This week’s parables come from Luke rather than Matthew. The fifteenth chapter is a trilogy of stories about “lost and found.” The refrain after each story is that “there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repent than those who need no repentance.” That is until the story that is usually none as the “prodigal son.”
In that story there is no refrain, it ends with a father pleading for his son to come and join the party “because his brother was lost and is found.” This story is often difficult to accept by those who play by the rules, do what is right,, are dutiful and for lack of a better term, “good.” This story is hard for respectable people and for many church people.
One of the things that Amy-Jill Levine noted in her book Short Stories by Jesus, is that somehow the elder brother was lost too. This wasn’t news to me, but her point about how Jesus’ listeners would have been cheering for the younger and stunned by his behavior caught me by surprise. I spent some time in my sermon noting how often the “younger” sons come up as heroes in the Hebrew scriptures.
What was more unsettling to me, was when I really delved into the fact that the older son/brother was absolutely ignored in the party planning. I read into the story for the first the hurt, bewilderment and pain the brother must have felt at being forgotten and ignored.
This story by Jesus could be preached and experienced on many levels. Having preached this sermon many times, my sermon from August 6, 2017 is just one small slice of the depth of this story. You can find the worship service from First United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas here.