Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The fourth Sunday in Lent: Love that will not let go


The doors are open. Everything is ready. Took the red eye back from Phoenix arriving at dawn. Cara there to welcome me home. Stephen too.

There are two visitors. A young man, Ray. And an older woman with a bouquet  of flowers who leaves halfway through. Not what she expected. It’s often not what you expect, but if you stick around, something worth your while will happen. 

Today is a familiar story. the one we call the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15;1-3, 11b-32 Is there a better title? Someone has said it has been covered from every angle except the  abandoned swine..Who are  the characters? The father, the older son, the prodigal...What are their emotions? Did their youngest son really wish his father  dead? I don’t really think so. Was the older brother about envy?

When she hears how the son had sunk to the lowest job, tending the treif, the unclean animals pigs, hungry enough to want to  to eat their food, she asks, so the youngest son hit bottom?

This is the third in Jesus’  series of lost parables....the sheep, the coin....and now a son. Barbara Lundblad wants us to ask, Where was mom? Aliou Niang, of Union, thinking of his own village in West Africa asks, and what of the community? How were they affected by this series of events?

We agree that the we’re OK in the story  until the party...Why? It’s too much. Welcoming back is one thing. But a party? with the whole village attending? No amends, just a party?

Can we scribes and pharisees be  the older son? In the context of the parable the way Luke tells us, yes. But only if they are us, too. We who are responsible. We who work hard. We who take care of things, keep them going. And since the younger son already took his share, everything the father has is the elder son’s. The father is using what belong to the elder to fete the younger. But even so, we older ones still belong to the father. 

The son had become a nobody: with no home, no place, no future, no food... Another question, raised by Aliou, How did older son know how money had been spent? Is that what he would have done? And I wonder, what are things like a year from now? is the younger son still there? What if he takes off again.

Who are we in this parable?  As in every parable, we are all the characters. We have to experience all of them. 

Just notice , the Father  sees the son from far off, he is is watching and waiting...

I recall the memorial service for one of our original African American members, Ethel. She was one of the circle of live-in domestics who came to worship at West-Park, tired of having to travel to Harlem on Sunday mornings. They integrated West-Park. She ended her days in a public housing project a few blocks up the street. 

During the reflections part of the service. A middle aged man, well dressed in an off white coat, stood up, and tears in his eyes said, I am here because she never gave up on me. She never stopped loving me. I wasn’t even her child, just a kid in the projects. I stole her money. Stole her TV. Stole her toaster. But she never gave up on me. I finally had no choice but to become who I was supposed to be. She never gave up. Her love wouldn’t let me go...

And that is what this is about. Love that will not let go. That doesn’t give up. That is always there. Watching. Waiting....

We sing Amazing grace. But given what we’ve learned about people first, about using the situations of people who are part of our communities as metaphors for spiritual failings, we change the words...

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a soul (no wretches here) like me
I once was lost and now am found
Thy love has set me free. 

And in our Spanish version, tu luz me rescato....

Ray stays awhile, wanting to talk about our service.  And the reflection.

The session gathers. Much to talk about as always. And Anna has given us much to think about. Vulnerable people. Those who may not respect vulnerability. Who might take advantage. 

I am tired. Cara is sweeping away as I leave. 

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