Summary: For Father’s Day: Fathers who say "yes" to everything provide a road map to disaster; who keep their children at arm’s length point to alienation; but who may also go home themselves to lead their children home. (Maps were displayed)
I have always liked maps. Any kind of map fascinates me. You can learn so much from a map. If it is a road map, you can find out how to get from here to there and back again.
When I was in elementary school and the classroom got boring, like most kids, I would doodle. But while some kids doodled by drawing monsters or elaborating their signatures, I doodled maps. I would wander into dreamland by sketching a map of the streets in my neighborhood, seeing if I could remember how each street connected to another. It didn’t help me get home by the shortest and quickest route, but I loved to draw maps.
A little later, I got into collecting postage stamps, as many children do. Stamps from all over the world. Well, there are so many it’s impossible to collect one of every kind, and so many collectors specialize. Some specialize in the stamps of one country; others specialize in stamps with some theme. That was my choice. I chose to collect stamps with maps on them! Stamps that told you something about that country by showing you its map. My personal favorites were the stamps issued by Austria after the Second World War. One stamp shows a map of Austria, with a dagger plunged through it. On that dagger is the swastika of Nazism. The Austrians were telling us through that map stamp that their country had been deeply wounded by the German invasion. Then there is a second stamp, again with a map of Austria, but this time there is a broom sweeping across the land, sweeping away broken swastikas. The message is, “We’re cleaning house. We’re getting rid of that terrible system.” And then there was a third stamp in the series. This one showed a world map, a globe. On that globe were many of the nations of the world, and circling that globe were the flags of all those nations. Over the map where Austria is located there was a question mark; and in the circle of flags, a gap, also with a question mark. What’s the message? The Austrians were asking whether they could now be admitted to the United Nations. Had they been forgiven for their part in the war? Were they going to be brought home to the family of nations? Could they come home? The maps told the story.
There are road maps to many far countries. And there are road maps for the way home from these far countries. Fathers use those road maps. Sadly, fathers sometimes use road maps to far countries. But God has also given fathers road maps for the way home.
What we know as the parable of the prodigal son is just as much the parable of the waiting father. It is not only a story about a son who wandered off to a far country; and not only a story about a brother who resented the wanderer. It is also a story about a father in agony, a father who used road maps, maps to a far country and maps home from that far country.
For example, we learn that fathers provide their children road maps to a far country when they give them everything they ask for. Just saying “yes” to everything is a road map to disaster:
The younger of [the sons] said to his father, ’Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them.
Now, I didn’t know it was that easy, did you? It never occurred to me that all you have to do is assume that something is yours and you’ve got it! Name it and claim it. Hey, dad, since you are eventually going to shuffle off this mortal coil, save yourself the inheritance tax and the trouble of writing a will, and just give it to me now. Is that a deal or what?! No questions asked, no restraints, just shell out.
Now we rightly shake our heads at the arrogance of the younger son. How dare he be in such a hurry! How dare he march right in and brazenly demand something he did not earn?! We are shocked at that.
But does a father have to say yes to every demand? Does a parent have to agree to everything a child wants? Is anyone bound to say yes to anyone who asks anything? Believe me, as a pastor, I can tell you I have plenty of people asking me for things, some of whom, if I don’t help them get what they want, either with prayer or with money, then it’s, “Preacher, what kind of a pastor are you anyway?” I know what it is for people to demand what they want.