Readings for this Sunday: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Prodigals and Parents.
Cheryl, and Anne, and John and Lois gather to listen to each other’s stories. Each one – Cheryl, and Anne, and John, and Lois - can tell heartrending stories of prodigals and parents.
Daily, they live the story.
They are all parents of prodigals.
Cheryl lives this story. Life in her home is a battlefield.
Her son rages at the rules.
Curfew is a joke.
He refuses to do the least little thing around the house.
Cheryl gets regular calls from the school –
he skipped class,
he started a fight,
he’s failing… well,
She walks around on eggshells, never knowing just what might set him off into an angry, vulgar tirade.
Just last night, he told her that he hatred her,
has never loved her,
has never loved the family
and is just waiting for the day he turns 18
and can leave them in the dust.
Her heart shattered as she gasped for breath at the hurtful, hateful words.
He might as well as said
he wanted her dead.
Anne lives this story.
Every knock at the door, every ring of the phone her heart pounds.
Anne has not talked to her daughter in 7 years,
not since that day she called to tell Anne
she was dropping out of college.
She thinks her daughter might be in Seattle
– that’s the address
on the worn envelope
that holds the last letter Anne got from her.
But maybe not.
All the letters Anne mailed have been returned.
Her daughter’s phone was disconnected years ago,
or the number was changed.
Anne worries and waits –
is she homeless?
does she have anything to eat?
Anne waits and worries,
full of hope and full of dread –
hope that the next time the phone rings, she’ll hear her daughter’s voice;
dread that instead the voice will tell her that her daughter is dead.
John lives this story.
His son is in and out of treatment centers.
John has spent all he has
for fresh starts that sour
as his son skips therapy
and replaces his medicine
for the magic of street drugs.
Things start going missing from John’s house –
food at first,
odd and ends,
it looks he’ll need to replace his computer -
His friends say he should change the locks,
stop paying for rehab
and therapy that get no results –
But to John,
those few precious days,
occasionally month or two,
when his son is fresh out of rehab –
those days are worth it.
He has his child again –
a glimmer of hope
between episodes of madness.
Lois lives this story.
Her son is back again after life on the streets and a stint in jail.
He has a modest apartment across town and Lois calls him daily.
Their conversations are short, awkward.
He’s reluctant to come and visit, saying he’s just not ready.
But he took a small step this week –
he’s agreed to come to dinner with the family this Sunday.
Lois’s daughter calls to tell her mother that
if HE comes,
she will not be there.
She can’t understand why her mother would open her heart again
after the way he treated her,
the way he treated the family,
after the drugs
and the assault charges
and the DUI conviction.
Lois sadly says
she loves him,
loves both her children.
There will be a place at the table Sunday for both of them.
Cheryl, Anne, John, Lois live their stories together –
the small joys,
the bitter disappointments,
the lost dreams;
the frustration of having a child with mental illness.
Horror stories of abuse abound,
homes become revolving doors,
and parents wait for the next shoe to drop.
Mingled with the anguish and pain,
there is love, and –amazingly - grace.
Cheryl swallows the pain of her son’s abuse and hatred,
and offers in its place love,
the kind of love only a parent can give.
Anne prays and waits
for her daughter’s voice on the phone.
John keeps trying everything he can,
giving his son a fresh chance
in the hope that this time will be
Lois refuses to choose,
loving both children,
saddened by the pain and anger,
relentlessly offering the chance for reconciliation.
Some people may say they are being too soft on their children. That they are enabling them. That they need to set some boundaries, to hold their kids accountable.
It’s shocking – the way their kids treat them.
It’s shocking – the lengths these parents will go to bring their children home.
In the stories of these parents of prodigals, we hear of shocking, radical love -
In the stories of parents of prodigals,
we get a glimpse of God’s shocking, radical, amazing love for us.
We see God revealed in a love that gives all,
that willingly suffers humiliation, pain.
A God who in love opens wide arms,
only to have them nailed to a cross.
We see God revealed in a love that is patient,
A God who waits faithfully
for wandering daughters and sons.
We see God revealed in a love that forgives all things,
that believes in second and third and fourth chances.
A God whose grace is abundant
and mercy is new each day.
We see God revealed in a love that is welcoming,
A God at whose table all are invited,
all are reconciled
and all are fed.
God lives this story,
with every one of us.
God is the parent of a prodigal
daily gazing down the road,
running with outstretched arms,
to welcome the prodigal home.