Summary: Some receive love, but reject it; others never know that they are loved. In either case, the Cross is evidence that we have never been unloved.

We need to think not only about the way we relate to other

people, but also about how we receive them. It is not

enough simply to be friendly and cordial. We also need to

look at how we receive people when they extend themselves

to us.

I went to a meeting this week, where all the participants were

arranged at round tables. I did not see anyone in the room

that I knew, so I just sat down where there was a vacant

seat. It did not take me long to discover that all the other

people at that table knew each other, and were, in fact, all

from the same church. They had a conversation going about

some forthcoming church activity and were all abuzz with

that. But the four of them did acknowledge that there was

someone who was not in the loop, and they began to reach

out. They asked me who I was and where I was from, they

told me about their church activity, and just brought me into

their circle. It felt good, inclusive, loving. I noticed that my

own comfort level improved and that my ability to reach out

to them increased. I not only felt accepted; I felt ready to

reach out. Just because these folks had broken out of their

inner circle and had included me, I felt loved and thus ready

to give love.

We need to think not only about the way we relate to people,

but also about how we receive them. Not only about how we

love, but also about how we receive love. For the truth is

that some of us receive love, reject it for a time, but then

come back to it; and some of us have never known that we

are loved. God wants us today to know that whoever we

are, we have never been unloved.

These two kinds of people I have mentioned – people who

receive love, reject love for a time, and then grow to accept

it; and people who were loved, but never knew it – these two

kinds of people are not only addressed in today’s Scripture.

They are also illustrated in one of Jesus’ great parables. We

know it as the parable of the prodigal son, the young man

who wasted his share of his father’s gifts in reckless living.

There is another character who is important, too, and that is

the elder brother, who stands over in the corner, grumbling,

complaining, and feeling rejected. And then there is a third

character in the story – maybe the central character. One

Bible scholar says we should call the story the parable of the

waiting father. Jesus’ wonderful story illustrates so

beautifully the theme for today that I have asked these three

folks to climb off the printed page and to tell us their stories.

It was not easy, but we did persuade the waiting father, the

wasteful younger son, and the skeptical older son, to come

today and share their stories.

Let me ask them, first, to introduce themselves. Father, we

give priority to age. Will you be first?

The Father: Like many of you, I’ve spent most of my adult

years on two things: my work and my children. I have

worked hard and have achieved some success. I have

enough to live on and be comfortable, and I have enough to

give my sons a good start. I have enjoyed my work, and,

although it was not always easy, I have felt fulfilled in all that

I have done.

I was blessed with two sons. I saw in each of them, different

as they were, something of myself. They worked, as I had

worked. They succeeded, as I had succeeded. I was

pleased with my sons. But they are different personalities.

My older son was like my shadow. Whatever I did, he did.

Wherever I went, he went. It seemed he wanted to be

exactly like me. I loved this boy, and I love him now.

My younger son was different. He experimented. He tried

things. He went out on the edge and attempted things his

older brother never even dreamed of. He has been a

challenge. But I love him too. Always have and always will.

Thank you. Which of you brothers would like to go first to

introduce yourself?

Younger son: I will. I like to be out front. I’ll enjoy speaking

to this crowd !

As my father has told you, there are two of us, and I’m the

younger. I guess I’ve always felt restless, because my

brother was allowed to do things that they said I wasn’t ready

for. I wanted to tend the sheep, but they said I couldn’t, not

yet. I wanted to go to the village dances, but they said I was

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