Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Vigil and Easter 2016




They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they had went in, they did not find the body. The men they saw said to them “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

We have had quite a journey to get to this place, on this night. We followers of Jesus, along with all of the characters who populate this amazing story of love, Peter, Mary, Joanna, have accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem with the shouting of Hosannas. We have watched with horror as the events turned violent. We have been implicated in the apathy that allowed Jesus to be condemned and killed. We sat in the silence and waited as we believed with those very first followers, that Jesus, the one who stood for love, the one who healed others, was dead. That was the end. It looked like failure. It looked like the light went out. It looked like evil won.

This evening began with the affirmation that indeed the light did not go out. There was flame enough to kindle the new fire, and together we sang it back into a roaring flame. We took solace and strength in hearing stories of salvation history. Reminding ourselves of God's creativity, reminding ourselves of God's liberation, reminding ourselves that God puts us back together again after we have fallen apart. Reminding ourselves of our baptism, when Jesus claimed us as God's own forever, and we were marked as God's beloved. And here we proclaim the Alleluias. The Alleluias that fill our hearts and our minds with the love of God and each other, the alleluias that ring through eternity, and that shimmer in our own breath and blood. 

With the words, he is not here, but has risen, Mary, and Joanna, and the other Mary, and all the other women, knew. They knew that this man that they had known in life, defeated death. They knew that this man they had loved, was all that had been promised. The temple would be destroyed and raised in three days, on the third day rise again. They knew what it meant. Jesus was where the God they had worshipped since they were children, lived now. Jesus was where God walked, and loved and healed. Jesus whose body was broken on that cross, now is the one who puts us back together again. The women realized that death does not have the final word. They knew that it is in dieing that there is new life.

Our sadness and grief of Holy Week, our brokenness in life, is put back together in this Easter hope. We are Easter people. We are named, like Mary on that first Easter morning, and our lives sing with the love that created us, the love that calls us into being, the love that puts us back together when we break apart, when we miss the mark, the love that changes our very hearts and souls into a new creation. And on our hearts, with the cursive of the healed scars, is inscribed the words, you are loved, broken, healed, love one another.

As Easter people we don't ignore the reality of our lives, in all of the happiness and hurtfulness, in all of the care and chaos, in all of the tenderness and terror. It is never one way or the other, it is always a dance of pain and joy. But we do live this life fully embraced and empowered by this Easter reality, your life matters, it matters now. The reality of the cross and the resurrection shows us that our relationships matter, that dignity and respect matter.

As Easter people we live in the reality that changed the way we are related to one another. Power doesn't win, love wins. Darkness does not prevail, light shines through. Brokenness doesn't end our lives, it only creates the fissures into which God's love can seep.

And as Easter people, as people who have been named by Jesus, we are marked and claimed as God's own. Our hearts and our lives are claimed by the love that heals us, the love that puts us back together, the love that wins. And from that love flows the ministry that God calls us to, love one another.

Now, Jesus dwells with us, and together we are about the business of kingdom building, as Jesus did and does. It is a kingdom in which all are loved, a kingdom in which all are fed. A kingdom in which mercy and compassion rule. A kingdom in which a broken body makes us whole, a kingdom in which the body of Christ makes us a body of Christ.

As we walk out of the doors of this church this evening, our work begins. The body of Christ is at work with God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. It is our work of bearing God's love to those who, like us are broken, it is our work of bearing God's love in all places and all times. It is our work of feeding those who are hungry, because we have been hungry. It is our work of mercy and compassion, because we know what it is like to miss the mark.


We are Easter people. We walk this journey of life knowing the amazement of resurrection, and the pain and suffering that precedes it. We are Easter people. We are nourished by the bread and the body that is broken for us. We are Easter people, made whole by the love that wins. Alleluia, Christ is risen.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday 2016



Good Friday 2016 Audio

I think Good Friday is such a confusing day. Is it a day of mourning, or a day of rejoicing? Is it a day to be sad, or is it a day of forgiveness? It is all of that. It is time out of time, it is unexpected, in it the system is broken, Jesus is broken, we are broken. What is good about Good Friday?

I think what is good about Good Friday is that it shows us that death is real, and that there isn't just one death that each of us must die, but there are many. Over and over we must die to that which is killing us, over and over, to truly be ourselves, we must lay down all that gets in our way of the loving relationship that God desires with us. And that is good. It's different for each of us, the stuff that gets in our way, the idols we worship, the dependency on ourselves, security and safety. God says, lay that down, and don't pick it up again. Walk with me, depend on me.

We live this day, and many days, in the reality of this cross. You have been carrying your cross around with you all during lent. The cross that reminds us of God's love for us, the cross that reminds us that it is through death, and for Jesus, death on that cross, that we receive full and new life. The cross that reminds us of Jesus' brokenness, of our brokenness.

Good Friday shows us that something must die before the green and growing thing can take root and bear new life. Good Friday shows us that forgiveness is about pruning that which is dead anyway, so that God can affect in us the new life that God promises. Good Friday shows us that the work Jesus does on the cross matters, that God's love for humanity, and the healing that love affects, saves us.

Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is Lord, not my will but yours be done. Giving up our will is not a bad thing. In our culture that is all about you, all about what you want and when you want it, obedience becomes a bad word. But it is being who God wants us to be that is a good thing, and that requires that we die to whatever it is that is killing us.

Good Friday shows us holy dying, it is not easy, but it is a part of life. You see, the truth is that being human means being born to die. Again, none of us gets out of here alive. Jesus’ life, and suffering and death on a Roman cross not only show us how to do it, but Jesus, on that Roman cross, takes our place.

On this night we remember all this. We enter into the story of the passion. We hear the story in the voices of those who were with Jesus that terrible night. We do so not to glorify Jesus’ death or any other death, we do it so that we may be healed, we may be reconciled, that we may have the absolutely new and abundant life that God offers in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The people who populate this story, and the events of this passion, the betrayal, the lies, the apathy, the bad luck, allow each of us to enter the story. You and I are these people, we are people who have betrayed and been betrayed, we are people who have lied and who have been lied to, we are people who have shown apathy, and we are people who experience just darn bad luck. We are people who have experienced sadness and pain, we are people who feel isolated and alienated at times. We are human beings who live in the muck and mess of this life. What we do together this evening, and the foot washing and holy communion of last evening, even the joyous resurrection we will celebrate together tomorrow evening, doesn’t take away the reality of the muck and mess in which we live. We carry these crosses, they are part of who we are.

So what does happen when we walk the way of the cross with Jesus, when we enter into the events of this holy week and this holy day? Why do we all show up all these evenings to walk the way of the cross with Jesus? We grow toward Holy Dying and transformation happens. I surely hope we are changed by our encounter with the people on the way, the people in the stories, and by the amazing love that God has for us that we know because God is willing to be one of us. Because only a God who is willing to be one of us, a God who has such faith in us, a God who is broken, is a God in which I can place my love, my loyalty, my attention.

What changes? Jesus does not fight violence with violence, hatred, or revenge. Love wins. Jesus takes on all of our betrayal, all of our lies, our apathy, all of our pain, sadness, loneliness and isolation, and Jesus defeats it, not by resisting it with the sort of violence that was visited upon him, but by absorbing it and removing it through the power of love. 

And Jesus’ dying on the cross looks to the world like failure. Jesus suffered, Jesus died. But Jesus did not fail. Jesus redefined death and life. Death does not have the final word; death does not have the victory. The Word of God has the final word.

What Jesus did on the cross was to make it possible for us to have new life, a life that our words cannot begin to describe, a life that our minds cannot begin to imagine. What Jesus did and does is to make it possible for us to be transformed.

Winning and losing have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; love and forgiveness are gifts. Success and failure have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; sharing and walking together are gifts. Isolation and alienation have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; relationship and connection are gifts.

Death is real and grief hurts and sometimes we just have to sit in the silence and cry and wait. Can we do that? Can we sit in the pain and loneliness with those who suffer? That is what this Good Friday is about. We have some experience in this. It is very like when we sit with our loved ones in hospital, as the result of illness or accident, waiting, quite unsure of what to do or what to think, silence and sadness and tears, are our only activity.

Too many Christians want to go straight from the garden of Gethsemane to the garden of the empty tomb without going by way of the hill of crucifixion and the stone-cold body. It seems too painful to sit in silence, waiting and grieving. And yet nothing of the reality of Christ’s victory over evil on the cross, or our faith in the resurrection to come soon, must be allowed to shield us from the awful brute fact that Jesus died. And that death, that brokenness, makes us whole.

One of the things we don't do tonight is to bless the bread and the wine, tonight we eat the leftovers. I would like you to hear these words, written by a young theologian, Tom Lutes. "Child of God, take this and eat it. It is broken for you because you are broken. Let it nourish you; let it sustain you. It is Christ. Always strive to be like Christ, who was broken to heal our brokenness." Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Foot Washing and Holy Communionm, Maundy Thursday




Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. Jesus got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of his friends, drying them with his apron.

In this fourth gospel, we hear the story that takes place during the last meal that Jesus spends with his friends before his death. Jesus washes the feet of his friends, and asks them to do likewise. In this gospel, John, points us to two central activities that show us who we are. Washing one another's feet, and eating together. God provides for God's peoplewhich calls to mind the reading from Exodus, and God's people serve one another. So it is significant that this is what we do as we participate in these final days of Jesus' life. We eat this meal together, and we wash one another's feet.

Imagine having been at this particular passover meal. Hoards of people have arrivedin Jerusalem for the festival. All clamoring for a place to eat the meal. You, being a friend of Jesus, are in this room, with these people, reclining at this table.Bartholomew, James, Andrew, Judas Iscariot, Peter, John, Mary, Thomas, James, Joanna, Philip, Matthew, Susanna, Thaddeus, Simon, and all the other men and women and children who were gathered that night. The meal is spread before you, the unleavened bread, the roasted lamb, and the bitter herbs. And in the middle of eating the meal, Jesus gets up, he takes off his robe and ties a towel around himself.

How odd, how extraordinary. He pours water into a basin and begins to wash everyone's feet. They surely needed washing, there are no clean feet in all of Jerusalem after a day of walking about, gathering supplies for the meal, visiting friends and relatives. But who does he think he is? That job is not his, it is the servant's work. 

We call Jesus King. A King, who does servant's work? Something here is astoundingly different. Something here shows us what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Wash one another's feet. Love one another by serving each other.

I’m always wondering about sacraments. You remember, the outward sign of an inward grace.
And I've been thinking about those outward signs. Water...oil...flame....bread....wine....
But other things too, wind... dirt.... seeds.... 

Sometimes life's events feel so big, and wide, and broad, and overwhelming. In our news these days there has been so much tragedy, there is fear, and the pain of life sometimes causes us to shut ourselves down and stop paying attention, we may even despair. But the joy of life brings us soaring to the mountaintops. And much of life is lived somewhere in between, in the mundane sacramental moments of making dinner for those we love, playing with our grandchildren, or driving our children to dance and music class, or doing our taxes, or taking a bath, or dreaming our dreams. It is in the ordinary Jesus shows us sacred. In the muck and mess that is washed from our feet.

In the ordinary meal, our cracks are filled, our fissures healed, we are made whole. In the mundane washing, we overflow with mercy and compassion. Jesus seeps into our very being, washes us, feeds us, heals us. Jesus shows us who God is, and Jesus teaches us whom we are.

Let me wash your feet, take this bread, and you will be healed. Jesus offers love, and forgiveness, healing and compassion. And Jesus shows us how to do what we are called to do.

On this night, the night Jesus is handed over to be tortured, betrayed by his friend, Love really does win.

The violence perpetrated on Jesus is hard to hear, hard to watch, because you and I are implicated in it. We have not been perfect. We have judged, we have bullied, wehave missed the mark. We have offered ridicule when mercy was called for. We have fallen asleep when we should have paid attention. But, we are loved perfectly. Love still wins.

The gift we are given this night, mercy and compassion, foot washing and food, washes over us, nourishes us, puts us back together. We are re-membered. Come and receive the gift. Come, and remember who you are. Come.

And then go. Go invite others to the banquet. Go, wash the feet of those whom God loves, those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who are different than you.

Wash the feet of those whom God loves, with whom do you disagree?
Wash the feet of those whom God loves, from whom do you need forgiveness, whom do you need to forgive? Wash the feet of those whom God loves, you will be re-memberedyou will be healed. Wash the feet of those whom God loves, you will be a part of the healing of your world, you will witness to the truth, Love wins.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Palm Sunday Yr C March 20 2016



Palm Sunday Yr C March 20 2016 Audio

I have chosen to say a few words at this spot today because it makes more sense to me to talk about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, and then to receive the story of Jesus' passion in silence. Liturgically, we do something very odd here. We begin our worship together with waving palms, with the parade, and with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, and we end our worship in quiet, as we prepare for the unfolding of this passionate story through out the week. Please know that it takes all week to hear this story, to participate in this story, to be able to approach Easter and resurrection. This week carve out time to participate, you all have full lives, but this week, of all the weeks of our lives, is the week to be here. In this culture of go, go, go, the only time we ever seem to slow down, or even stop, is when a loved one dies. We gather, we tell stories, about who they are, about the last time we were together, about the last things they were doing. We grieve and are sad, we cry, we wait, we celebrate their life, we eat, and we do all these things together. This is that week, this is that death, we do it together. 

So for the moment, I need to reflect on the Palm of Palm Sunday. Jesus and the disciples and thousands of other pilgrims have made their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus hailed as a king. Not Caesar, not the appointed Roman governor. But a new king –  one for the poor, for those without voices, for those left behind. Jesus is hailed as King, yet riding on a colt. The disciples welcome him into their city, Jerusalem, and shout "blessed is the king who comes in the name of The Lord" for now. They lay down their cloaks, holey as they are. And for the time being, we are all willing to follow. But are we also willing to follow into trouble, controversy, trial and death?

The colt, the disciples, the cloaks laid down. When we look closely we see the people gathered for this parade, this entrance into Jerusalem, are not the important and powerful, but the poor and marginalized, Jesus' disciples, Jesus' people. This very important but very brief story shows us that Love does not win by the world's standards. Love does not win by division, or by building walls, or by revenge or vitriol. But instead, Jesus comes as the fulfillment of the nation's hopes, answering our longings for a king who would bring peace to earth from heaven itself. Jesus brings the peace that surpasses understanding, and much of what is about to unfold in the next few minutes and the next days will be the price he pays to bring it. His disciples, of course, have seen things that have changed their lives forever and have raised their hopes. Indeed, our lives are changed.

This is not about the powerful Pharisees, grumbling about what will happen if the authorities in Jerusalem think that there's a messianic demonstration going on. From now on we see them no more. It is not about the people of the day who have wealth, it is about the Kingdom of God in which the last will be first and the first will be last. Love wins by God's defeat of evil, and our participation in the new life made possible by the work of Jesus. God gives up Godself for us, those God loves, thus empowering and emboldening us to do the same. 

This is the holiest of weeks. We have prepared ourselves throughout Lent for this journey with Jesus. We come to this Passover festival as Jesus' disciples, we come lean and fit, as that is what our lenten discipline has done for us. We have carried our own cross with us, we have remembered who and whose we are. We have left behind that which keeps us prisoner to the world's wants and wills, we have disassembled brick by brick the walls that we had build to shield us from God's love. We climb this mountain with Jesus, and revel in the pre-Passover party. 

Rejoice in this moment. This moment of welcome, when the shouts of "Blessed be The Lord" are heard throughout the cosmos. This moment is fleeting. It turns quickly to the terrifying shouts of the crowd, "crucify him." 

After the story this morning, we will sit in the silence for a time. As we leave this space today, we enter into a Holy Week. Please don't wait to come back until Easter, come back to walk these steps to the cross with Jesus, and your Easter joy may be complete.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

5 Lent Yr C March 13 2016



5 Lent Yr C March 13 2016 Audio

In John's gospel we come into the presence of people who we know and that may be our friends, Jesus, Lazarus, Martha, Mary. Lazarus, who Jesus brought back from the dead, Mary, the one who sat at Jesus' feet to learn all she could, Martha, who prepared the meal, and was a bit resentful of her sister Mary. Both Martha and Mary wept at the grave of their brother, and yet here he is today, all of them preparing for Jesus' inevitable death, rather than mourning Lazarus' death. 

Coming to church each week might be little bit like showing up week after week to watch your favorite television show. You get to know the characters as if they are friends. You laugh at them and with them, you celebrate their victories and mourn their defeats. You mourn their passing from the television show and your life, you may even mourn the end of the television show. Downton Abbey. So any of you Downton Abbey fans? I got hooked in the first season.

I rooted for Bates and Anna and their roller coaster life together, I cheered as they gave birth in the last episode. I hoped Thomas could find someone to love, and gave thanks when he was able to finally find a place in the house, and some respect for himself. Over the years, Robert and Cora have shown us so much about long-standing love and commitment. And finally, after being stood up at the altar, and having a baby, Edith finds someone to love her just the way she is. Tom Branson became the wise one, Mary finally accepts love, and the Dowager and Isobel Crawley laughing to the end. As I returned week after week to spend time with these people and this story, I will miss them.

We return week after week and year after year as we hear about these friends and followers of Jesus. And this particular episode is set at Lazarus and Mary and Martha's house as they gather for a meal. There is Martha, preparing what I imagine to be an amazing and abundant feast, she would not settle for less. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house, fresh vegetables from the garden, a slow roasted lamb with garlic and spices, and for desert, a home made sorbet, more than enough for all. And there they gathered, giving thanks for Lazarus, who should have been dead, but is alive, ignoring the reality that Jesus will be dead soon. 

These are ordinary people, not unlike you and me but for the place and time they lived. Ordinary people, living in and giving thanks for the abundance and new life that has been bestowed upon them. All of which is gift, none of it deserved, or earned. God's grace poured out.

"Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair." Abundant, opulent, luxurious, overflowing. This is grace, freely given, without price. Flowing out, flowing forth, flowing through. Filling the wounds, the cracks, the fissures with healing balm. This story, populated by our friends Jesus, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, is also about you, and me. With the costly perfume, Mary anoints Jesus for death, with love and grace God anoints us for life. 

God's love, like the costly perfume made of pure nard, seeps into the fissures of our hearts, flows into the fragments of our loves, permeates the brokenness of lives. God's love, like the costly perfume made of pure nard, transforms the pieces of our lives into an integrated whole and creates us anew. An amazing gift, God's grace, how do you receive it? How are you transformed by it?

God's love, like the love of the cross, wins. God's love, like the love of the cross, returns violence not with revenge, but with forgiveness. God's love, like the love of the cross, flows in and through and among us. God's love, like the love of the cross, does not rescue us from pain, and sadness, and suffering, but gives us Jesus, who walks with us through the pain, and to the joy. God, in the flesh, loves us. Inhale the fragrance of the nard, it is all for you.

But it seems so extravagant, it seems so opulent, it seems so luxurious. Just think of all the people that money that was spent on it could help. Just think of all the food that money could buy. Just think of all the good that money could do. Most of us spend much of our lives believing that we don't deserve God's love and grace anyway. But it's never about what we deserve or don't deserve. There are many people more deserving or less deserving than we perceive ourselves to be. Thank God that's not how God's grace works. It's what's so amazing about God's grace, God's love, it's not about us at all. It is about God. That's why we have so much trouble with accepting God's unconditional love. 

That's also why we are not in the business of judgement. It's not up to us to determine who gets to sit at the banquet table, it's not up to us to determine who sits at Jesus' right hand and who gets the left. It's just not up to us. Our work is to put ourselves in a place to be present to God's love and grace and forgiveness and healing. Our work is to be receptive to the transformation that God dreams for us. Our work is to respond to the Love that wins with mercy, and compassion, and forgiveness. 

And it's never about how much money is in the bank. Hunger is not about the money. "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." Hunger is about the holes in our hearts that cannot see the needs of others. Hunger is about the holes in our heads that make us not understand it's not about how hard we work or how lazy someone else may be. Hunger is about our own brokenness that doesn't allow us to look into the eyes of those who we think are different from us and know we are just the same. And hunger is about our sisters and brothers who do not have enough to eat, whose homes are sub-standard, who sleep every week in a different church. The only thing worse than not caring for the poor is pretending to. We don't care for one another because we have something they don't, we care for one another because Love wins.

Breathe the fragrance of God's love, let it wash over you, let it fill your brokenness. It will transform you, it will heal you, it will bring you new life.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

4 Lent Yr C March 6 2016



4 Lent Yr C March 6 2016 Audio

A man had two sons.... was a common way to begin a parable. There are other parables in the Hebrew tradition that begin this way, not just the one we have in front of us today. When the gospel writers began in this way, you and I who are hearers of the story are clued in right away to the type of prose we will hear. A parable is a particular form of prose. Although it is like narrative, it is not exactly narrative, it doesn’t tell a story in a straightforward sort of way. The purpose of a parable is to surprise you, even to shock you. Jesus often says something outrageous, or tells about something that doesn’t seem on the surface to make much sense. We also know a parable when we hear one because it tells us something about Kingdom living.

This particular parable is quite familiar. Often we jump straight to the place of deciding that this is about the younger son who has squandered all of his inheritance and has been bad, or maybe we even identify with the younger son. And we are quick to label people in our lives as prodigal son. But if we make that jump too quickly, we will miss so much that is surprising in this parable. First of all, we miss what prodigal means. Prodigal means exuberant and lavish, excessive and extravagant. Prodigal describes the son because he has been extravagant in spending his inheritance. Prodigal also describes the father because he is extravagant in his love toward both his sons. The younger son was extravagant in his spending and ended up in the worst possible position of shame and brought shame on his family as well. 

Or, we jump too quickly to identifying with the older son. The one who followed all the rules, the one who understood duty to family and responsibility. The one who worked hard all his life only to have the little brother get the big party after having squandered everything and living hard and fast. He was the one who really wished that rewards should go to only those who earn them. The one who at his very worst moments envies his younger brother for all the fun and excitement he had and that the older brother missed out on. The one who is mad at his father for even acknowledging the younger son was still alive, after all that he had done. The one who fails to recognize that the father is always on his side and he need not earn his father’s approval. 

Maybe we even jump too quickly to identifying with the father. The father who raised his kids as best he could and who now has to put up with an older one who doesn’t know how good he’s got it, and a younger one who takes advantage of everyone and everything. This father’s behavior is shocking. First, he runs out to meet the son who left and squandered everything, giving up all semblance of honor that he may have had left by this time. Then, when the elder son chews out his father in the totally immediate and full view of all gathered to celebrate, the father once more responds graciously, saying even in front of the whole village that the kind of father he is must celebrate and rejoice when the lost are found. The father of the parable celebrates every measure of resurrection, of life from death, without pausing to judge whether the one given life deserved it, or what the consequences are for village or cosmic justice, or even how the loyal will respond. He just hopes that those who profess loyalty to him will follow his example.

So today I want to focus on this father who had two sons and read this parable as an answer to the questions that the Corinthians may have asked Paul. The question you may remember as we heard it read: What does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ? What does it mean to be Christ’s representative, Christ’s promoter, a champion for Christ, a co-conspirator in Kingdom building? And a second question, how does God make an appeal to someone, through us, to be reconciled to God? What it boils down to is: will we follow the father’s gracious example of reconciliation? Read this way, the parable models grace-filled responses in a world of excess, a world of it's all about me, a world of one way or the highway, a world of bullying, a world of exclusion. Read this way, this is a parable about who are we, and how are we to be in the world. Read this way, this is a parable about the church’s mission in the world, to reconcile all people to God.

This parable is about responding to whatever comes our way with grace, and that response, that grace is what brings about reconciliation. And being reconcilers is being a champion of Christ, being reconcilers is being Christ’s representative in this world, being reconcilers is being who we are meant to be. The father models grace and reconciliation. The father models being a champion for Christ. The father rejoices that his younger son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found. The result of this grace is a celebration and a banquet. Grace breaks in; grace is surprising and sometimes even shocking. The relationship between father and son is reconciled, it is healed. 

The father also runs out of the celebration to find the child who cannot yet accept the intimacy of reconciliation, or the abundant love that exists in constancy and faithfulness. The sadness in this relationship is that it is not reconciled, the older son doesn’t give it a chance, and he misses out on the banquet. 

We have so much trouble with this grace. Whether we identify with the older or the younger son, we have trouble accepting the grace freely given. Grace is not earned, but freely given. Grace is forgiving and nourishing.

We often have trouble accepting the intimacy of love no matter what, from this God who is willing to run out into the field to welcome us home, or to leave the celebration to come and find us because we do not yet believe that we are worthy of that sort of grace, and therefore we are not yet ready to be reconciled to our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors. 

But we forget that this is a God who freely chooses us. God continually chooses God’s people even when they have apparently wandered far away.

I began today with one of the markers of a parable, they tell us about the Kingdom of God. Many parables begin with these words; the Kingdom of God is like... You see, the surprise and the shock of this parable is that the Kingdom of God is like abundant grace for all God’s creation, freely given, and the Kingdom of God is also like you and me being champions of Christ, and therefore reconcilers for God.

The surprise and shock of this parable is that at the very same time we are recipients of the grace the father lavishes upon us, we are also agents of reconciliation, we are the ones who show the world that this abundant grace is available to each and every person whose paths we cross each and every day. 

This parable invites us, as does all that Jesus says and does, to consider being champions of giving, of giving honor, forgiveness, and giving joy, sacrificially and without regard of our own worthiness or the worthiness of our sisters and brothers. It challenges us to consider what kind of party we throw and who is really welcome at the banquet. This parable challenges us to live every moment in the Kingdom that is here and now, the Kingdom that Paul preaches with urgency. It challenges us to bring reconciliation into every relationship, now. It challenges us to live as Kingdom people, as agents of God’s transformation, and as ambassadors of the Kingdom.