March 27th 2022 Lent 4
"Worthy of Being Fed" by Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity Inspired by Isaiah 55:1-9
Call to Worship
One: God’s reach is endless.
All: God’s mercy is unstoppable.
One: God’s grace is lavish.
All: God’s love is constant.
One: God’s wisdom is vast.
All: God’s hope is stubborn.
One: God’s presence is here—
All: with us, among us, moving through us.
One: Breathe easy. Breathe deeply.
All: We are in God’s house.
One: Let us worship the One who welcomes us home.
Scugog Island United Church Announcements
Thank you to Robert Bennett: Thank you for leadership and ministry with us this morning.
Good Friday walk: Planned to go forward on April 15th.
Farewell Service: Rev. Ned’s final service with Scugog Island United Church will be on June 5th.
Annual Meeting on April 24th
Jean Law, Elsie Nicholson, Terry Petroff, John and Diane Findlay, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, John Black, Lynne and Ian McLeod, Nellie Van Dyke, Tim Pelyk, Bob Currie, Derrek Linton, Sharen Bobbie, Ed and Jane Williams, Bill Statton, Cheryl Helm, Tracy Harper, and Joanne.
Copyright: Prayers by Rev. Sarah (Are) Speed | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org. Bulletin Cover art by Hannah Garrity.
Artist Statement for Cover “Worthy of Being Fed”
In my early 20s, in the midst of too many life transitions to navigate at once and a personal crisis that deeply unraveled me, I called an old family friend who happened to live in the new city I had just moved to. I don’t remember what I said, exactly, but the friend instantly sensed that I needed more than just a phone conversation. She invited me to meet her at the park near her apartment. We went on a walk, and as the daylight waned, she said, “Would you like to stay for dinner?” I’ll never forget the way she warmed up homemade soup from her fridge and fixed me an arugula salad. She dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice, and to my surprise, added a pinch of salt and a shake of pepper. Like manna in my desert, that meal nourished me at a time when I did not think I was worthy of being fed.
In this image, a feast is savored and shared. The brackets, which look like doves flying inward, also form the shape of a vessel that is simultaneously upright and full and also upside down and poured out. We fill up so we can pour out—we can’t give from an empty cup.
Call to Confession
If you ask any parent with a teenager what it’s like to wait up for their child to meet curfew, they will tell
you—they’re standing at the door. The porch light is on. No one can sleep until that child is home safe.
Friends, I think God is like that for us. The porch light is on. The door is unlocked.
We might be late for curfew, but God is just so glad we’re home.
So let us pray the prayer of confession together, trusting that no matter what we do or what we leave undone,
the porch light is always on. Let us pray. . .
Prayer of Confession
The prodigal son isn’t given a name, but we know his name.
It sounds like ours.
And we know his story.
It sounds like ours.
For who among us hasn’t burned a bridge?
Who among us hasn’t forgotten that we belong to one another?
Who among us has not ached for home?
The prodigal son isn’t given a name, but we know his name.
Forgive us God. We want to come home.
Words of Forgiveness
Family of faith, the word ‘prodigal’ can be defined as wasteful or imprudent, hence the name, “Prodigal Son.” However, ‘prodigal’ can also be described as extravagant and excessive. Friends, we worship a prodigal God—a God who is extravagant in mercy and excessive in grace. For no matter how many times we run, no matter how far we go or how lost we get, God is standing at the end of the driveway waiting for us. The doors are open. The feast is for you. This grace is extravagant.
Thanks be to God, amen.
Prayer for Illumination
God of open doors,
We often long to come home to you, to love,
and to ourselves,
but we aren’t always sure how to get there.
We know that we need you,
but the road back to you is heavy with distractions.
So if we can dare to be so forward, we pray—
reach into the cacophony of our hearts and minds and make yourself known.
Quiet everything but your Word for us today.
Leave us awestruck.
Drown out the distractions.
Come as thunder or come as a still, small voice; we don't care which, we just pray that you will come.
Turn on the light.
Speak through these words.
Find the parts of us that are lost.
With hope we pray, amen.
Scripture Reading: Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Sermon "Prodigal Grace"
Lent 4 March 27th 2022 Sermon: “ Prodigal Grace “ Robert Bennett
Tonight is the 94th Academy Awards Ceremony.
Anyone who has tuned in over the years to watch The Oscars
will know that when each Nominee is announced, a clip is shown of them from the movie they were in—and, usually, it is of a highly dramatic/
Were a Hollywood-style movie made of the Parable of Jesus featured in today’s Reading -- the scene I would like to see focussed on during Awards Season is where the Prodigal Son is at his lowest point and exclaims
'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."'
With dramatic music playing, The Son would vow in an emotional voice, with tears pouring down his face, that he wants to return home.
No matter what happens when he arrives, he wants…to go home!
And then, in a calmer more composed state, The Son literally picks himself up, and leaves on his journey…his journey home.
In the Series Finale episode of the TV show QUANTUM LEAP, the time traveling Physicist is asked by the One who may be behind all of the ‘leaping‘: “ Where would you like to go, Sam? “ And, in an emotion-choked voice, tears streaming down his face, Dr. Sam Beckett replies,
“ Home, I’d like to go home! “
Almost 37 years ago, a young Adult uttered in a distressed
state of mind: “ I’m scared to go home! “ " I'm SCARED… to go home!
It was I who said that—near the end of the Study Year Program in West Germany and a little less than 1 month before my scheduled flight back to Canada. I was at the home of a German family, whose daughter had been
in Canada at Brock University. Daniela, called “Danny”, had met my Mom through a Program to befriend a foreign student…and, so, when “Danny“ returned home, I was in contact with her…and it was arranged
for me to visit her and her family for a weekend in early July.
During my Visit, I was with “Danny” and her boyfriend Rheinhold in his father's expensive, new BMW seeing the local area. Returning to “Danny’s" home, before Rheinhold was to drive the car into the garage...”Danny” got out and went to pull up the door, but just as her boyfriend was driving in, the door suddenly came down smashing the windshield. Reinhold instantly ‘exploded’, “Danny” started crying, and that crashing of the door also affected me! At first, I felt numb… but, then, emotion began welling up
inside me. I knew that I had to be by myself in the room where I was staying. “Danny” must have known that something was not right,
so she knocked and entered…and I broke down in tears crying, sobbing,
that I WAS SCARED TO GO HOME!!!!! I was scared to be back home,
and 'lose' all the good that I had gained during my time away.
It was a few months after I was back in Canada that a minister who was a Counselor told me that before my time to return home, emotionally I was
a full cup, and when the garage door crashed onto the car windshield it was
as though an object was dropped into my full cup causing a spillage: an ‘emotional spillage '. I thought of this when I first read the title of the Resource selected by Rev. Ned for a Lenten Sermon Series: “Full to the Brim”. I was full, all right, and I then overflowed!
Perhaps the Prodigal Son had experienced some kind of emotional spillage...and, is afraid to go home after painfully realizing that he has not only shamed his family in running off, squandering his portion of his father’s Estate but, has also sinned against the God of his family by having turned away from God with his indulgent lifestyle...and broken God's laws. So, for his own reasons, perhaps the Prodigal Son may have felt scared to go home, and wondered what would await him there? But home he went…
We are familiar with the rest of the Parable. The Returning Son is emotional as he meets his father… expresses that he will be fine if he is taken back, not as a Son but as a Servant. // I recall the Sunday when a minister of my family’s home congregation preached on The Prodigal Son…and he essentially said that were he the Father, he might well have told the Returning Son to get the ‘heck‘ off his front step and then slammed the door in his face. Maybe your average Father/Parent would have done just that… but, this is where we see what is commonly believed: that the Father/Parent represents God our Heavenly Father/Parent, who demonstrates the title of today’s Sermon: “Prodigal Grace “. “ Prodigal Grace “.
But first, here’s the rest of the story of my emotional ‘spillage’ on that July afternoon at “Danny’s" home: being a sweet and kind-hearted young woman, she held me for a few minutes and assured me that it was normal to be feeling as I was, but I would be okay; and, importantly, she believed that my parents loved me very much. Her comforting…helped! What made it all the more significant: “Danny” and I were really… strangers. True, she probably had learned much about me from my Mom, but until that day, we’d never met. Perhaps it is so that the love and support of someone we don’t expect it from…can have a very powerful impact for us?
Back to the Prodigal Son who became the Returning Son: could he have honestly expected the reception that he would receive from his father? While his father could have done as that minister said he might have done, He does something surprising: He doesn’t disown his son, nor does He even scold him. Instead, He offers a loving and comforting embrace proving that His Wayword Son ’ is still His beloved Child. A CELEBRATION is called for.
The Prodigal Son is probably one of the best known of Jesus’ Parables, but maybe is also the most…confusing even illogical? I would like to read to you a Commentary by the Rev Ashley DeTar Birt from “Full to the Brim”:
“ I don’t think I’m the only person who has ever struggled with this parable. No matter where we see ourselves in this story—as the younger son, the older son, or even as the father—it can be challenging to sympathize
with everyone. Why would the younger son take so much—half of the estate—from his father, only to waste it? Why wouldn’t the older son celebrate the fact that his brother is back? Why wouldn’t the father
(or anyone, for that matter) bother to tell the older son what’s going on?
Trying to make sense of these characters was hard for me,
but what I eventually came to realize is that every single one of them, regardless of what they’ve done, receives grace. Both sons, one wasteful
and one frustrated, receive the grace of their father, and even the father
(who could, but isn’t explicitly said to, represent God) experiences grace
in his interactions with his sons. No one earns it, but rather it is something they experience together. Once I understood this, I began to feel the grace this parable extends in my own life. There’s no limit to the grace we can experience with God because God puts no limits on grace. Our lives can be big, full, messy, complicated, imperfect, a wreck, and God’s grace will still be there. Go forth and experience God’s grace in the people in your life, without limits.”
There’s no limit to the grace we can experience from God: a Prodigal Grace. Grace that is extravagant, lavish…and, given to someone who probably is NOT deserving. But God is The One to offer this, who loves us unconditionally no matter what. God wants us to come home!
Oscars Night 1986 saw esteemed Hollywood actress Geraldine Page finally awarded an Oscar for a Leading Role in the movie The Trip to Bountiful. My favourite moments of "Bountiful”, though, are not of her acting, but in the Opening Credits when we hear someone singing a beloved Gospel piece. Here are some of its lyrics:
“ Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling / Calling for you and for me/ See on the portals He's waiting and watching/ Watching for you and for me// Come home, come home/ Ye who are weary come home/ Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling/ Calling, ‘O sinner come home' "
Did the Prodigal Son hear those very words… spoken softly, tenderly, earnestly to his heart and soul: come home, come home?
There are people who pray that they may return home…to what has been their earthly place of Residence. As we watch on the News the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine, we pray for an end to the war there, and for Ukranians to be able, literally, to return home. I was watching CNN some time in the past 2 weeks and a family was interviewed who escaped from Ukraine.
They believe that they WILL one day return home to their country.
Lets also pray for persons, who like the Prodigal Son, may feel that it is impossible for them to return home. No way will they be welcomed back, because what they did-- or didn’t do -- caused such damage that is… unforgivable. I realize that as Christians we ought not promote ourselves and our good deeds…but an experience in my family of origin is worth sharing: the youngest daughter of my Dad’s cousin on his mother's side... upped and left her husband and 3 children to go to another man in England. Eventually, she must have come to her senses and returned home. The first time I saw her after her Return was one Sunday at Church during Fellowship (‘Coffee') Time…and, I approached her, gave her a hug and said, "Welcome Home". Like the Father in Jesus' Parable. I cannot recall her reaction;
and, I hope that nobody referred to her as “The Prodigal Daughter"!
In the Resource “Full to the Brim” an Invitation is extended to us:
“Recall a time in your life when you have either received or given prodigal grace, grace that is lavish, illogical, and unearned.
How did that experience change you?”
Prodigal Grace is to be freely given…and freely received. I like that, because it is often said that one of the most difficult things we humans need to do…is to forgive ourselves. We need to infuse ourselves with God’s amazing, Prodigal Grace...and by so doing, we may experience the joy of receiving something that is undeserved, unmerited on our own. It is God’s.
I’ll conclude by reading a Prayer from “Full to the Brim”:
“ Holy God, help me remember that when it comes to the story of the prodigal son, I play all three roles. I can make the same mistakes, but I can also make the same gracious choices. Therefore, help me be like the prodigal son who was quick to apologize. Help me be like the older brother
who aimed for righteousness, and help me be like the father
who celebrated love at every turn. I can be all three. Amen.”
Affirmation of Faith
We believe in a God who waits in the driveway for us. We believe in a God who leaves the porch light on and throws a feast when we are found. We believe in a God who doesn’t stop looking for us when we get lost. We believe in a God of prodigal grace— excessive, extravagant, over-the-top grace.
In response to this grace, we hold tighter to each other. We remember that humans are not meant to go through life alone; so we look for ways to welcome each other in, to live like we are family, and to lead with grace—excessive, extravagant, over-the-top grace. We believe that this is our call. Let it be so. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
As you leave this place, may you be awestruck by the beauty of this world. May you laugh, and may it be contagious. May you overflow with love for those around you. May you be effusive with hope and quick to point out joy. And in all of your living, and breathing, and being, may you find yourself full to the brim with God’s Holy Spirit, and may it change your life. In the name of the Lover, the Beloved, and Love itself— go in peace, full to the brim. Amen.