Friday, February 15, 2008

Parable of the Lost Son

There was a Church that had two sons.
The eldest son was strong and bright. He had a great sense of humour and a wonderful singing voice that was often featured Sunday mornings in the choir. He was a true blue, loyal friend and admired by all. It was said that he’d give you the shirt off of his back. He was always giving, helping out, looking for ways to be useful. He was the guy you would go to if you needed a hand.

Now the second son was ten years younger, born in a different time, and very different from his brother. He kept to himself with only a small circle of friends. It wasn’t that he wasn’t well liked or that he wasn’t sociable. People admired him for his creativity. He wrote songs and played guitar in a band in high school for a while. He could make people laugh. Not by reciting memorized jokes but with his comments on life and strange situations. If you observed him from a distance however, he often seemed to be in a dark mood; fighting storms in his head. But when he turned his attention your way, it was like a ray of sunshine would break through the clouds and warm you from the inside out.

These two sons of the Church got married each in turn and brought their children to be a part of the Church family. Their families added so much to the congregation. It gave people a sense of security just to see them there. They knew that no matter what happened out in the crazy, volatile world, the Church had a future with sons like that.

But there came a day when the younger son said goodbye. He didn’t leave town. He didn’t quit his job. He just stopped coming to Church. His children had stopped coming; dropping out just after being confirmed as leaders of their generation. And then, the younger son came less and less often until one day was his last.

People heard that his marriage had ended. People heard that he changed jobs. People heard that he was drinking; spending time with known drug-users. There was a lot to talk about – but they never asked.

The older brother and his wife and his kids kept coming to church. If anything they became even more faithful. It was like they were trying to pick up the load that was dropped – dropped right on top of their share of the weight. And the people depended on them even more.

One day the younger son heard a song on the radio. It stopped him in his tracks. It went like this…
as kids we played at adult games
all grown up and chasing fame

then we grew - got suddenly old
and found ourselves not so bold

til one day I got God’s joke
about the lightness of the yoke

that adult life is still a game
and what we do – to God - is all the same

and with a laugh I started to play
began to dance growing up God’s way

The next week he showed up at Church. Everyone was happy to see him. A big fuss was made – special welcome from the pulpit and all. It just happened to be the same day that his older brother was being inducted as the Chair of the Board. Both brothers were surprised. They hadn’t discussed Church in years.

The younger son felt bad that he had taken the wind from his brother’s sails. He knew that he didn’t deserve the special attention. So, he tried to just quietly slip in and out of Church Sunday mornings. He noticed that Worship hadn’t changed all that much in the years he had gone. But the people had. They were mostly still all the same folks, but fewer and older and a lot more tired-looking.

The older brother tried to be charitable about all that attention. He was charitable even when the pastor told him Thursday that his Sunday solo was being replaced with a guitar song from the younger brother. His wife told him it was nothing – it would all blow over. But when the week after that, the younger brother showed up with his old high school band buddies – drums and bass and amplifiers – and the church filled up with the family and friends and children of the band members - he lost it. The older brother made a scene…
Where has he been all these years?
How has he earned a place at the front of this church?
How many tables has he set up?
How many Sunday School classes has he taught?
How many evenings spent worrying about church budgets?
Has he even come to spend money at our Christmas bazaars?
And now you want to change everything just to suit him?
It just isn’t fair!

The Church went very quiet. They were very sad. They owed the older brother so much – how could they speak against him? They were afraid to lose him and the pillar of security they had leaned on for so long. Some of them just slipped quietly out the back doors. The guests saw this and started leaving too – who needs to get involved in another family fight? It was all very embarrassing. The Pastor stood there wide-eyed and open-mouthed like a deer caught in the headlights. A buzz started going through the Church. It looked like everything they’d hoped for and waited all these years for and now seemed to be happening - was suddenly unraveling right there before their eyes.

Then the town’s midwife stood. She was very old. Most everyone in the town had met her when they’d arrived all wet and new and wrinkly. She’d held them or spanked them into life and washed them and put their scared little bodies into their mother’s warm arms. She stood up and everyone stopped.
“Don’t be afraid” she said softly.
“It’s fine – just fine.
Everything will be alright – you’ll see.”

She just said what she’d always said at a birth. To newborns and big brothers and big sisters and fathers and mothers and aunts and uncles and cousins.
“There’s room enough for you in this home…
“There’s love enough for you in this world…
“With this new birth everything’s changed and everything’s still the same. You’ll see how love stretches to fit the family no matter how big it gets – how much it changes – how far apart we grow. God’s sun shines on us all if we don’t hide in the shadows.”

She went and took the older brother by the hand. She led him over to where the younger brother stood. She held out her other hand to him and when the younger brother took it, she led them both down the aisle out of the Church their arms gently swinging together into the sunny afternoon.


brenda said...

Allan, this line says it all:

"She said what she always said at a birth."

What a great sermon! This one could and should be preached...

Jean said...

Alan....this is one of your best. so true, there is room for all of us in His house. Thanks so much...........Jean