Southminster Presbyterian Church
March 14, 2010
We all know this story.
And we keep telling it again and again because it is so true.
We know prodigal sons and daughters.
We are prodigal sons and daughters.
Don’t let our familiarity with this text keep us from hearing it as God’s new and living word for us today.
How do we welcome the prodigal home?
And now the esteemed drama group, the Time Change Players, who were all recruited yesterday, will present a drama about the Prodigal Son, for your viewing pleasure.
The Prodigal parents on the Marriage Ref
by Marci Auld Glass (with thanks to Isaiah and Luke)
Host Mary Seinfeld
Guests Polly and Percy Prodigal
Celebrity Referees: King David, the Prophet Isaiah, God Almighty
Our cast is assembled on the stage of a TV studio….
Welcome to the Marriage Ref! I am Mary Seinfeld your host. On this show, you, the audience, will be helping a couple with a marriage problem. We will also hear from some celebrity judges! Without further ado, let me introduce you to our couple, Percy and Polly Prodigal.
Welcome to the Marriage Ref, Mr and Mrs Prodigal!
What seems to be the problem?
Well, my husband and I have two delightful sons. We love them both very much.
But the younger one has crossed the line. He’s been known for, how shall I say, making bad choices in the past. A while back, he came to us and asked for his share of his inheritance! He might have well have said he wished we were dead so he could just take our money!
I, of course, told him “no way, Jose”. Go get a job!
But my husband said, “okay” and then liquidated our assets—retirement accounts, stock portfolios, real estate, camel herds—the whole shebang!—and divided it between our two sons.
We are now homeless and living in our elder son’s guest rooms with nothing to our name! And our youngest son took his inheritance, went to Vegas and squandered it on, how shall I say, “dissolute living”. We haven’t heard from him in weeks! He’s not returning my phone calls or emails!
Oh dear. I’m sure it can’t be that bad. Let’s hear from your husband and see what he has to say. What is your side of the story, Mr. Prodigal?
She’s pretty much correct. Junior did come to us and ask for his inheritance. So I liquidated our assets and divided our estate between the two boys. And every day I stand at the gate and look down the road, hoping junior will come home.
Mary Seinfeld: Really?!
Percy Prodigal: Really.
What will you do if he comes home after squandering the gift you gave him?
I’ll run down the road as fast as I can and give him a big hug, of course. Probably throw a big party and welcome him home too. What else would I do?
But I’m also concerned for my other son. He doesn’t recognize the gift he’s been given either. He owns the
whole estate! Everything is his. Yet he lives in scarcity.
One would think that after being given such a generous gift, if I do say so myself, that he would live in generosity and share that kind of living with those he meets. But he doesn’t. He lives as if he’s earned everything he has and that he shouldn’t be generous with anyone. And if, or when, his brother comes home, I hope there will be a good reunion. But I’m not sure that will happen.
You really do love your children, don’t you?
Well, folks. There you have it. You have heard from Percy and Polly Prodigal. Before you hear from our celebrity marriage judges, let me ask you–Which one of our guests is right, and which is wrong? Should they have given everything they have to their kids or not?
(At this point, I asked the congregation for their thoughts and it was unanimous in support of Polly Prodigal–not one person thought they should have given everything to their kids.)
And now let me introduce you to our celebrity marriage refs. First, all the way from Bethlehem, a man with many wives…. King David!
Next, from the Temple in Jerusalem, we have the prophet Isaiah!
And, finally, from the heavenly Jerusalem–which is located somewhere near Sun Valley–where the streets are paved with gold and where he is surrounded all day by seraphs and angels—the Alpha and the Omega—God!
Thank you all for being with us. You’ve heard the story from the Prodigals and you’ve heard the comments from the audience. What are your thoughts? King David?
King David: (starts calmly but grows hysterical)
Well, I have some experience with parenting problems, believe you me! And I love my children as well, as long as they aren’t trying to overthrow my monarchy, of course. But Polly is right. If the kid wanted some money, he should have gone out and gotten his own dynasty—stealing it from your parents while they are still alive is treason!
(starts weeping and cries out): “O my son, Absalom, my son…my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (ref. 2 Samuel 18)
Umm…Thank you King David. Didn’t mean to bring up such a sensitive topic for you. Moving on….
Isaiah—what do you think?
Isaiah: (with great passion and growing anger)
Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: I reared up children and brought them up but they have rebelled against me! The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does NOT know! My people do NOT understand!
The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants! For they have transgressed laws, violated statutes, broken the everlasting covenant! Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer by their guilt… (Isaiah 1)
Mary Seinfeld: (Interrupting)
So, you’re on the side of the mother?
Isaiah: (much more nicely and caringly, but with rising energy as he gets going)
What? Oh, well. I suppose. But thus says the Lord—do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made!
…for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 43)
Well, thank you, Isaiah. That was quite a prophecy. So it seems there might be a word of hope for Mr. Prodigal after all.
(to congregation) I’m never bringing a prophet on this show again.
And for our final celebrity judge—God almighty—thank you again for coming, it really is quite an honor. I’m a big fan.
You know I can read your thoughts, right?
Umm…yes, of course. I’m sorry. Won’t happen again. So, Almighty one, what do you think about the situation in which Mr. and Mrs. Prodigal find themselves?
I tell you there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
That’s very nice, I’m sure. And you are very good at math. But should the Prodigals have given everything they have to their sons?
Let me say this another way. Each of you has received—from me—what Mr. Prodigal gave his son—both generosity and forgiveness. I have given each of you grace upon grace upon grace—far more than you deserve, and you know it—not because you have earned it, and not because it is easy for me to do—I paid a cost too—and far more than liquidating some mutual funds, let me add. But you won’t share that with the people you meet because you’ve determined that they don’t deserve it!
And to borrow back some words I gave to my friend Isaiah here, “incline your ear and come to me; listen so that you may live. Seek the Lord while I may be found, call upon me while I am near. Let the wicked forsake their way and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them return to the Lord, that I may have mercy on them and will abundantly pardon!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says me.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55)
You always get hung up on who is worthy and who should be rewarded and who should be punished. Give it up already!
Why can’t you just see that I love you, with a love that is mysterious and abundant! Turn back to me—repent! I tell you, there is more joy in the presence of my angels over one sinner who repents!
Stop worrying about the righteousness of your neighbor, or their prodigal sons, and just turn to me in gratitude and thanks. If Mr. Prodigal can rejoice over his son, can’t you?
If I can rejoice over my prodigal children, can’t you?
Well, that took an unexpected turn. Well, audience, it seems you’ve been outvoted by the Almighty One.
I guess we should think less about what we deserve, and start thinking more about what we’ve received.
We are out of time tonight, but a big thank you to our celebrity marriage refs for your unique insights. Mr and Mrs. Prodigal, we will be praying with you for the safe return of your Prodigal son and we hope you’ll invite us to the party!
Please turn in next week when Abraham and Sarah will be here to talk about Abraham’s plan to sacrifice their son Isaac on an altar! Wow! That should be exciting!