Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stations of the Cross

 Holy week...probably one of the most dramatic and emotional weeks in the liturgical calendar.   
 It is not uncommon for the events of this week to bring tears to your eyes.  

Today, I wanted to recap the week.  Using the Bible and following the Stations of the Cross, just take a look at the final week of the life of Jesus.

Please wait until you have time to meditate on these events and can read through it without being rushed.  

So to start off, we have Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Imagine all the people in the area flocking to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover.  This was before Facebook or Google, even if people had heard of Jesus…the probably did not know what he looked like.  In the book of Daniel, there was a prophecy that Christ would come during the 4th reign of the super powers that be.  Well, 4 super powers later, we have the Romans.  According to the Prophecy of Daniel, it is time. 

Then we have Jesus, who is the Son of God, the bringer of the new Kingdom!  Yet, he hasn’t really made too many signs that he is a king or at least the king that they were used to.

At this time, it was both Jewish and Roman law that it was perfectly acceptable for a king to commandeer an animal, kind of like a cop taking someone’s car in just about every cop movie ever made.  So Jesus starts off by stealing a donkey.  The first sign that he is a king.  Then he rides that donkey into Jerusalem!  During Passover!!!  Now, he stood out.  But why?

So the journey to Jerusalem for Passover was a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage.  Pilgrimages were walked.  Everyone walked.  Everyone.

Not Jesus.  Another sign of a king.

The fact that it was a donkey was important too.  The horse was a symbol of war.  It was ridden by kings who were at war or wanted to send the impression that they were powerful and ruled with their strength.  Jesus rode on a donkey.  The sign of peace.

The cheered and waved leafy palm branches…yet another sign that he was a peaceful king.

This, as we know, is Palm Sunday.  When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem to cheers of Hosanna.

Day 2


 After spending the night in Bethany, Jesus and the disciples return to Jerusalem.  He curses a fig tree on his way for it did not bear fruit.  The tree grew, it looked right, but it did not grow figs.  This was a commentary on the nation being spiritually barren.  They said the right things and appeared to be religious, but were empty inside.

After arriving in Jerusalem again,  Jesus overturned the tables and drove out the money changers saying, “The Scriptures declare, “My Temple will be a house of prayer, ‘but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Luke 19:46).

Day 3


Jesus talks with the Pharisees as they try to trap him so they could arrest him.  Jesus  replies, “You nest of poisonous snakes! How will you escape from being sentenced to hell?

Today is also the day that Judas Iscariot negotiated the betrayal of Jesus.

Day 4


Jesus and his disciples rest in preparation for Passover.

Day 5.


After sunset, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples as they prepared to share in Passover.  They celebrated Communion with each other, the Last Supper.

Afterwards, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

Later that evening, Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.  All the pieces were already in place for his trial.

Day 6.


Early in the morning, Judas Iscariot, over come with remorse, hanged himself before the trial of Jesus started.

At his trial endured false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, abandonment. 

Bringing us to Station I: Jesus is Condemned to Death.

Betrayed.  Falsely accused.  Jesus accepts his fate.  To die by crucifixion.

Station II: Jesus Carries His Cross

To further humiliate Him, Jesus is forced to bear his own cross.  Carry the very thing he would die on, to the place where he would draw his last breath. 

Station III: Jesus Falls the First Time

The weight is unbearable.  Jesus falls under it.  How could he enter our lives completely without surrendering to the crushing weight of the life of so many on this earth!  He lays on the ground and knows the experience of weakness beneath unfair burdens.  He feels the powerlessness of wondering if he will ever be able to continue.  He is pulled up and made to continue.

Station IV: Jesus Meets His Mother

Jesus' path takes him to a powerful source of his strength to continue.  All his life, his mother had taught him the meaning of the words, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord."  Now they look into each other's eyes.  How pierced-through her heart must be!  How pained he must be to see her tears!  Now, her grace-filled smile blesses his mission and stirs his heart to its depth.  Love and trust in God bind them together.

Station V: Simon helps Jesus carry His Cross

Jesus even experiences our struggle to receive help.  He is made to experience the poverty of not being able to carry his burden alone.  He enters into the experience of all who must depend upon others to survive.  He is deprived of the satisfaction of carrying this burden on his own.

Station VI: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Jesus' journey is at times brutal.  He has entered into the terrible experiences of rejection and injustice.  He has been whipped and beaten. His face shows the signs of his solidarity with all who have ever suffered injustice and vile, abusive treatment.  He encounters a compassionate, loving disciple who wipes the vulgar spit and mocking blood from his face.  On her veil, she discovers the image of his face - his gift to her.  And, for us to contemplate forever.

Station VII: Jesus falls the second time.


Even with help, Jesus stumbles and falls to the ground.  In deep exhaustion he stares at the earth beneath him.  "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return."  He has seen death before.  Now he can feel the profound weakness of disability and disease and aging itself, there on his knees, under the weight of his cross.

Station VIII: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

The women of Jerusalem, and their children, come out to comfort and thank him.  They had seen his compassion and welcomed his words of healing and freedom.  He had broken all kinds of social and religious conventions to connect with them.  Now they are here to support him.  He feels their grief. 
Even as he bears his own cross, he still comforts the women of Jerusalem.  Consoling them as best he could.

Station IX: Jesus Falls the Third Time

This last fall is devastating.  Jesus can barely proceed to the end.  Summoning all this remaining strength, supported by his inner trust in God, Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross.  His executioners look at him as a broken man, pathetic yet paying a price he deserves.  They help him up so he can make it up the hill of crucifixion.

Station X: Jesus is Stripped

Part of the indignity is to be crucified naked. Jesus is completely stripped of any pride  The wounds on his back are torn open again.  He experiences the ultimate vulnerability of the defenseless. No shield or security protects him.  As they stare at him, his eyes turn to heaven.

Station XI: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Huge nails are hammered through his hands and feet to fix him on the cross.  He is bleeding much more seriously now.  As the cross is lifted up, the weight of his life hangs on those nails.  Every time he struggles to pull himself up to breathe, his ability to cling to life slips away.

Station XII: Jesus Dies On The Cross

Between two criminals, a mocking title above his head, with only Mary and John and Mary Magdalene to support him, Jesus surrenders his last breath:  "Into your hands I commend my spirit."

Station XIII: Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross.

Station XIV: Jesus is Laid In The Tomb.

They take the body of Jesus to its resting place.  The huge stone over the tomb is the final sign of the permanence of death.  In this final act of surrender, who would have imagined this tomb would soon be empty or that Jesus would show himself alive to his disciples, or that they would recognize him in the breaking of bread?  Oh, that our hearts might burn within us, as we realize how he had to suffer and die so as to enter into his glory, for us.


The text the Stations is from a Jesuit Source


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

Great sermon from  The Rev. Dr. Monrelle T. Williams at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Oakland, California!  Check it out!  It's pretty short...you can listen to it on the way to work!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Incarnational Theology

For all those that came to hear the Rev. Dan Matthews speak yesterday, the word Incarnational Theology was used a lot. I found this and wanted to share for all of those that wanted to learn more!



Incarnational Theology
By: Dr. Gregory S. Neal
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NRSV)
In Christian Theology the area of  study dealing with the coming of God to be with us in Christ Jesus is known as Incarnational Theology. Theologians enjoy tossing around great big words that have very simple meanings, and this is one of those words. The verb incarnate is formed from the Latin roots in, meaning “into,” and carn, meaning “flesh.” In other words, it literally means to “in-flesh” something … to make something in the form of a human being. It also has the figurative meaning of “to put an abstract concept or idea into concrete form.” In Christian Theology it is the word used to describe the coming of Jesus to be one of us. As the Nicene Creed states: 
For us and for our salvation
He came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human. (No. 880 UMH)
The doctrine of the Incarnation states that Jesus of Nazareth, who walked the dusty roads of Galilee, taught in the Synagoge at Caperneum, cleansed the Temple of the money changers in Jerusalem, wept at the tomb of Lazarus, celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples in the Upper Room, and died on the cross for our sins … this same Jesus was also God, come to live with us and as one of us, in human flesh. As the opening sentences of John’s Gospel puts it: “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Jesus is the eternal Word, the creative agency through whom the Father created all that is or ever shall be. And, as John also affirms, this Word of God was God.

Incarnational Theology teaches us that God has always revealed Himself to us through the “normal,” the physical, the temproal, the mundane things of this life. The created order has always contained within it a window into the agency and genious of its Creator; it has always been true that one can know about God by looking at what God has created. Likewise, God’s ultimate and enternal self-revelation for us is in and through the form of a man: Jesus of Nazareth. In this man we see not only ourselves as God calls us to be, but we also see God Himself. The only begotten Son of the Father didn’t stop being God in order to become human but, rather, took upon Himself our human nature, almost as if He were putting on a garment, and in so doing He purified our humanity and made it possible for us to become one with Him. As Charles Wesley’s wonderful Christmas hymn proclaims:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel! (No. 240 UMH)
In the incarnation God veiled Himself in humanity, thus revealing his gracious, life-transforming nature to us.  It also had the glorious side-effect of enabling us to interact with Him. Thanks to the veiling nature of the incarnation, the Disciples were able to be with the God-man, Jesus, without fear, to learn from him, to enjoy time with him, and  to come to know God through him.  We, too, have that same privilage; we, like the Disciples, have the joy of coming to know God in and through Jesus. This is a critical point within Incarnational Theology: all that we need for our salvation can be experienced in and through our relationship with Christ Jesus, our Lord.

There isn’t an element of Christian dogma that isn’t impacted by understanding that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. This is nowhere more evident than in the area of Sacramental Theology. The incarnational concept is so critical to the functioning of the means of grace that it is fair to say that they cannot be properly comprehended apart from it. To put this simply, every means of grace is incarnational. Apart from the real presence of God in Jesus Christ, each and every means of grace would be meaningless; but, because Jesus is truly the divine manifestation of God’s grace in our midst, each of the means is consequently a conduit for conveying that very grace of God to us.  In other words, it is precisely because God became man in Jesus Christ that we can come to know God and receive God’s gifts of love and presence through such material instumentalities as the scriptures, prayer, worship, healing, Baptism, and Holy Communion. Jesus is the ultimate means of grace, the foundational conduit, the personal manfestation and supreme expression of the pure grace of God. Jesus, in and through His incarnation, is the Sacrament of all Sacraments.  And, it is because of this that all the means of grace have meaning – from the Scriptures, which are the Word of God incarnate in the written form, to Holy Communion, which is the Word of God incarnate in the consecrated bread and wine – all the means of grace depend upon the incarnation of Jesus for their efficacy. Far from being mere symbols, or lifeless reminders of that which they signify, by virtue of conveying the real presence of Jesus each spiritually becomes that which each re-presents.

It is in this sense that Eucharistic Theology is also Incarnational Theology. In and through the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ we, when we partake of the elements in the Holy Meal, are partaking of the very real, very divine, life transforming presence of God which became one with man in Jesus of Nazareth. God, incarnate in human flesh, becomes God typologically incarnate in bread and wine, so that we, when we partake in faith, might be sanctified into the very presence of Christ for others.

Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of St. Stephen United Methodist Church in Mesquite, Texas, and an Ordained Elder in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Duke University, and Trinity Graduate College, Dr. Neal is a scholar of Biblical Studies, Languages, Systematic Theology, Liturgy, and the Sacraments. He has taught New Testament Studies, Biblical Greek, and courses on the Theology of the Sacraments in UM Schools of Mission, Continuing Education Seminars, and in undergraduate courses across the country. As a popular teacher, preacher, and retreat leader, Dr. Neal is known for his ability to translate complex theological concepts into common, everyday terms. He is the author of several books, including Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, and Seeking the Shepherd's Arms: Reflections from the Pastoral Side of Life, both of which are available from Koinonia Press through your local bookstore, on the internet at Amazon.com, and in the Grace Incarnate Store. You are invited to read Dr. Neal's academic papers and theological articles on his website at Writings, and you are encouraged to listen to Dr. Neal's Messages online in Real Player format.

© 2006, Dr. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved

What If the Kids Don't Want Our Church?

Interesting read...

Derek Penwell
Author; Editor; Speaker; Activist

I had a conversation with a man not long ago who has the unenviable task of sorting through his mother's considerable estate, deciding what to keep, what to sell and what to throw away. While sorting, in an act of extraordinary self-awareness, he stopped to consider just what his three adult daughters might like to keep when they find themselves going through his stuff after he's gone.
During this moment of reflection, my friend had an epiphany: What if his kids don't want all the stuff he's worked so hard to acquire?
He was struck by the fact that his adult daughters have no real attachment to all the antiques and precious heirlooms his family has spent so much time accumulating. He went on to observe that his daughters and their partners tend to value instead things like mobility and flexibility. They've shown no desire to become curators of a bunch of stuff -- even special stuff, really good stuff.
For one thing, they don't have the room for it. They live in apartments and small houses. They don't have any space to house an armoire, no place to stash a dining room table for 12. When your biggest piece of furniture is a flat screen TV, and your idea of rearranging the living room is pushing a stack of magazines to the other side of the Ikea coffee table, the prospect of being responsible for a 12 place-setting china inheritance feels like a commitment on par with marriage, or deciding to take in a stray dachshund.
For another thing, their lives are centered on adventure and experience. They love the outdoors, love to travel. They're used to packing light. They tend to have a different relationship to "stuff." Oh, they like nice stuff, to be sure. It's just that they view stuff instrumentally. Stuff is a tool for the accomplishment of purposes. And to the extent that a nice tool helps accomplish its purpose more efficiently than a lousy one, they value it. The question put to a thing is not whether its value is intrinsic or even sentimental, but whether it's useful. To their way of thinking, you use stuff to help you do things you want to do, not to make you feel good about things you've already done.
And how can we blame them, really? We raised them to think of things as disposable. Sporks, iPods, jobs, marriages -- use a thing until either it breaks (in which case, you buy another one) or you don't need it anymore (in which case, you throw it out and look to the next thing).
For previous generations, stuff was what you spent the bulk of your time working to acquire, then spent the leftover time working to maintain and repair, so that you would have something to hand down to your children. And they to their children. And so on, in an endless string of accumulation and maintenance, world without end. Amen.
But what happens when a generation comes along that doesn't care about the game you've spent so much time buying equipment for, has little invested in the durable nature of the stuff you value? What happens when your kids say, "Don't give me all that stuff. I'll just have a yard sale, and call Goodwill to haul away what's left over"?
Now, you could spend your time trying to convince them that they have a responsibility to value the things you value. You've lived. You know. They're going to want this stuff. It's worth something -- not like that stupid crap they spend their money on. (Oh, sure a mountain biking trip in New Zealand would be "fun," but what do you have left when you get back and unpack your luggage?)
Convince them the stuff they value is pointless and shallow. That should work. How did that conversation go, by the way, when -- you remember, right? -- when your parents took great pains to try to persuade you how the Beatles couldn't hold a candle to the greats like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole?
Or, you could keep your wisdom to yourself and grouse in silence about the fact that they just don't appreciate all you've worked to give them. (Don't they realize how much time and energy you've put into making something for them to have?) I mean, you could do that. Lord knows it's been done before. But you know, deep down you know, that that just makes you the bitter crank you always used to make fun of: "Hey, you kids get off of my Antique American Oak Bow Glass China Cabinet!"
Or you could make peace with the fact that the way they make it through life will inevitably look different from the way you did.
Why is this in the Religion section? Because churches with massive overhead invested in things like church buildings, denominational infrastructures, functional church organizational models (think: a baptized version of General Motors' organizational structure, complete with a board of directors, departments, departmental committees, etc.) are awakening to the fact that the generations that are supposed to be taking the institutional baton are showing very little interest in grabbing for it.
In fact, in many ways, these generations increasingly think the church has been running toward the wrong finish line for years --concerned as it seems to have been not with figuring out how more faithfully to live like the Jesus of the Gospels, but in acquiring bigger and better stuff to hand down to a generation that doesn't particularly want to inherit it.
You could try to convince the emerging generations that they ought to value the tools you've always used, that they should want to take care of them, that they're going to need them someday, that they should want to pass them down to their children.
Or, you could complain about the fact that these kids just don't appreciate what you've done for them.
Or, you could suck it up and bless them on their next wild adventure.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Where are you Jesus?

So this day, March 19th is the official feast day of Saint Joseph.  Linked in the family line of King David, Joseph was simply a carpenter from a small Galilean town.  Such a small unimportant town in Galilee that it was used as the butt of jokes.  Nothing good came from there.  What a tiny, insignificant place…Nazareth.

If that weren’t enough, he was simply a carpenter.  He was poor and not well respected.  But if you read the scriptures where he is brought up, he is referred to as a good and faithful man.  Always did the right thing.  It seemed that he always did what was best for his family and what was asked of him by God.  Not always making the easy decisions.  So if you look at him, many would say he was a good man, a good father…

So the Gospel reading for today comes to us from Luke 2:41-52.  It is the story of Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem.  For me it is a pretty entertaining story that shows the whole family.  And the father of that family, Joseph.  This story is great because it shows that this was a real family.  It was not perfect.  They were human.  Just like us.

So each year they would all head to festival of the Passover which took place in Jerusalem.  In this particular story, Jesus is twelve years old.  After the festival is over, all the people who came from Nazareth gather and begin to head home. 

Mary and Joseph stop and look around…”Uh oh, Where’s Jesus?”

They search and search but he is not there.  They go back to Jerusalem and search.  For THREE days he is missing!  Jesus’ parents lost him for 3 days!!! 

When they finally find him, just imagine how frantic Mary and Joseph were when they find him! 

Where have you been?! We were frantic!

Here we have Mary and Joseph, a little bit flustered after, oh losing their child for 3 days because he ran off…

And what does Jesus respond?  This small 12 year old boy.  You know how they are…so with this sweet innocent, know-it-all voice, imagine Jesus’ response, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house”

Whoa.  Check the attitude almost teenager Jesus.  Am I right?

So now we have flustered parents and a snappy teenager.  Now if you ask me, this sounds like a very perfectly portrayed real life, human family.

Imagine how Joseph felt at those words too!  Twelve years of raising him, taking care of him, treating as his son, then this…

This was a turning point for this family.  Mary and Joseph had to let Jesus be Jesus.  They had to let go of whatever it was they wanted from him.  Had to stop trying to get him to fit into whatever mold they wanted…and let him be who he is.

Something we also try to do.  We try to take Jesus and force him to be whoever we want or need him to be depending on our lives.  Sooner or later we find ourselves asking questions too.

We are asking ourselves, “Uh oh, Where is Jesus?”

We can search and search and search but all in the wrong places.  Where is he? 

“Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?”

Like Mary and Joseph were confused by this response, sometimes so are we. 

This was the beginning of when Mary and Joseph fully started understanding who Jesus was and who he would become, and why he was here.

He says “…I must…”  he is revealing his purpose is to do the will of God, his father.  Our Father. 

How often do we try to want Jesus to fit into our agenda and our plans?  We want to put a leash on him and have him walk around with us.  But that is not who He is.

Jesus is here to do God’s will and he asks us to join him in this journey.

Now as Lent is coming close to an end is a great time to reflect on this.  Are we still asking “Where are you Jesus?”  Are we looking in the right places?  Are we looking at all?

“Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?”

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Senior Reflection...from 2006...

Tuesday greetings.  So, I spent today looking at some old files and researching what we can do here at Holy Communion that has worked in the past.  And I came across this little gem! 

Back in the day, we would have a service on Wednesday night in Quelling Chapel that included a reflection. Each year, the new group of seniors were asked to give the reflections during those service. 

Yes, I was lucky enough to be asked to give the reflection.  We only had like a handful of seniors so I actually think we were all asked.  So ironically….here it is.  A reflection from a me…written 6 years ago.   Hope you enjoy!


Why do you come to church?  That is the question that I asked myself whenever I found out I was suppose to be giving this reflection.  It seems like an easy question, but you would not believe how hard it was for me to come up with something.  So I’m just going to start from the beginning.  It was around the time I was a wee little 6th grader that I was forced to go to my first EYC at St. George’s.  Yes forced, I did not want to go, but I didn’t want to be grounded even more, so I went.  I didn’t really have so much fun the first few times.  But after some time I made some friends and I started to have fun, which brings me to one reason I come to church, the social aspect.  This became the driving force of why I would go, because that’s where my friends were and I had fun.  I really didn’t expect much else.
                As I got older, things change.  I began to realize another reason I would go to church.  I loved being in the environment.  I realized how it was the presence of Christ and I began to see how Christ was working through all the people around me.  As my spiritual life was beginning to make sense to me for the first time, the worst thing happened.  Problems with my family, difficulties with my dad, pressure at school, soccer, so much more was going on that I began doubting.  As things go worse and worse I stopped caring.  I blamed all my problems on God and then turned my back on him.  Ironically, I still went to church every Sunday, but only because my friends were there.  I no longer cared about the spiritual element. 
                I then went through Happening.  Once again, because I had heard that it was fun and a lot of friends were going.  That weekend brought me back somewhat.  I again began to feel and notice the presence of Christ around me, but I didn’t think about it too much.  But at least it was a start.  I changed from blaming God for my problems to looking for help with my problems.  The environment of being completely surrounded by Christ’s presence was back and I loved being in it. 
                This past year I went on the Pilgrimage to Greece.  This time because I was excited about growing spiritually and not just because it would be fun.  While there, during one our many Lectio Divina times, we read a verse from Mark.  In it, a man comes face to face with Jesus.  The man asks Jesus if he can follow him.  Jesus replies that he can as long as he gives up all of his possessions.  During the responses, people talked about what they would do in that situation.  Meanwhile I sat back because I was questioning if I would even have enough courage to walk up to Jesus.  I didn’t feel that my faith was strong enough to really talk to people about Christ not to mention go running up to Jesus to talk about it.  I was ashamed of myself.  I would compare myself to others and felt that I was no where near anybody else on that trip and felt like I didn’t belong.  I was ashamed of myself for doubting and questioning faith.
                Since our pilgrimage, I have realized many things.  I didn’t have to be ashamed of myself for doubting.  I learned that I was not, other people were doubting as well, and I was not along in the fact that I went to church for the social aspect.  Since the Pilgrimage, my main reason for going to church has been to keep growing in my relationship with Christ.  I’m not going to say that the social aspect doesn’t make it easier to go but it is not my only reason.  It may have been the social part that drew me in and I didn’t expect much more.  In the end, I got a whole lot more than I bargained for and I couldn’t be happier. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Will I Be Strong Enough?

So today I ask you a question…How many of you have ever been so annoyed or hurt or angry about how someone else acting, you ask them to stop, repeatedly, and they keep doing it, that you finally, “That’s it!  I’ve had it!  Enough is enough!”

I think just about everyone has reached a point that point.  Maybe it is a parent dealing with a child that just never seems to listen.   A child dealing with a parent that seems to never listen.  A sibling.  A friend. 

In reality, anybody can bug you so much to the point that you feel that enough is enough and you begin to turn your back on them.  You shut them out.  They are a lost cause.  Not worth my time.

Ever thought that?

This upcoming Sunday, the Gospel reading comes to us from Luke.  It is a very popular parable that is very commonly referred to as an all time favorite by many.

Naturally, I am referring to the Prodigal Son.  Yes, this is a great parable with a great fantastic lesson.  Normally we look at the Father in the story as God, this kind man who welcomes us home after we are lost and wander and feel that we have wasted everything we have been given.  Yet, when we repent and return, we are accepted with open, loving arms.  It is truly a great heart-warming story.

But, I want to take a look at it from another angle.  Now, as many of you know, there is another son in this story.  The older son.  Let’s just say he is not too pleased that there is a huge celebration for the son that took all his money and left.  I was the one that stayed and worked and have been there for you all these years…why does he get all of this praise for leaving!?

One thing I sometimes do when reflecting on a Passage is think of which character I fit in as.  Many times, I see myself as the Prodigal Son.  Crawling back begging for forgiveness.  Other times I look on and ask, “Uhhhh….why is that happening for them?”

I while back I attended an event here at Holy Communion where Bill Courtney came to speak about the documentary that had recently come out about the football team he coached at Manassas High School.  The title of the documentary is “Undefeated”.  If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.  Be aware though, there is some foul language.  I do not want to spoil this for anyone who has not seen it, but I will try to briefly explain the plot.  Well, I won’t but IMDB says this… 

A documentary that follows the Manassas Tigers football team, a severely underfunded and underprivileged football team -- who were even hired out as a practice team for more successful schools -- as they reverse their fortunes, thanks to coach Bill Courtney.

So in the movie, there is a player on the team named Chavis.  To be nice, you could say he was not nice.  On many occasions, he is seen fighting with fellow teammates and being rude and disrespectful to others, peers and coaches.  The guy has a short temper and it is not fun to see him when he is angry.

After getting into another fight with a teammate, he walks out on the team.  Abandons them.

When I went to hear Courtney speak, someone asked him why he didn’t just kick him off the team.  It was obvious he was hurting them more than he was helping.

Coach Courtney’s response has stuck with me ever since hearing it.

He asked everyone, if they had to define what it meant to be a Christian in one word, what would it be.  He said that for him, it was forgiveness.  If you think about it, Jesus came down and died for our sins, to forgive us.  God’s grace, forgiveness.  To Coach Courtney, it was forgiveness, “Without that, we are all just Jewish or something.  I don’t know I am not really a theologian” he went on to joke. 

But he talked about how he thought about how on Sunday, when he was sitting in the pews, he would pray and always ask for forgiveness.  Each week he would go in and apologize for doing something and ask for forgiveness.  Then the next week, he would be right back there, apologizing for still doing it and again asking for forgiveness.

Does any of this sound familiar?  I know I feel that way many Sundays.  That I am constantly asking for forgiveness for something that I continue to do. 

Well, even during those times that I feel that I have really messed up, God is there.  So if He won’t give up on me, who am I to give up on them?

That was the question Coach Courtney asked himself.  Who am I not forgive them?  To not give them another chance?  Who am I to give up on someone?

So, there is the guy that used to lead all the music for our youth retreats when I was younger, Sam Hensley, perhaps you have heard of him.  He has a song that he wrote called Prodigal Son.  Surprisingly, it is about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. 

Throughout the song, he asks , ‘Will I be strong enough to welcome him home?”  Over and over, he asks “Will I be strong enough?”  There is so much anger that can be felt and we feel that forgiveness is out of the question, or we are can’t handle it anymore, “Enough is enough!”

At the end, again he asks, “Will I be strong enough to welcome him home?”

“Oh yes, I will be strong enough to welcome him home and I will say, ‘Welcome home my Prodigal Son, welcome home!”