Lost – March 31, 2019


Reflections by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

March 31, 2019

Main Idea: God’s love is scandalous and beyond measure

For the Season of Lent we are exploring the wilderness using our 5 senses.  The first week we used our sense of hearing to ponder the different voices that speak to us and how we discern to whom we listen.  The second week we considered how our sense of sight helps and hinders the commitments we make to each other and to God.  Last week was a tasty exploration of the physical and spiritual foods that we ingest and how they nourish us.  Today our sense is touch and we will enter into one of Jesus’ most beloved parables by embodying it; acting it out and touching the thoughts and motivations of the three main characters.  As I read the Scripture story, we are fortunate to have Jim Calder, Steve Lewis, and Mark Paulsen embody the story and share meditations from their characters’ perspective.  We will also have the opportunity to ask them questions so that we too might touch upon the truth revealed.

2nd Son’s reflection -Hello, I am the younger son and I am so glad to be able to tell you about who I am and why I do what I do.  As the younger son, I got no respect.  Not only did I have to do what my father told me, but my bossy older brother seemed to think he was lord and master over me.  I hated working on the farm and I yearned to see the world, to be master of my own fate.  I could not wait to get away which is why I asked for my inheritance early.  I know that was disrespectful, even insulting, to my father because normally I would not receive it until after he died so it seemed like I couldn’t wait until he was dead, which is true, I guess.    He didn’t seem to mind though because he gave it to me without reproach.  I was ready to set out and see the world!

As I traveled, I perhaps was not the best in handling my money because I soon ran out.  But it was fun while it lasted!  A famine hit too, which of course, was out my control.   I went to work at the only place that would hire me, feeding pigs.  Pigs are dirty animals, and I would normally have nothing to do with them.  But it was all I could find.  Soon the famine was so severe that there was nothing for me to eat.  I coveted the scraps that I fed the pigs.  One day I had an epiphany, surely the servants in my Father’s household were fed and treated better than this.  I came up with a plan to return to my family, apologize, and hopefully I could work for my father as a servant. I would say ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ 

But as I approached the farm, my father saw me and came running to me with tears of love and compassion.  Before I could finish my apology speech he was giving me great gifts and planning a great homecoming feast.   I was astonished by his joy, his generosity, and grace. 

Now I am home, welcomed back by those I had rejected in the past. I hope that my wanderlust does not strike again. 

I wonder why my father welcomed me so extravagantly.

I wonder why my brother still is so angry.

[Any questions for the younger brother?]

1st Son’s reflection – Hello, I am the eldest brother, and I too am glad to tell you who I am and why I did what I did.  As the oldest child, my responsibility is to take care of things in the way that my Father wishes.  I do what is asked of me. My brother was always irresponsible and selfish.  It broke my father’s heart when he asked for his inheritance early.  And I was angry too.  Selling off part of the farm gave us less produce and while my brother never was particularly helpful, once he was gone, he was no help at all.  I will never forget the day he rode off.  My father watched him until he could no longer see him in the distance.   I never noticed him looking at me that way. 

Then the selfish ingrate came back!  Wasted all of his money and then waltzes back for more!  The arrogance!  At the most he should work in the fields as a servant but no, our father welcomed him in and threw him the most extravagant party that I have ever seen!  It is not fair.  I was filled with anger and worry that my Father had been taken in again. 

I was so angry I could hardly listen when my father left the party to come speak with me. I yelled at my father to make him see sense.  “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never said I could have a party with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has wasted your property with debauchery, you throw him a party for the ages!” How on any scale is this right or fair?  Why does my brother deserve anything?

I suppose I was disrespectful to my father but he needed to see his foolishness. I suppose I seem envious and vindictive, but I am right, right?

I wonder why he still love my brother. 

I wonder why doesn’t he value me more.

[Any questions for the older brother?]

Father’s reflection – I have two sons and I love them both.  They are both selfish and foolish but I love them with all of my heart. I am foolish too. I know the stories of two sons; of Cain and Abel, of Ishmael and Isaac, of Esau and Jacob. I did not want them to feel in competition with each other.  I wanted them to love each other, not hate each other.

I wasn’t surprised when my younger son asked for his inheritance.  He was always looking out to the horizon, looking for something new, something more.  He needed to go out into the world.  He needed to be lost so that he might be found.  But I was heartbroken when he left.  Everyday I would now look to the horizon, hoping against hope that he would return. And one day he did!  When I saw him in the distance, everything else was forgotten and I burst out of the house and ran to meet him.  I am sure that I looked ridiculous; an old man huffing down the road.  What I looked like did not matter to me, only the opportunity to see my child and to make sure that he was okay.

I did not listen to what he said when I first got to him.  His words did not matter, only that he was there, in the flesh.  I got him dressed up in new clothes, new shoes. I gave him his signet ring.  I called for an extravagant party in honor of the extravagant joy, the extravagant love that I felt at the return of my child who had been lost and now had been found.

If only that was end of the story.  But I had to find my other child as well; He stood outside the party like a living, breathing, seething column of righteous indignation.  He was lost in his resentment and anger.   He said horrible things about his brother that may or may not have been far from the truth.  He said horrible things about me and my perceived lack of appreciation for him.  I let him say his piece.  My heart broke with his brokenness. How was it that he felt so unloved? 

I touched his arm with great tenderness. I said “Child, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” My love for you is not diminished by my love for your brother.  But we have to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” You are right, he does not deserve it.  None of us do.  But we will love him anyway.

I wonder if my eldest son will join us at the party.

I wonder if my youngest son will wander off again.

I just know that my love for both will continue no matter what and that I will always welcome them home.

[Any questions for the father?]

[What does this tell us about God?]