RUMC 6 March 2016
The following is called the Prodigal Son in the Key of F. See if you recognize it.
Feeling footloose and frisky, a featherbrained fellow forced his father to
fork over his farthings. Fast he flew to foreign fields and frittered his
family’s fortune, feasting fabulously with floozies and faithless friends.
Flooded with flattery he financed a full-fledged fling of “funny foam” and
Fleeced by his fellows in folly, facing famine, and feeling faintly fuzzy, he
found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy foreign farmyard. Feeling frail and
fairly famished, he fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from
the fodder fragments.
“Fooey,” he figured, “my father’s flunkies fare far fancier,” the frazzled
fugitive fumed feverishly, facing the facts. Finally, frustrated from
failure and filled with foreboding (but following his feelings) he fled from
the filthy foreign farmyard.
Faraway, the father focused on the fretful familiar form in the field and
flew to him and fondly flung his forearms around the fatigued fugitive.
Falling at his father’s feet, the fugitive floundered forlornly, “Father, I
have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor.”
Finally, the faithful Father, forbidding and forestalling further flinching,
frantically flagged the flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a
Faithfully, the father’s first-born was in a fertile field fixing fences
while father and fugitive were feeling festive. The foreman felt fantastic
as he flashed the fortunate news of a familiar family face that had forsaken
fatal foolishness. Forty-four feet from the farmhouse the first-born found a
farmhand fixing a fatling.
Frowning and finding fault, he found father and fumed, “Floozies and foam
from frittered family funds and you fix a feast following the fugitive’s
folderol?” The first-born’s fury flashed, but fussing was futile. The frugal
first-born felt it was fitting to feel “favored” for his faithfulness and
fidelity to family, father, and farm. In foolhardy fashion, he faulted the
father for failing to furnish a fatling and feast for his friends.
His folly was not in feeling fit for feast and fatling for friends; rather his flaw was
in his feeling about the fairness of the festival for the found fugitive. His fundamental fallacy was a fixation on favoritism, not forgiveness. Any focus on feeling “favored” will fester and friction will force the faded facade to fall.
Frankly, the father felt the frigid first-born’s frugality of forgiveness was formidable and frightful. But the father’s former faithful fortitude and fearless forbearance to forgive both fugitive and first-born flourishes.
The farsighted father figured, “Such fidelity is fine, but what forbids
fervent festivity for the fugitive that is found? Unfurl the flags and
finery, let fun and frolic freely flow. Former failure is forgotten, folly is
forsaken. Forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortune.”
According to Charles Dickens, the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible is “The finest short story ever written.” “The Prodigal Son in the Key of F” is a modern day adaptation. I think this story resonates with us, because its message is coming home.
By way of background, the younger son in the story had gone against all societal norms. He asked for inheritance. He did that while his father was still alive and with money in hand, he left home. There are seven words in the Bible that describe what happened. Verse 13 says: He squandered his wealth in wild living.
It sort of reminds me of what happens to soldiers in Basic Training when they get their first 24 hour pass. Many of them go to the big city as fast as the bus can take them. Once there, they indulge themselves in food and alcohol and go where the action is.
That is similar to what the younger son had done in this parable. He focused on the pursuit of pleasure, and in the end it did not fulfill. It did not then and it does not now. You see pleasure never delivers what is promised. If our goal is to always have a good time, to eat, drink and to be merry, in the end there will be an emptiness, just as those young soldiers discovered when they came back to the barracks.
The message of this parable is about coming home to the Lord and family. Consider this story:
One of the most powerful preachers who lived in the 1800’s was a man called Uncle John Vassar. His family owned a brewery in Poughkeepsie, NY. When John invited Christ into his heart and made a profession of faith, he abandoned the brewery to win souls for the Lord. One day Uncle John visited a Christian woman whose husband was a hardened unbeliever. During this visit, the woman asked for a Bible and Uncle John gave her one. Later on when her husband saw the Bible and found out who gave it to her, he became enraged. He took the Bible, went out into the woodshed and hacked it down the middle with an axe. He threw half of the destroyed Bible at his wife and tossed the other half on some cut up wood.
Months later on a wet winter’s day, he went into the wood shed out of boredom and found the mutilated Bible. Curiosity got the best of him and he began to read; it was the story of the Prodigal son. But he wasn’t able to finish, because his wife had the other half. So he crept back into the house and secretly searched for the other half of the cut up Bible. Unable to find it, he demanded that she bring it to him. Reluctantly, she gave it to him and he finished the story. Then he read it again and again and he too had become like the prodigal and came home to the Lord as a new believer and loving husband. That is an example of what the Lord and the Word of God can do for us.
Another person, who in recent history was like the prodigal, but in a quiet way, was former Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle. In his autobiography, “Standing Firm”, Quayle wrote:
“Although I had been raised a Presbyterian, my personal acceptance of Christ occurred in a Methodist Church on a Sunday afternoon in 1964 when I was seventeen years old. With about fifteen or twenty other young people, we talked about Christ having died for our sins and the importance of accepting him as our personal Savior. Then our group leader urged each one of us to make a personal open statement about accepting Christ. And in a quiet peaceful way, most of us did.”
And like the prodigal, Dan Quayle and his classmates had returned to God in a personal relationship. Though their conversion was not as dramatic as the young man in the parable, Quayle’s return to the Lord was just as real.
The story of the prodigal reminds me of the very, very, short Fairy tale story of the kite. Like many fables it starts off with “Once upon a time” the kite spoke to itself and said, “If only I could get rid of this string. If the string wasn’t holding me back, then I could fly. I could fly above the clouds, nothing could hold me back.” Then one day the kite got its wish. The string broke and instead of soaring above the clouds, it came crashing down to the earth. The moral of the story is this: The string that kept it down also kept it up. It is the same thing with us, the string of life keeps us grounded, but also connected to God. It is for our protection. If we cut the cord and pursue a life of pleasure, we will crash. Again, the story of the prodigal is about coming home.
Here is a short pop quiz.
- By temperament and experience, whom do you identify with in this story?
b. older brother
c. the father.
- If you had to compare your spiritual journey to the prodigal’s journey, where are you?
at home, but not too happy
b. in a far country
c. coming to my senses
d. on my home, but not sure what I’ll find
e. I’ve just arrived/feeling great
f. enjoying the fattened calf and the party.
- What’s the lesson to you in this parable?
You’ve got to let your children go, even though they will probably blow it.
b. God’s love has no strings
c. watching for your children to come is painful.
d. older brothers have trouble enjoying the party.
e. love overcomes mistakes.
If you have children and other relatives who are like the prodigal, make it easier for them to come back. Forgive, initiate, do whatever it takes and help them come home.
Perhaps you need to come home to the Lord.