When our Sunday night YF starts up again at the end of August, we’re going to go through a series looking at some of the stories Jesus told. The problem is, there are such well known stories. Everyone knows them. They know what happens in them. They know how they end.
So I’m trying to reinterpret them. Make them fresh.
The first one is probably the most famous of all. The Prodigal Son. How do you make that story fresh to people who will have heard it many times before? I’ve taken my first stab at it and the results are below. I’m not sure whether it’s enough but it’s a start. I have a couple of weeks to mull it over. Please let me know your thoughts.
Tom sits staring at the text on his phone. Thinking whether to send it or not.
“Dad, I’m sorry. Can I come home?”
He deletes the message and puts the phone back in his pocket. He leans back against the cold hard cement of the building behind him. The sounds of traffic echoes around his ears. A passer-by throws a twenty pence piece into his cup. He’s been living on the street for three weeks now.
Hard to imagine that just four months ago he had everything. Tom lived in a two story penthouse with his dad and sister. He had everything he ever wanted. Clothes, gadgets, good schooling.
But you know what it’s like when you’re a teenager. You want independence. You don’t want your parents supporting you all the time.
So he left home. Well, more than that.
He got into a fight with his dad one night. Told him, he wanted him dead. That he was moving out and he’d never see him again. Told him that he didn’t understand him. He needed to be on his own. Things escalated. Minutes later, Tom was standing over the bloodied and beaten body of his dad. He grabbed some money from the safe his dad had behind a painting in the dining room, and took off.
His dad was inconsolable. Close friends and family told him to forget Tom. That he was a nobody. He’s better off out of his life. His dad disagreed.
Over the next few weeks, Tom’s sister, Tracy looked after her dad. She nursed him back to health. She did everything for him. Anything to make him happy. That’s just what she was like. She’d always been like that. Trying to get her father’s approval through what she did. What she didn’t realise is that she always had his approval. She didn’t need to do anything to get it.
For Tom, the next couple of months were great. He rented a small flat, went out all night and slept all day. He experienced everything he had ever dreamed of. He had it all. Every desire, he filled.
But soon the money ran out. And the friends that he had recently acquired left also. He didn’t have the money to pay for the flat so he was thrown out on to the streets. He had nobody. Just a sleeping bag and his phone.
He thinks back to what it was like a few months ago. He wants to go home.
He takes his phone out again and tries to dial home. But he can’t. He doesn’t deserve that life.
A voice calls out to him.
“Put the phone away”.
He looks up. The tall frame of his dad stands over him. He stares. Not knowing what to do. His dad reaches out a hand.
“It’s time to come home”.
You see, once his dad was able to walk again, he set about looking for his son. He spoke with bar and club owners, shop managers, any contact he had. And they led him to his son. His sister was outraged. Why does he need him? He threw it all away. He doesn’t deserve his father’s attention. She does. She does everything for him.
“But you’ve already got my love Tracy. You don’t need to do all of this. My son needs my love, just as much as you”.
Tracy doesn’t understand. Tom doesn’t understand either.
But he’s glad to be home.
I immediately thought it was an interesting tool for youth work but then started to think what an interesting tool it was for anyone.
If I could send an e-mail to myself in 2037, what would I want to say? What would I want to remind myself of?
Setting aside the thought that e-mail probably will be long gone by then, what words of advice would I give?
Who knows what kind of person I will be or where I will find myself in 28 years time. I’ll be 54..I know that much. And that’s pretty scary.
At college on Thursday, a lecturer emphasised how important it is to remember the “grace moments” in your life. The times when you just knew something bigger was at work. Maybe it was God. Maybe it wasn’t but…it was something. Something bigger than you. You caught a glimpse of another world.
As a Christian, I think, it’s important to remember those “grace moments”.
When the doubts come. When you’re just not really sure anymore. When you feel lost.
Remember the times when God was with you. That’s what the Israelites did. God reminded them over and over again. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. When they were lost. When their nation had been crushed and and they were taken as exiles to Babylon. God reminded them. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt.
We need those grace moments. We need to hold on to them. Remember when you felt God. When you heard him. Because sometimes that’s all we have. The memories. When science causes us to doubt. When we see oppression and poverty all around us. When we simply ask, “Why God?”. Those are the times when we need those grace moments. To get us through.
For the Jews, it was passover. For Christians it’s the Eucharist. Communion.
We remind ourselves when God showed up.
Maybe that’s what helped Jesus through his “lent” 2000 years ago. During those 40 days in the wildreness. When he was tired. Alone. Away from his family. Away from God.
Maybe he reminded himself of those grace moments. When he communed with the Father. With the Spirit.
We need those grace moments too.
Maybe that’s what I would e-mail myself. All the grace moments in my life. The times when I came face to face with something much bigger than me.
So that I might continue on this journey. So that I might finish the race.
What are your grace moments?