Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Jos 5:9a, 10-12
2 Cor 5:17-21
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

The movie A Christmas Story, set in Northern Indiana in the late 1940’s, is primarily about the quest of young Ralphie to get a particular present for Christmas, a Red Ryder BB gun. Yet the story also deals a lot with everyday life, and with other preoccupations of our young hero. One thing Ralphie is looking for is a Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring, an absolute necessity if he is to be able to decipher the coded message given at the end of the Little Orphan Annie radio show. He saved Ovaltine labels, drank the stuff in mass quantities, and dutifully mailed everything in to obtain the ring. Diligently Ralphie checks the mail each day on the way home from school, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the coveted ring. Finally the ring arrives, and Ralphie is overjoyed. At last he can decode the message! When he does, however, he discovers the message is nothing more than a commercial for Ovaltine, the drink he has consumed gallons of to obtain the ring. Greatly disappointed, he never mentions the ring again. What he watched for, waited for, longed for, has done nothing but let him down. A young man demands his share of his inheritance, takes the money and proceeds to throw it all away living a dissolute life. His father, who acquiesced in his son’s demand for the money, watches and waits, waits for the return of his son. Surely this man is disappointed in his son, in his son’s behavior, in his foolishness, in his wasted life. He watches, and when he sees his lost son on the road home, he runs to him. He runs to him not to berate him for his foolishness, but to bring him back into the warmth and the love of his family. No one would blame the man for being angry, no one would fault him for exacting some sort of punishment on his son. Make him work, make him pay the money back, demand some sort of restitution. Instead the father celebrates, joyous that his son has returned. He accepts his son despite his faults and failings. Will the son disappoint again? Probably, he learned a valuable lesson, but being human, he will need at times to be reminded. He learned, but he still isn’t perfect. Our God watches and waits for us, watching diligently to see if we are on the way home. Just like young Ralphie he checks everyday to see if we have made it back yet. Unlike Ralphie, God knows what to expect. We have squandered the inheritance we were given, thrown away the gift that Christ obtained for us, yet God watches and waits. Even when we do return, repentant and pledging to live differently, God knows we will still disappoint. We learn lessons, but we are not perfect, not yet. Just like the decoder ring, we will find a way to be less than we could be, less than we want to be, we will fail again. God knows this, God knows that we will disappoint, again and again. Still God watches and waits, and welcomes us back with joy, every time.

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 14, 2010

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