4th Sunday of Lent Year C 2022

1. Back when I was a little boy

a. my family used to go to the beach every summer.

2. One day, my mom and dad bought me a purple frisbee to play with on the beach.

3. Back at the hotel room,

a. Mom and dad were anxious to get out on the sand.

b. My mom told me to come out of the hotel room,

c. walk down the steps

d. and they would be on the beach right at the foot of the steps.

i. They left.

4. A few minutes later,

a. I walked out of the room,

b. came down the steps . . .

c. And could not find them.

5. So, I walked up the beach,

a. throwing my frisbee a head of me.

b. I walked and walked and walked.

6. Finally, after a while,

a. I knew they could not be so far up,

i. so I started to walk back.

7. Suddenly off in the distance, I saw my mom.

a. I waved.

b. She screamed!

8. I remember her running up,

a. arms outstretched.

b. my dad ran up too.

9. I remember a lot of noise.

10. The next thing I remember,

a. we were getting into the car,

b. And we were off for home.

c. We never went to the beach again.

11. I must admit, I did not understand what had happened.

12. Only years later did I ask my mom why that day happened that way,

a. and she looked at me as if I were the dumbest thing she had ever seen.

13. “We were terrified. We thought you were lost; drowned, kidnaped.

a. When we found you we were so glad

b. we wanted to get you away from there as soon as possible.”

14. It was only at that moment that I felt guilty.

a. Because only then I realized

i. that my little steps had set off a chain reaction

ii. with big consequences.

15. Funny isn’t it how only THEN I realized what had happened.

a. But then, maybe it is not so funny.

16. For all too often that is how it happens with all of us.

a. We see something we want, we go over, just to look at it.

b. We think about how we like it,

c. we need it,

d. we deserve it,

e. we should have it.

i. Before you know it, we have stolen it.

17. We meet someone we like.

a. We go up to them,

b. talk to them,

c. flirt with them

i. and before you know it,

ii. we are cheating on our partner;

iii. or they are.

18. We take little steps with big consequences.

19. Like the younger brother in today’s Gospel,

a. who asks for his inheritance,

b. moves out on his own,

i. and before you know it,

ii. he is broke, starving,

iii. and forced to slop pigs

iv. who eat better than he does.

20. Like the older brother in today’s gospel,

a. who gets his half of the inheritance,

b. but decides to stay with his father.

c. When his younger brother arrives home

i. the older brother flies into a rage

ii. and we see that his steps

iii. which looked so good,

iv. produced nothing in him but jealousy and resentment.

21. We all take these steps.

22. We know what it is like to be that younger brother,

a. trapped in his guilt, and poverty.

23. We know what it is like to be that older brother,

a. trapped in his resentment and jealousy

24. We all know what it is to finally find ourselves lost and alone,

a. trapped in situations and relationships

i. where there seems no way back,

ii. without destroying ourselves or hurting others.

25. So did Jesus,

a. which is why he tells the story we hear today.

26. We could call it the story of the prodigal son.

a. but really, he is only part of the story.

27. We could call it the story of the jealous brother.

a. but he too is only part of the tale.

28. The one person who links both brothers,

a. who welcomes the younger when he returns

b. and reassures the older when he rages,

i. is the father.

29. The father makes it possible

a. for the younger son to retrace his steps and return.

30. The father makes it possible

a. for the older son to retrace his steps and forgive.

31. The story is really about him.

32. Well then,

a. if sometimes we are the older son,

b. and sometimes the younger,

c. who is the father?

33. The vast majority of us would say God is the Father.

a. And that this parable is about how our steps lead us away from God,

b. and how God calls us to return. And that is true.

34. But when we read this story in its context in Luke

a. we hear more.

35. It comes just after two other parables.

a. one in which a shepherd leaves 99 sheep

i. to go after a lost one

ii. and rejoices when it is found,

b. and one in which a woman cleans her house all day

i. looking for a single lost coin

c. and rejoices when she finds it.

36. All three stories deal with finding, returning, rejoicing.

a. they celebrate the dedication of the shepherd,

b. the diligence of the woman,

c. the patience and generosity of the Father.

37. AND in Luke ALL THREE are meant to respond to an accusation

a. made by the Scribes and Pharisees-

i. not against God

b. But rather against the community that Jesus is creating around him.

i. a community where sinners were welcome.

38. To which Jesus responds, of course they are welcome.

a. He says my community is dedicated and diligent

i. to seeking out those who are lost

b. just like the shepherd and the woman,

i. because that is what God would do.

c. My community is patient and generous with those who return,

d. Just like the Father,

i. because that is what God would do.

e. My community welcomes sinners and eats with them

i. because that is what God would do.

39. So then according to Jesus,

a. because God is who God is –

40. we are the father.

a. The one who is to be dedicated and diligent,

b. generous and patient

i. with anyone we meet out there,

ii. and anyone who enters here.

41. We fail miserably at this.

a. Of course we do!

42. because we have all taken those little steps which lead us away.

a. away from this place.

b.

away from each other.

c. away from our family and friends

d. and thus, away from God.

43. This morning,

a. Jesus reminds us of the consequences of those little steps.

b. precisely by reminding us of who we truly are.

c. We are the community that welcomes sinners and eats with them.

44. If that then is who we are,

a. well then turn around.

45. Turn around and return.

46. Turn around for God is waiting for you.

a. diligently searching like that woman

b. dedicated to finding you like that woman

c. Patient and generous and welcoming like that Father.

47. Turn around and be welcomed,

a. be forgiven and be loved.

48. Turn around and welcome those around you.

49. For the Joy of this Laetare Sunday is the Joy in the Father’s house – THIS house.

50. Make this house that place where others can return,

a. where they are invited to return,

b. where they experience a God with arms outstretched

c. a party already in process

d. and a meal in the making.

51. For this place is place where people eat with sinners. Thank God.

a. Because that means there a place at that table for us too.

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