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Watching the Far Horizon.

Lent 3, Common Lectionary Year C 

Luke 15:11-24

©2016 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Jesus was indeed a master storyteller!
Parables, by their nature,
are stories designed, created
to be full of interpretive possibility.
They’re a bit like a cut diamond;
depending on how you look at them,
and in what light you look at them,
you can see so many different refractions, colours,
glimpses of Gospel!

For example, with our children this morning,
we focussed most of our Gospel-seeking attention
upon the child – the one which most English Bibles
call the “Prodigal”- the wasteful one.
Instead of looking down our righteous noses
at her, our search for Gospel led us to look at her,
as the parent in the story does, as a much loved child,
for all her adventurous, reckless ways.
You know,
the one bound to make the biggest mistakes,
the child so many of us have been, or have parented!
The wild child, no less loved for being a pain and a worry,
and the one we will shed tears over,
of anguish as they wander far and deep
into the wilderness of far off-countries,
and tears or relief and joy
when the door finally creaks open at 2 in the morning.

Gospel for our children as they grow,
is to see themselves in this story,
enfolded in holy touch,
embraced in the loving arms of God,
who loves them so dearly,
no matter what they have done or will ever do.

This was the preparation we did for KidZone and this service a few weeks ago.
But this week, our Syrian Refugee response
has moved forward a significant step.
[Actions Refugies is busy matching us to one of their clients, who is seeking
to bring family out of danger and threat to safety and possibility here in Montreal.]

Jesus’ amazing cut-diamond parable
in light of this development,
revealed to me new facets, new colours.

All of a sudden the story isn’t only about the wild days
of parties and poor decisions,
of a ridiculously easy grace granted to us
ordinary, wayward, mistake-making prodigals.

Now, it becomes a story of anguish, hopelessness,
and ultimately one of refuge and homecoming.

Let me show you;
in one short phrase,
Jesus knocks the moral pedestal over,
and takes the story deep down
to that most elemental level of survival
in a dry and weary land.

He says, “There was severe famine all through the land,
and the youth was famished, in great need.
He hired himself out, taking the job of a pig herder,
just to survive.”

When Adventurer fell on hard times,
we asked our children to imagine what that might be like.
Sleeping on a hard floor, no shelter,
no blanket, no clean clothes, no shower, soap,
no safe drinking water, no reliable source of food.
What must it be like,
a foreigner in a strange land,
surrounded by language and signage,
customs and costumes, that are so different?
People looking at you, wondering why you’re here,
why don’t you back home?
(“I wish I could”)
Day following day of inexorable vulnerability
that most of us cannot fathom,
as we can barely stand to watch 20 seconds
on our news channels of this horror of displacement, hunger, fear, xenophobia.

We read on…. through Adventurer’s
complicated strategies to find a way
out of the mess…
bargaining, pleading, taking whatever
is given, if only to get a chance
to start over, to get a future back.

“I’ll clean out the pigs,
I’ll be a servant, a garbage truck driver,
an overnight office cleaner, a migrant agricultural worker!
I’ll risk winter seas in an open boat,
I’ll walk around closed borders after closed border if that’s what it takes,
only, World, just, give us a chance!”

It’s suddenly no longer a favourite story,
it’s dark, it’s hopeless.
….
But it’s a parable, a Gospel story told by Jesus.
He knows what we need to know.
Only now, we’re ready, desperate to hear it…

It goes like this…
“While Adventurer/ the lost one,
the loved one was still far off,
the father saw…”
The father saw, watching the far horizon!

You know this too.
The chair shifted so you can see the driveway,
the window left open a nick to hear the street,
the sign in every store window in the neighbourhood,
the amber alert, the facebook posts
“have you seen this child, this woman, this person…?”
the daily walk along the street of last sighting,
the door-key left under the mat,
the favourite food kept like an icon of hope in the fridge.
That’s what it’s like to watch, wait,
long for,
the homecoming of a lost, loved one.
This parent in Jesus’ parable is all of that.
Morning, night, walking up the hill
to watch the far horizon,
day after week, after month, after year…
hope never extinguished,
because that’s what love does;
it watches the far horizon.
It fills the waiting with… love…
with preparation…
… Why was there a fatted calf,
all ready?
Why was there a robe on the hook,
socks and slippers tucked neatly, waiting?
Wine in the barrels, the pita and olives,
the favourite dessert…?
That’s what love does,
watching the far horizon,
for the lost to find their way home.

Amazing story, right?
Where do we see ourselves in it, Cedar Park?
I see us out there, day after week,
watching the far horizon,
waiting with God-given love,
with hope,
hands empty, open waiting to receive
the blessing of a stranger.
Waiting to give God’s good welcome home.

And when it happens,
when we see, still a long way off,
I know, we’re going to cast dignity to the wind
as we kick off our shoes
and run, arms outstretched,
hands reaching across the miles,
every fibre of our being spelling
Ahlan wa Sahlan!
“Welcome Home!”
Thanks be to God.

——
On Friday evening, our SRR team will host an evening, to share the hope, the vision and the call of God to us to ‘watch the far horizon’ and to prepare a welcome for those seeking a new beginning.
I hope you’ll be able to join us.

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