4 Lent March 6, 2016
Joshua 5:9-12 Ps.32
2 Cor. 5:17-21 Luke 15:11-32
Catherine: So, my friends how did you like the Parable of the Irresponsible and Prodigal Son?
Rylie: Excuse me. Don't you think it should be called the Parable of the Forgiving Father who could not practice "tough love?"
Sasha: Excuse me. Don't you think it should be called the Parable of the Responsible Big Brother who thought his dad favored his younger brother?
Catherine: Whatever, you want to call this parable, if it were a play, which character would you like to play? I personally, would not want to be the fatted calf. You know what happened to him. Perhaps it would be interesting to be one of the persons who attended the homecoming party. But if this were a play, which part would you want to play?
Rylie: I, would of course, love to play the loving and generous father who did not just rejoice when his son returned home, he threw him a big party, bought him a new tuxedo, even though his son had wanted to get far away from his dad and his home and never come back.
Sasha: Do you really think that you would be that forgiving? And why wouldn't you give the older brother some credit for always being faithful and staying at home to work for his dad?
Catherine: That's true, I think everyone could understand why the older brother would have some very hurt feelings. He was probably thinking? What the use to be loyal? There is no reward in being loyal. So, Sasha, would you like to play the older brother?
Sasha: Well, he was a bit unforgiving and jealous, but I think everyone can understand why he did not think it was fair.
Rylie: Does anyone want to play the irresponsible and rebellious son?
Catherine: I would, of course, because playing the bad person would bring out more flamboyant acting scenes. Can you imagine having all that money and blowing it all on spending sprees and parties. Wouldn't that be a great role to play?
Sasha: But what if you had to become a kosher pig farmer, who became so poor that you became jealous of the pigs food?
Catherine: As an actor, the rebellious child would allow me to explore a full range of acting skills. What actor wouldn't like that? The lovable father might seem to be foolish with love.
Rylie: Yes, he did allow the rebellious to take his inheritance long before he died. And his son wasted all of his inheritance and then came crawling back home. I guess I would like to know what Dad said to his son after the homecoming party? He probably said, "Okay, Junior, the party is over now. Remember that your older brother has been loyal and faithful. You are going to have to behave in a way that allows our family to believe in you again. Are you ready for a life of being responsible?"
Sasha: Well, that's the part of the story that we do not hear. The father can be loving and he can welcome his rebellious son back home, but he also can ask that his son change his future behaviors. He can ask that his young son prove that he can be a good brother,
Catherine: Well, we have had fun with the story, but it could be that Jesus used stories to teach his listeners. A story is like a mirror. If I look into the mirror and see a smudge on my face, then I know I have to wash my face. If I didn't have the mirror, I would embarrass myself by going into public with a dirty face.
Rylie: So the story of Jesus is like a mirror. We can see ourselves in the loving father, in the rebellious son and in the older brother.
Sasha: We can be loving and forgiving. We also can be rebellious and sinful. We can be in need of forgiveness. We can need to be humble and go and admit that we made a mistake.
Catherine: We can also be unforgiving like the older brother. When we are good at something, we might be harsh when people are not good in areas of our strengths and ability. So we can be judgmental.
Rylie: As people we can find ourselves in all three characters. We can be loving and forgiving. We can be rebellious and in need of forgiveness. And we can be judgmental and jealous.
Sasha: There is one catch though. God only plays one of the roles. God is only in the role of the loving and forgiving father. God is not like the rebellious son or the unforgiving son. So God just plays one role.
Catherine: So, today we have this parable of Jesus as a mirror for our lives too. We can be rebellious and unforgiving, but we also have the ability to be loving and forgiving. We can learn to be like the loving father.
Rylie: When we are sinful, we know we need someone who forgives us. And when we judge someone else we know that others need forgiveness too. So the younger son and the older son need to grow up and become like the loving father.
Sasha: We too, are always on the path of growing up to be loving, kind and forgiving like God is.
Catherine: And let us not forget why Jesus told the parable in the first place.
Rylie: Why did he tell it?
Catherine: Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders when they saw him eating with people who were not religious. They did not think Jesus was very religious because they thought he was meeting with sinners and rebellious people.
Sasha: Jesus came to teach that all people are the children of God. Nobody has the right to say that someone is not worthy of God's love. And how can people know that God loves them if someone does not tell them?
Rylie: Jesus came to remind people that they are God's children and they are invited to come home to God's family. God will give to everyone a loving welcome.
Catherine: The Eucharist on Sunday is God's party to welcome everyone to God's table.
Sasha: And we all know that there are lots of empty seats at God's table.
Rylie: This means that we need to be like Jesus; we need to welcome as many people as possible to know God as our loving and forgiving parent. We need to invite everyone to God's party.
Catherine: So, people of St. John's; if Jesus welcomed everyone to God's party of forgiveness, we too need to welcome the people we meet to know God's love and forgiveness.