Hello Friends.Warning I might be a little wordy. But to maybe keep your interest I will throw in a few photos of a recent romp at the scary baseball field, which I am not scared of anymore.
Losing track of a child, furry or otherwise, is every parent’s worst nightmare. It only takes a moment to go from peaceful to panic when you suddenly realize that somehow, someone has gone astray. And it's a worry that never stops. It doesn't matter how old they get — parents still want to know where their “kids” are and how they are doing. “Out of sight” definitely does not mean, for most fathers or mothers, “out of mind.”
But good parents also know there is a time and place when letting go is necessary. To grow and develop their own sense of responsibility, to take their own actions seriously, and to learn to live with the consequences of those actions, children have to let go of the “family lifeboat” and dare to test the untamed waters of the world.
I think most know the story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible whether you are "religious" or not. Short Goose version: "Father has 2 sons. The young one says, "give me my inheritance and I am out of here." Other son stays behind and works for the father. Young son lives recklessly and does things he does not want to just to survive (like feeding pigs but he is not allowed to even eat what the pigs do). Young son heads home and his father welcomes him with open arms and throws a party in his honor."
In Jesus' time for the young son to do such a thing was unthinkable. There were strict cultural and judicial laws mandating the behavior of children. Even “adult” children had to abide by the traditions of both a Torah-devoted and an agrarian-based life. In that patriarchal world the father was in charge — until his death. Sons stayed to work the land with their own families, daughters became part of their husband’s family world.
The “prodigal son’s” petition for an “early inheritance” wasn't like a kid begging for a car before going off to college. That youngest son’s request was an offensive, slap-in-the-face, “I-wish-you-were-dead” disregard of all that was accepted, respected and expected. He was supposed to honor his father through his life and work.
That his father OK'd such a self-centered act is the first remarkably gracious action taken by this parent. The father gives his child the gift of freedom, even if it is freedom from the father. It's now the child’s responsibility to live a righteous life within that freedom.
One of the reasons I think people like the parable of the prodigal son so much is they like the contriteness of the contrary youngster. He “came to himself.” He realized the miserable life he was living was worse than anything that the servants and day-laborers who worked for his father were experiencing. But from the “been there/done that” vantage point of the twenty-first century, it's hard to see just how grievous this young man’s actions had been, how much grief and shame he had caused his family.
And still his father forgave him. That’s the scandal of this story: the scandal of a father’s love; the scandal of a father’s forgiveness.
Scandal is nothing new. Scandal is as old as Adam and Eve and familiar as the next-door-neighbor’s indiscretions, or the hottest new 2013 show “Scandal”. Shame and Scandal rule the airwaves.
Well, Salvation and Scandal rule the church. Or it should. The message of Lent is that we have a Scandalous God. The scandal of love, the scandal of forgiveness, is beyond our tolerance and bring out our resentment. But God continues to scandalize us at every turn.
Do you remember the fatal shooting of 10 Amish children outside of Lancaster County? A milk truck driver with three children and a wife drove his truck up to the one-room schoolhouse, exited the boys, barricaded the doors so none of the girls could escape, and proceeded to shoot the girls before shooting himself.
As if the scandal of the violence wasn't enough, the most talked about scandal, however, was the reaction of the Old Order Amish community to the shooter’s wife and three children. Within hours, the Amish community publicly forgave the killer and expressed loving concern for his widow and three children. After burying their own children, they attended the burial of the 32 year old non-Amish killer. There were 75 in attendance. Half were Amish. The killer’s wife and her three children were greeted with hugs . . . and with an Amish-started fund for the killer’s family. “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need,” the killer’s widow, Marie Roberts, wrote the Amish later. “Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world.”
That is what scandalized people the most. “Hatred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby. "How dare these Amish forgive the killer of their children, and reach out to his family."
Forgiveness doesn't mean you’re Pollyannaish about the world, or plaster over the cracks in people and history. Forgiveness looks square in the face of wrong, and chooses healing and reconciliation rather than hatred and revenge. It may be the hardest thing in the world to do, to offer true forgiveness. Scandalously hard.
But yet, from inside the barbed wire of the death camps there were some scandalous acts of forgiveness and love. Here is a prayer found at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp beside a dead boy on the day of liberation:
"O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but all those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us. Remember the fruits we have bought thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness."
That’s scandalous. True scandal. From a scandalous God. Have you been caught up in the scandal?