This week’s lectionary reading is the story of the “Prodigal Son” or of the “Ungrateful Senior Son” or “The Father of Grace,” whatever you’d like to call it. The actual reading was: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
As I was pondering and reading I remembered this story I wrote a number of years ago when this particular reading and I was sitting in another sermon…
I’m currently calling this The Prodigal Part Deux – The Brother Bites Back.
The elder son, having heard news of his father’s extravagant grace and the way that he had welcomed his younger brother back into the house became outraged. (How dare his father welcome that ungrateful prick back into the house like that, and what’s up with not inviting him to the party?) Having to be told about all of this by a servant made matters worse…
Incensed the older brother took off, away from the household and gathered the troops, many of the young men and women from the town gathered at the local town hall where they were told that it’s possible that their and other fathers may also share the same philosophy, and, even more frightening there could be hundreds of fathers all over the land welcoming back ungrateful and undeserving children back into their families, that others may also suffer the same injustice that he had been served at the hand of his nutty father.
The outraged mob developed a plan that would make sure that this kind of injustice would never happen again, or if it were going to happen the wretched prodigals would have to at the very least have to earn their passage.
The plan that they developed was quite devious, and very simple.
Together they formed a society of people who would keep an eye out for prodigal sons and daughters traveling down the roads around their home town, heading back home. When these prodigals were sighted it became someone’s task to head down the road and try and turn them back.
Various practices would be performed in order to deter the hopeful prodigal from continuing down the road. Conversations would encourage the hopeful to think about how hard the rest of the road home would be, they would plant seeds of doubt in their father’s potential to forgive, they’d play guilt trips, created rituals for people to perform in order to prove their worth, (many of which were quite impossible to complete) and generally make the journey back to where they came from seem simple and preferable to the rest of the road ahead of them.
The society would preach a message of repentance, and they would make it almost impossible for people to completely feel like they were ever going to be forgiven, their motto was that the road to forgiveness was long and extremely difficult.
Most of those that did end up passing the rituals and tasks ended up joining the society, many becoming the best members of the society deterring more and more people on the road back to grace, after all, their path had been extremely difficult and they weren’t going to let others get their serve of grace easily.
Soon this society would hold weekly celebrations on how successful they had been in deterring people on the road, together they would jump about, clap their hands and sing songs as they retold their stories of how they deterred people on the road and celebrate how their methods had brought them new recruits.