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It’s All in the Family:
Risking Reconciliation

Luke 15:1-3,11b-32
2 Corinthians 5:26-21

You know, for a guy who didn’t have a family, Jesus sure seemed to know a lot about family dynamics.
Ever witnessed a disagreement in a family over inheritance? Read the Prodigal Son.
Ever have a kid leave home and you were sick with worry about where they were and what was happening to them? Read the Prodigal Son.
Ever need to leave home-to break out of the nest to find yourself? to try life out on your own terms? Read the Prodigal Son.
Ever screw up in your life? have to ask for forgiveness? Ever have to make the long walk home to reconciliation? It’s all there.
Ever been met with unexpected, unconditional love when you expected blame and judgement? Read the Prodigal Son.
Ever feel resentful when someone got treated generously when you didn’t feel they deserved it? Ever had trouble celebrating what you already have, Ever resent others who can? Ever feel that you have given faithfully, working your buns off, but don’t get appreciated while another does? Read the prodigal son.
Ever made a move towards God, only to find God already racing towards you? It’s all in this parable.

It’s amazing how deeply we find ourselves in this story. Many of us have lived it; some, in more than one part of the story.

Our Lenten theme is Journey to the Edge. There are a lot of edges in this story. The younger son has deeply insulted his father and told him he wished he was dead by asking for his inheritance. Those hearing this story would be appalled by such disrespect for a middle eastern father. What son would do that to his father? What elder brother would allow it? What father would give the inheritance? This is totally counter cultural!

The younger son, rebelling against his upbringing, consorts with whores and party animals and ends up feeding pigs, unclean animals for righteous Jews. He’s as low as he can go, way over the edge.
What a long walk to risk return, to acknowledge how lost he had become, to risk rejection! How many people stay lost because they are afraid of the kind of welcome the older brother would have given. Can you imagine that older brother running out to greet the lost one? Can you imagine him throwing a feast of celebration for this wastrel? No, he’d give him what he deserved.. A good tongue-lashing maybe! Something that would make him realize what a worm he was and how hard you’d had to work on the farm while he was off partying! And he’d be justified wouldn’t he?

The good news of Jesus, the shocking, unsettling good news of Jesus, is that God, is like the welcoming father, not the elder brother, While we are only half way there, God is already running out to meet us with arms open in welcoming embrace; welcoming us home. You see the father in the parable loves both sons, the one who was lost, and the one who faithfully stayed home.

I wonder what happened next? Would reconciliation continue? or would the family all go back to the same old, same old patterns? Would the elder son’s heart soften, or would sibling rivalry become unbearable? Would the younger son be able to tell his story and recognize the pain his behaviour had caused? Would he learn to live as an accepted one or would he hang on to the identity of the rejected one? My guess is that this family still had a lot of work to do. Reconciliation is courageous. It is risky. And it is a process which can take some time.

This story comes to life for me in a modern story told by a clergy colleague Frank Fisher.
“Are you sure that this’s the bus to Los Angeles?”
Those words slip quietly from your lips as you look at the long line
of Greyhound buses standing waiting at the terminal.
For you’re seventeen years old and it’s the first time that you’re traveling alone.
Being here in this big empty bus station
is a more than a little bit scary.
And your fear sends a thought racing briefly through your mind.
You wish just for a moment that your parents could be here with you.
That, of course, is impossible, and you choke back a tear
as you push that thought away.
You know,that when you’re running away from home, parents
don’t usually come along.

And even if your parents were here right now, they probably wouldn’t be too happy to see you.
They probably won’t ever want to see you again. It’s not just the argument that you had with them last night. Although that was bad enough.
Besides the argument there was the little matter about the money that you took out of your checking account. The money that you intended to use
to finance your trip.

All that it took to get the money was to forge your mother’s name on a cheque. It was pretty easy, and pretty clever,even if you do say so yourself.
But keeping it was a little bit harder.
It’s been gone for about ten minutes now. It must have happened
right after you took out all your money to pay for your bus ticket.
As you turned away from the window, you’d felt a gentle brush at your pocket.A touch that seemed so insignificant that you didn’t even bother to check your wallet.
About five minutes later you’d suddenly thought to check your wallet.
It was gone. Gone along with it, all the money that your parents had saved for your college education.

Well, all that’s in the past now.There’s nothing that you can do
to bring back the money.And probably, nothing that you can do to patch up things with your parents.
So you climb onto the bus,settle back into your seat and drift off to sleep.

When you awake the bus is pulling into the Los Angles station.
You shake your head to clear the sleep from your eyes, and you stand up
and make your way off of the bus.
Surrounding you is a seething mass of people.
Each and every person in this crowd
seems to be confidently striding toward their destination.
And you, haven’t got the slightest clue about where you should go.

Your indecision apparently makes you stand out from the crowd, and you hear a strange voice say,
“Hey kid, are you lost or something?”
You turn around and notice the speaker.
He’s about thirty years old, very well dressed,
and he’s got a very friendly look on his face.
Your parents always told you not to trust strangers.
But everyone here’s a stranger,and you need to talk to somebody!
So you pour out your story, as this man looks on with sympathetic eyes.

After you’re done, he tells you that he’s got a place for you to stay.
As you seem to be out of other options you go with him.
He takes you to a very plush,and very large,town house
in the center of the city. He feeds you a fantastic supper
and shows you to a really big room,a place,he says, for you to stay for awhile.

Over the next few days this treatment continues,
until, one evening he mentions that tomorrow
it’s going to be time for you to start earning your keep.
He’ll take you, he says, to another place that’s just as nice as this one.
A place that you’ll share with lots of other kids your age.
And he tells you that during each day, you’ll have some visitors
He then proceeds to tell you in graphic detail,
what you’ll be expected to do for the entertainment of those visitors.

You’re trembling when he’s done with the description.
The kind look is completely gone from his eyes
as he roughly grabs you by the arm, drags you to your room,
and locks you inside.

Desperately you look around, and notice that the window’s open.
Abandoning all your possessions you climb out the window, and drop to the ground.You run, from that place as fast as you can, until you see a police officer standing on a corner.
The officer listens to your story with a grim expression on her face.
Then she leads you to a police station and hands you a phone so you can call your parents.

They arrive latter that same day and they’re both sobbing as they gather you into their arms.
On the way home you tell them about the money.
And as you arrive at your home, you promise
that you’ll drop out of school and go to work to earn the money to pay them back.
They both embrace you. And tell you that you’ll do no such thing.Then they lead you into the house,
your mother says,”come out to the kitchen,your father has a surprise for you.”
You turn the corner into the kitchen and find the table set with the finest dishes and silver.
And you see that there are preparations underway for a fantastic party.
Your father’s eyes brim over once again as he tells you that in the time you’ve been gone your place has always been set at the table.
You start to protest that you don’t deserve this,
but both your parents stop you.
They tell you that to them all that matters is that you’ve been found. That you’re home again, that you’re safe, and that you’re alive.
Your tears blend with theirs
as all around you the celebration begins.
You know you are home.

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