Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Tale of Two Sisters

For last Sunday's sermon, I wrote a parable about two sisters and a mother to give a new perspective to the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). I thought you would enjoy it as well.

Once there was a woman who had two daughters. They owned a factory where they made hundreds of baked goods everyday. From french baguettes to sourdough, they specialized in providing people with their "Daily Bread". Their slogan was "From our home to yours, Mamas helping mamas find daily bread". This mother raised her daughters to take over the family business, but the younger daughter was looking for something different. She wanted to see the world and try to make it on her own as a singer-songwriter. So she went to her mother and asked for her share of the company. "If you'd let me sell my share of the company, I could try and make it big in New York City." Mama knew there was no changing her little girl's mind, so she allowed her to sell her inheritance and take a shot at making it as a recording artist.

It wasn't long before the daughter had sold all of her shares and packed up her things to make the long journey to the distant "Big Apple." Everything was so exciting, she thought she had plenty of money, and knew she need to do some research on where the big venues were, so she started going to clubs and bars to hear other musicians and try to make contacts. She had such great plans, but it was so much fun just enjoying the music scene and the company she met, that before she knew it, all of her money was gone. She found a job as a waitress at one of her favorite spots, and considered it still research. Then she noticed that she wasn't the only one squeezing by, because her customers started leaving less and less of a tip. She tried to be nicer and nicer, doing everything she could to please them, but it just seemed that they weren't as generous as when the economy was doing well. Then her boss had to make some cuts and her hourly wage took a hit. Before she knew it, she found herself out on the street, using the shelter down the street for sleeping and showering, so she could make her long shift at the club.

Her stomach growled as she served the food, how she longed to have her mother's bread, when she couldn't even afford to buy it in the store. One day she remembered, "How many of those who worked in my mother's factory had good wages enough to feed their families, and I am here starving to death? I will go back to my mother and explain how I messed up, I didn't make her proud, and instead I made a fool of myself, I am no longer worthy to be a part of the family. I wronged my family and myself, when I ignored my dreams and wasted all of my money in reckless living. Please, can you just hire me as one of the factory workers so that I might begin again." So she got up and went home.

When she got off the bus down the street from the factory, her mother saw her from the window. She was filled with compassion for her daughter and ran down to meet her. The daughter was surprised to see her mother rushing out the door to greet her. She was even more surprised when her mother threw her arms around her and kissed her. "Mama, I'm so sorry, I've been horrible to you and our family. I've wronged you by wasting your money, and I've wronged myself by failing at my dream. I am no longer worthy to be treated as your daughter." "Nonsense," said the mother,"Quick, someone run next door to the department store and get the best new dress you can find, including a pair of shoes and a bit of jewelry to match. Tonight we're taking you uptown for a steak dinner to celebrate your return! Maybe we'll even go dancing! In fact, we let's start celebrating now! Go, put some music over the speakers, I want everyone to celebrate this joyful day when my long lost daughter has come home!"

"No, mom, you really shouldn't, you don't know what I've done. I really don't deserve all of this. I don't deserve a nice dress and a fancy dinner, I deserve to have to prove myself again. I came here for a fresh start, not an easy ride."

"My darling, don't you see. I'm not giving you these things because you have earned them, but because I love you. Consider yourself forgiven, for all of those things. I have always forgiven you in my heart, and now that you've returned to me, you can enjoy your forgiveness."

Meanwhile, the older sister was in the office settling the books and some matters about the company's affairs when she heard music playing in the factory. She sent one of her assistants to find out what was going on, "Your sister has come home and your mother has called for a celebration because she has come back safe and sound. She's even made reservations for dinner uptown with plans for dancing to follow." The older sister became jealous and refused to leave her office, saying that she wouldn't be joining them for dinner or dancing, she had too much work to do. So the mother went upstairs into the office and pleaded with her to come celebrate.

"How can you say this?" the older daughter replied. "I have been slaving to make this company survive the difficult economic times, I have devoted my whole life to serving you and doing as you ask, but she has taken your gifts and squandered them away doing who knows what! She comes back here completely broke and looking like she's been living on the streets and you just forgive her before she even asks? I don't know if I can do that. I can't celebrate her return when I can't forgive how she has ruined her life and taken advantage of us! You have never thrown a party for me, not even when I have done so much for you! How am I supposed to forgive you?"

"My daughter, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. Everyday is a celebration, we celebrate each day together, but today we had to celebrated and be glad, because this sister of yours was dead to us, and now she is alive again. She was lost in a word of disaster, and now she is found in a home of love. Whether or not you can forgive her, she is already forgiven. Your grudge is only hurting you. When you find it in your heart to forgive her, you will find that I have also forgiven you time over for things you have done in the past. So, come, forgive her as I have forgiven you, and let us celebrate a life filled with grace instead of hate, love instead of anger, and freedom instead of sin!"

As they came downstairs, they found the younger sister, sitting with her guitar, and as everyone gathered around her, she played a new song:

 "Forgiven", Sanctus Real

Lord, here we are before you, we come just as we are, you know what we've been, remind us today that we are forgiven, remind us that our brothers and sisters in life are forgiven as well, guide us in your ways so that we can enjoy a life filled with forgiveness. In the name of the one who came to show us what forgiveness looks like, Jesus the Christ, Amen.