Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Lent: What about reconciliation?


Pastor Brashear and Victoire Oberkampf

 There’s just enough time to rehearse with Victoire before the service begins.  After we read 1 Corinthians 5: 16-21, Victoire sings her own arrangement of Go Tell It on the Mountain. And after Luke 15: 1-4, Amazing Grace.  (You can hear these songs here: )
                                                                                                                                                               And then time for reflection on reconciliation.
Our topic today is reconciliation.  Let me repeat these words from Corinthians:
17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 
Let’s talk in terms of a familiar story…the prodigal son…we’ve heard it so often…it’s hard to come up with a new angle..

Try something..they say to fully understand a parable, you need to see yourself as each of the characters in the story…
For the father: What your son is asking for is equal to: I wish you were dead..this is your youngest…the  baby of the family…your favorite…(so many times in the Bible, it’s the youngest who winds up with the birthright, the coat of many colors…you get the picture..) But you give in anyways….weeks, months , years? go by and you’ve heard nothing…the neighbors critical about what you’ve done…still every day, you’re looking out at the horizon, waiting, waiting….and when that day comes, you’re happy enough just to see him…so you welcome him..and of course you celebrate, and bring all your neighbors…so the boy can be restored…so community can be restored.. the new ceramic lid to our baptismal font is a gift celebrating a child, an Occupier restored to his family…

But what we don’t know is this….what if he does it again?

I’ve met too many parents over the years…in situations  especially related to drugs…met parents who have had to draw lines.. and try to live with them…and had their hearts broken over and over and over again. How many families have that one child…

For the youngest son.. everything was too good, too right, too constricting. You have to get away, just to’s OK for awhile, then it all goes bad…and you realize what it is you’ve squandered, what it is you’ve lost. You’ve got to live with the awareness of not only the material benefits you had, but the sustaining  love you threw away, didn’t take care of. Lost. Biggest loss of is the relationship…(That’s the one that gets me…loss of’s like losing a limb…) In the end…you can’t expect, you don’t deserve, but…you go anyways…and how do you respond to such a lavish, embarrassing welcome? Why no demand to prove yourself? What will the day after the party look like?

And of course, the older brother. Who has done everything asked for …and more…his whole life this younger one has gotten the attention. The benefit of the doubt. Never did his share. Just plain left with me having to run this whole place. And now he comes back and he’s welcomed? With a party? And by the way, how come everyone else seem  to know about this party except me?  Like servants are sent to invite the whole town, I’m out in the field and I don’t know? Dad, am I invisible?

It’s common among clergy to hear that members feel the pastor spends so much time with those in NEED that they never see those who are in need. The troubled, the poor, the crazy, the …who get all the attention. The steady, diligent ones who keep things going, who are responsible, who wear themselves out helping the church simply survive don’t feel seen, much less appreciated.  Why keep doing it? And if some of those who have been absent should come back, should they expect to jump right in and start deciding how things should go when they haven’t been here when things were do or die? What’s right about that?

And what about the mother? Oh, right, there’s no mom in the story. What’s up with that? Why did Jesus leave her out? (There’s a special relationship between mother and child…they’ve discovered shared cells that have passed back and forth through the umbilical chord…an awareness…a knowing…intuitive )

OK. Who was story for?  The Pharisees. We always look at them as the bad guys. They were natural allies of Jesus. They are concerned that he spends his time eating with, breaking bread with, those of ill repute, and reputations. How does that make us look? If others see so many of them around, who’s going to want to stay here? Who’s going to pay the bills for this guy? Could the Pharisees be saying we’re backing him, giving him the benefit of the doubt while the temple powers, the political powers are getting upset and he doesn’t even care?

Note the message from the father to them…it’s not your day is over, you’ve been replaced, It's you have been with me always…everything I have is yours…(the oldest son still gets his 2/3 share after all..).This is important for Christians to hear…What Jesus is saying on behalf of God…is come into the party….everyone…

There are lots of emotions in this story…Now..what if Jesus is all the characters in the parable? I’ll leave that one with you…

BUT..consider the word prodigal…what does that mean? One synonym is promiscuous…I read recently in Queer Christianities a chapter on the theology of promiscuity…it was a bit of a bait and switch advertising…not what you expect…it makes the claim that God’s love is promiscuous ……freely given, without regard or judgment or demand or….it’s just….. come in to the party….

The symbolic meal we participate in today is like that ….  .so….let us break bread together…

Victoire and I share in various variations of Amazing Grace…like the Blind Boys of Alabama..( ) I do my own Hank Williams style ( So Lonesome I could cry..) and we finish together.

Later, I’ll sing My life flows on as Pete Seeger sang it in the days of the House Un American Activities  Committee and the Red Scare:

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, thought far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?
What through the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
What through the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?
When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

We share bread and cup together. Then Victoire blesses us with another song…so good to have her spirit with us…

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.  21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
GOSPEL LUKE 15:1-3, 11B-32
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
3So he told them this parable:
11b"There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."' 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe-the best one-and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate.

25"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, '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 given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' 31Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"

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