Sermon for March 27, 2022 Lent Four “Searching”
What do you want to be when you grow up? At age 3 or 4 it is one thing, at 15 or 16 quite another and along the way the responses keep changing. I keep wondering what I want to do when I grow up, I’ll wait and see. It is a question of discerning and discovery and what is different now than most of the last century, is that many now have many career shifts. Always searching and wondering and growing. And some figure it out and know for certainty what they want to do and it becomes a life’s work.
The question may not have been asked of the younger son in the teaching for today. We do know that at a young age he was certain he did not want to work for his brother. He wanted to search for his own path, he wanted to explore all the adventures he had only heard about from others. And so he decided to go exploring.
A few unusual things occurred, the father gave him permission and gave him, in advance, his inheritance (that was unheard of, but that is another sermon). And the son left to find his place in the world.
As is so often the case the search went fine until the money ran out and then life was not so much fun and it was not until he was fighting pigs for food scrapes that his ego subsided and the lessons of his upbringing that he so wanted to get away from came back to him.
The palate of colour and hue this teaching offers are many and I find delight in that texture and possibility. Let me offer this facet of teaching from this text.
The teachings, values, morals and life teachings we offer our children will last a lifetime. And it is vital that we take the time and effort to, as parents, teachers, faith leaders and neighbours to teach, instill and practice what we teach or preach.
The parents in the story would have taught all their children the same life values and teachings based on the Torah. Part of that teaching would have been the truth that the eldest son inherits the land, the other son’s inheritance is money and any daughters would be married. We may not like the idea in our 21st century context but the story referenced made sense in a first century context.
We may wonder ‘did anything I teach my kids sink in? they learned about God and Jesus and the value of worship…what happened?’ For my adult self, the teaching is that I and we did the teaching of our children, that teaching did not disappear, it is there waiting for the right moment to emerge with new understanding. Understanding born of their own searching. Sometimes the search is short and by times much longer. The father’s/parent’s role in that time is to continue living and keep watch.
Part of the learning for the young son in the story is that you only have value in most venues so long as you have money. While dining with pigs the young son realized that his value was anchored in who he was and his core values. And those, much to his chagrin he learned at home. Dirty, scared, alone and embarrassed he turned his face toward home.
What he could not have known is that his parents kept an eye out for him every day. When the sorry image appeared at the entrance of the lane, rejoicing and relief were the welcoming embrace.
We often find ourselves as the parent, the young son and even the older son (but that is for another time) and it is one of the core understandings of the essential necessity of radical, uninhibited hospitality. All who come here are searching and all who come here are found.
Thanks be to God. Amen