Summary: It is a prominent feature in our lives and our memories. A place of safety. A place of provision. It's "The Porch!"
Pt. 1 - Off The Porch
A crowd gathered. Ears tuned to sound of His voice. With a verbal paintbrush a complex plot is constructed, a unique in perspective is given, and rich in truth relayed. He quickly and easily crafts a story that will cause the likes of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare to shake their head in awe. The account will be fodder for poems, ballets, and paintings for centuries to come.
Perhaps it is best to view the story through Norman Rockwell filter.
Peering down the hillside you see the homestead. Surrounded by a strong split rail fence. The yard is expansive. The long winding drive cuts down the left side of the property. Cast off toys that have been long forgotten remind you that time has passed quickly. The house is two stories. Large but not overwhelming. Black shutters flank each window. Landscaping manicured and the yard trimmed. In the background, barns are well kept and activity can be seen as the investment of hard days in the fields must now be managed. Affluent but not flashy. Wealthy but not wasteful. There are prominent features . . . the windmill, the corrals, the tire swing under the aged tree that stands towering alone in the front yard. However, the one feature that stands out above all else is the large, inviting, wraparound porch lined with rocking chairs. A small round table holds the oft used checkers set. A sleeping dog stationed near the screen door. Muddy boots from the field are left on the first step. A gathering place at the end of long day. Ice tea and lemonade have been shared here. Late night cups of hot chocolate in the cool of fall evenings. Dates end in the swing on the far end of the porch where long moments of silence are filled with spectacular views of the star filled sky. The porch has served as base during intense games of tag. It has served as a safe haven from sudden spring showers. Stories, jokes, and serious discussions have been heard here. Laughs, tears and life have been shared on this porch.
Jesus uses this scene to develop one of His most well known and important stories. With the scene above painted in your mind listen again!
Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father. “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’ “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’ “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’ “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”