Saturday, April 23, 2016

Luke 15:11-32
March 6, 2016 Upper Rogue UMC

It started out in the hills above Prospect. A man and his two sons owned a farm. For tax reasons it was incorporated with each son having 33% and the Father 34%. Things went well and they had enough money to live on, and some to save. But the younger son became restless and bored. I mean, let's face it, Prospect isn't exactly the hub of night life. One day he'd had it. He went to his father and said: “Cash me out. Buy back my share of the farm. I can't take it out here in the middle of nowhere any longer. So the next day they went to the bank where his father withdrew enough to buy the son's interest. The son asked for a ride to the BMW dealership where he said his goodbye.
Entering the dealership, he quickly purchased a 228i and left for Portland.

Portland was a great place for the young man. With his fancy car and ready cash he was quickly surrounded by so-called friends. For many months he lived the high life, wining and dining, dancing, sailing, golfing; always surrounded by his companions, and always with an attractive young woman on his arm.

Then came the day when his money ran out. His new-found friends were suddenly nowhere to be found, having moved on to another dupe, leaving him to face his fate alone. With a recession raging, and no locally marketable job skills, (there aren't a lot of farms in the big city) he was forced to sell his beemer and move into a smaller, shabbier apartment. Finally he found a job cleaning up the food court at the local mall. But even this didn't pay enough to put food on the table. He found himself visiting the food pantry far too regularly. Eventually he couldn't even pay the rent, and found himself sleeping wherever he could. Then, one night as he was eating the remains of a hamburger from the garbage he asked himself: “What have I done? I'm eating garbage and sleeping in the mall! And all because of my own stupidity! Even the undocumented immigrants my father hires have a roof over their heads and food to eat. I wonder' if I went home, would my father hire me to work for him?” And with nothing else to loose, he started the long trip back to Prospect.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Dad and the older brother were working the fields, feeding the stock, and doing all the other things that needed to be done. Every time he heard a car or truck on the lonely dirt road, the father would look up hoping to see his son: but it was only the mail carrier, and never with a letter from his son. Until one day he heard the unmistakable rumble of his neighbors old pick up coming up the hill. As he looked up, the truck stopped, he heard the door slam, and saw his son, head hanging, trudge up the drive toward the house. “Thank you, God!” he cried out as he ran toward his returning son. Grabbing the lad in his arms, he lifted him off the ground, swung him around, and both laughed and cried with joy and arm in arm, he led his son to the house.

As the returnee showered and dressed, the father broke out the steaks, lit up the grill, and called in the help and the neighbors to celebrate. Seeing the ruckus, the elder son came in and asked on of the neighbors what was happening. “Your father's having a party to welcome your brother back home.”

At this the elder brother became irate. Finding his father he yelled at him: “What are you doing! I work my fanny off around her while that idiot squanders your money on booze and hookers and you throw a party for him? It isn't fair! What about me? Where's my party?”

“My son, you know I love you, and all of this is yours someday. But your brother was lost, and now he's found, he was as good as dead, and now he has returned to life. I had to celebrate.” But the older brother huffed off in a rage.

It's probably one of the best known and just plain best stories Jesus told. Everyone of us can relate to someone in the story. You may have been the wayward son
who wandered off in search of the good life, and found only emptiness. As a parent, you may have waited up late at night for your child to come home. Or, you may be the responsible, hard working older brother who sees no reward in his work but work. But
no matter which character you relate to, the party is for you. Like the older brother, there is nothing we can do, or have done, that earns us an invitation to this party. We are here because we, like the younger brother, were lost, and have been found. We are here because Christ, Himself, has invited us.

We have two options. We can, like the older brother, refuse the invitation and wallow in our own self-pity, guilt, and pain. Or, like the neighbors and help, we can join the party. What will it be? Come. The table is set. Come. You are invited. Come. Eat. Drink. Rejoice!

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