had to come outside to talk with his son. As ruler of his house, he could have commanded that he come inside the house. He was patient.

Verses 29&30 revealed the anger and rudeness of the older son. He should address him as Father but instead said “Look”.

  1. He was angry. It is normal to feel anger. Be angry but do not sin. Psalm 4:4 and Eph 4:26
  2. He felt like slave.
  3. His father had not thrown a party for him and his friends.
  4. He referred to his brother as this son of yours.
  5. He accused his brother of using prostitutes. Verse 13 said nothing about prostitutes*
  6. He had an unforgiving heart toward brother AND father.

*The older son had a peculiarly nasty mind. There is no mention of harlots until he mentions them. He, no doubt, suspected his brother of the sins he himself would have liked to commit.–William Barkley.

The point of verses 31&32 are often overlooked. Even though the older son is always with the father and living in the father’s house, he doesn’t understand the heart of the Father. He is far away from his father.

In Luke 15, everyone experiences joy except older son. He was self righteous and proud and felt that he was not treated fairly. He did not get what he thought he deserved. He could not find joy in the well being of others. This broke the heart of father. And breaks the heart of OUR Father.

God’s Ideal Son JESUS

The third son of the Father is Jesus. He left heaven. He became as a human. He didn’t demand his inheritance. He honored His Father. He didn’t claim that he wasn’t treated fairly. And his homecoming served as the greatest joy in heaven by angel celebration and the greatest joy on earth by creating the church.

Kite – An Illustration

One day a kite wanted to be free from its string. The kite felt the it was being held back. Also, without the string, it could fly higher.

When the string was cut, the kite came crashing down. Not only does the string allow us to fly, it keep us from falling.

Let God hold the string!

Rob commented at the end of the service that it was the best sermon on the Parable of the Prodigal Son that he has ever heard…and he’s heard a lot!!

Now Rob’s favorite part – Lunch was served after the service.

He has searched the world…so far…and found the perfect church!!!

After the service, we met lots of interesting followers of Jesus Christ.

Michael-an Egyptian Coptic Christian who matured into a “follower of Jesus”. He worked at Walter Reed Hospital. He quit to serve in a string of short term missions. He is living at Fred’s home.

Fred, a Canadian missionary to Turkey, has been here 3 years and hopes to be here 20 years. He has a degree and experience in construction. He said that the church that we attended today is the largest in Istanbul. There were about 50 people. We talked about the class Perspectives. He said that there are many cities in Turkey where there is not a single believer in Jesus. Turkey was the location of Paul’s missionary journeys where the early church was established. What happened? Pray for him AND them!

Melvin, a microbiologist originally from Sierra Leone, now works in cargo.

Timothy, an architect student from Ankara, originally from Uganda. He plays guitar in the worship band in the summer. He loves Chris Tomlin, too.

Seek God, Not “It.” “It” will not make you happy.

The strength and the happiness of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too. Henry Ward Beecher


May Rob and I go the way that God is going!!

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