Friday, January 30th

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But 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. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But 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.’” Luke 15:25-32

 

One more day to think about the church…

 

The elder son is feeling resentful.  He has been faithful for a long time.  He has been respectful and obedient and cognizant of his position in the family.  He’s shown up for work every day.  He’s done his share – no, since his little brother took half his father’s money and left, the elder brother has done MORE than his share.  No wonder he has felt used and unappreciated.

 

Who can blame him for getting angry when his irresponsible little brother comes gallivanting down the driveway like some long lost hero, arm and arm with his gullible father!  As if that weren’t enough, their father actually wants to celebrate the return of the son by throwing a party and sharing his gullibility and enabling of his little brother’s excesses with the neighbors!

 

Who can blame him?

 

Read the story and look closely at the words.  No one blames him.  No one condemns him for his resentment, his anger….his jealousy?  If the elder son feels pain in this story it is self-generated.  His father doesn’t condemn him for his childishness, he pleads with him to come back into the party and enjoy himself.  But the story ends with the elder brother pouting on the porch.

 

Who among us wants to be an elder brother? 

 

Church members who have long been part of the church, who haven’t strayed away, who have been faithful in worship and faithful in service and generous in giving – who among them wants to be an elder brother?

 

Pastors who have made significant sacrifices to serve the church, who have chosen the ministry over other more lucrative careers their college educations might have earned, who gave four years of their lives to earning a seminary degree, who have gone to the places they were sent to serve – who among them would want to be an elder brother?

 

The elder brother simply cannot understand the joy of the father at the return of his disappointment of a son.  No doubt, the elder son went about his daily duties on the farm the whole time the younger brother was gone with absolutely no idea how much his father hurt inside, longing for the return of the son who seemingly had rejected his love.  The elder son – not seeing the realities of either his brother or his father – was likewise blind to the personal cost he was paying for being blind even to himself.  None among us want to be that elder son.

 

So let’s not live as if we were he.  Let’s let go of the notion that the church is somehow “ours” and needs to be protected from the infringements “they” would lay upon us.  Let’s welcome the stranger with open arms, but only after doing absolutely everything we can to prepare for the stranger’s arrival, including anticipating their needs with programs that are helpful to people, designing worship that feels like a celebration rather than a funeral, and creating a culture reminiscent of the loving embrace of a Father who welcomes all of his broken, sinful, selfish children home.

 

Let us pray:  Thank you, gracious and loving God, for welcoming us home even though we have abused your gifts, have betrayed your name, and have gone our own ways time and time again.  Thank you for your forgiveness and your grace.  May that same grace which has come to us from you also flow through us to the others in our lives, that we be as gracious with them as you have been with us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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