The Prostitute in the Family Tree Fractured Familes July 3, 2016 Rev. Karyn Dix

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1 The Prostitute in the Family Tree Fractured Familes July 3, 2016 Rev. Karyn Dix Welcome to week two of our summer sermon series, The Prostitute in the Family Tree. Larry and I chose this series because we wanted to have some fun this summer. And we agree with the author of the book, Douglas Adams, that God has a sense of humor that much of the humor and irony in the Bible is missed. So last week we had some fun with the genealogy of Jesus. Larry pointed out that when we look at families in the Bible we see that throughout time families have been putting the fun in dysfunctional. This week we get to look at families a little bit more as we explore the chapter Adams calls Fractured Families and Busted Banquets. First, I d like to remind you of the difference between parent stories and grandparent stories. Parent stories are the picture perfect stories. They tell the nicer, glossed over stories. You know, the stories that make the family look better. Whereas grandparent stories are a little rougher around the edges. They have more of the ugly truths we would rather not have out there for people to know about. Adams point out that if Jesus told parent stories the parables would contain stories about perfect families, perfect parties, and just wise people. But Jesus didn t tell parent stories, his parables are grandparent stories, A little rough around the edges, full of truth and imperfection. The humor in these parables can give us hope that our own imperfect families is what the world is full of We are all a bit messed up and that s pretty normal. The fractured family Adams gives us to look at this morning is the family in a parable that has been preached on thousands of times. We think of is as The Prodigal Son but Adams calls it the Prodigal Family. Luke 15:11 32 (CEV) Once a man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, Give me my share of the property. So the father divided his property between his two sons. Not long after that, the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat.

2 He went to work for a man in that country, and the man sent him out to take care of his pigs. He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing. Finally, he came to his senses and said, My father s workers have plenty to eat, and here I am, starving to death! I will go to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son. Treat me like one of your workers. The younger son got up and started back to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him. The son said, Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son. But his father said to the servants, Hurry and bring the best clothes and put them on him. Give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. Get the best calf and prepare it, so we can eat and celebrate. This son of mine was dead, but has now come back to life. He was lost and has now been found. And they began to celebrate. The older son had been out in the field. But when he came near the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants over and asked, What s going on here? The servant answered, Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father ordered us to kill the best calf. The older brother got so angry that he would not even go into the house. His father came out and begged him to go in. But he said to his father, For years I have worked for you like a slave and have always obeyed you. But you have never even given me a little goat, so that I could give a dinner for my friends. This other son of yours wasted your money on prostitutes. And now that he has come home, you ordered the best calf to be killed for a feast.

3 His father replied, My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we should be glad and celebrate! Your brother was dead, but he is now alive. He was lost and has now been found. Often when this parable is preached on the focus is on the fall and redemption of the younger son. And I think we can all agree that the younger son is a bit rough around the edges. But Adams makes the point that maybe we have been over-looking the fracturedness of the whole family as we overly focus our attention on the story of the younger son. Let s start at the beginning, when the younger son demands that his father give him his inheritance. He is basically saying Dad, you are dead to me you might as well give me whatever is in your will now. I know a lot of you out there are parents. How would you feel if one of your children did what this son did? I think I might be a bit indignant, angry even I doubt I would react the way this parent does. No argument from him. He not only gives his son what he wants he goes farther than that. He divides up his property between his sons giving both of them their inheritance. His sons have all his wealth, he has nothing. It is as if he were dead. Of course he is not dead. And with the younger son off doing whatever the older son is left to deal with the inheritance he was given, and left to take care of his now destitute father. That information changes how we read the rest of the story doesn t it? Now, when the younger son returns we can see both the father and older son s reactions a bit differently they are both a bit rough around the edges. The responsible son might be both angry and resentful that he has had to be responsible, to act as the head of the household, while his father is still alive. The decisions to not have parties with his friends has been his own, not his father s something his father reminds him with his statement that everything I have is yours. Dad is saying Not my problem. Remember, I gave you your inheritance already. I have no responsibility in how you have been living. That response makes me wonder about what Dad thinks about how his older son has been living, and the kind of choices he has been making with his inheritance. I m not sure he respects his older son s choices. Because when his younger son reappears on the scene his decisions don t seem very respectful of his older son. The clothes and shoes he gives to his younger son belong to his other son. And that ring. Oh, that ring. Adams points out that the ring was likely the family signet ring. The one that conveys who has control over the family property. The dad might have just taken away his older son s inheritance and given it over to his younger delinquent son. What does that say about how the

4 dad feels about the older son who has been caring for him all this time? And Can you imagine what the older son would have felt like to see his ring on his delinquent brother s finger? We don t know how the older brother felt about the ring. The servant is careful not to mention it, the servant only mentions the party and the guest of honor. A party, in his own house, being thrown by his servants, at his expense. A party that he was not even invited to. Who do you think didn t want him at the party? His father or his brother? It appears that the purpose of this party is not a family reunion. And the story doesn t have a happy ending either. Jesus leaves us hanging. The two brothers don t reunite. No one makes amends. Jesus ends this parable with the father and the older son arguing it out, while the younger son and all the guests are at the party. We are left to figure out what happens next. We are left to figure out the point of the story. There are several theories about what the lesson of the parable is, and one of those theories is family unity and forgiveness. And, that is possible. However, I would argue that there are probably many lessons to be learned from this parable. Maybe one that we overlook is the reality of the messiness of family. Jesus tells us a story about a real family, exposing all of the rough edges. Now, we all know a family that would like us to believe that they are picture perfect don t we? You know, the family who is always perfectly dressed. You never hear them argue or even disagree. Their children are always perfectly behaved in public. And when people come over to their house, it too is perfectly clean. Those families make me uncomfortable. They portray a level of family perfection that is an impossible standard for any of us to meet. I find myself wondering if the older son has tried to create for himself that perfect responsible image for the community. The image that he was the good son, doing what was right by the family and his father. He stepped up and took on the challenge of both his inheritance and the care of his father. But when his younger brother shows back up on the scene his rough edges are in full view. Personally, I find these rough edges reassuring. I am the younger child, the one who grew up in the shadow of the responsible older sibling. It is nice to be reminded that even the responsible, perfect people have rough edges. Not one of us is picture perfect. Maybe, that is why Jesus told grandparent stories. The Pharisees and Sadducees painted a picture perfect way people were supposed to live and behave. They were supposedly the picture perfect rule following, responsible Jews. Maybe Jesus grandparent stories

5 reminded the people then that no one was perfect, there was no way to be the perfect Jew. Maybe they can remind us today that there is no way any one of us can be the picture perfect person, we don t have picture perfect families. We all live fractured lives. We are all doing the best we can. We shouldn t feel guilty when our rough edges show.

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