God Moves…Down the Road

Based on Luke 15:11-31

Did you go to the party the last three days over at Dave’s? Wow what a party that was. More food and drink than you can imagine. I can’t believe that it’s still going on. They just keep playing music and people are coming and going all the time. I don’t know how many pounds of meat and barrels of wine they have used but the joy just keeps flowing. You know why they are partying right? His son Jack, the one who disgraced everyone has come home. You don’t know that story? Well it’s a good one let me tell you.

Dave had two sons James and Jack. James was the oldest and Jack the youngest. James was always pretty uptight as a kid. When he was a teenager, he decided that he didn’t like the nickname Jim, he wanted to be called James—get the picture? He was always just a little better than everyone else. His Dad had money and he wasn’t so much a jerk about it by spending it all over the place, but he let you know that he thought he was just a little smarter, better looking and of course richer than everyone else. When it was time for James to get married, he chose his own bride nothing arranged for him, and she was a wonderful woman, but also very wealthy herself. The dowry was sizeable.

Jack on the other hand was a funny kid. He liked to play pranks on James like hiding the pitchfork when it was his turn to feed, or carrying in only half the firewood and claiming he was too tired to do the rest making James do it. The kid was always looking for ways to get out of working. But he was forgetful as well. One time he left the gate open and the chickens got out and ran all over the place. The cows got out and ran into the field and one bloated because he was in a hurry and didn’t latch the fence. It just seemed like working the land was just not that big a deal to Jack.

Then one day he did the unthinkable. He went to his father Dave and asked for his share of the inheritance. That’s something that is just not done in today’s age. You see when you ask for your inheritance it is like you are wishing you father dead. That’s the only time that property is transferred in a family. Jack also is the youngest so he would have to wait until his older brother received his share first before he got his. The next thing that he did which was unthinkable was he sold the land for cash. You don’t sell the farm. You certainly don’t do it while you father is still alive as he sees the land dwindle. More shame added to the family not only by seeking his share but now by selling the land. I am surprised that old Dave didn’t just wallop him on the head then and there, but he didn’t.

Finally, the ultimate disgrace, was taking the money and leaving town. People don’t run off in our culture. The greatest pride a father can have is having his family and his possessions near him. One does not sell off the land and take the money and leave town. That’s just unheard of. The disgrace on the family was growing by the day. James was beyond bitter now. Jack had ruined the family image in front of the whole town and he was made to look like an idiot in front of his friends and his new bride.

As the years passed the anger in James turned into a slow boil and he was a very unhappy man. Not only was he mad at Jack, he was really mad at his father Dave. He should have told Jack no. He should have never given him his inheritance, never should have let him sell the land and never let him leave home. Dave grew older and was no longer working the place. James had to do it all with the help of the hired hands. Every time he thought of Jack and what he must be up to, he seethed with venom and hate. He hoped and prayed that he never saw Jack again.

The days went by and Dave began to sit on the porch more and more and just stare down the old road. He would wave at people as they went by, but mostly he just sat and watched.

Jack, on the other hand, was having the time of his life. He got away from the small-town life and was living it up. When everyone thinks of Jerusalem they think of the temple and the religious world. But let me tell you something there is also a shady side to that city as well. And those old Pharisees and Sadducees, they like to unwind as well. There can always be found some gambling and some drinking and other indiscretions that we might not want to mention but your imagination can fill in the blanks. Jack took it all in and was sowing more than oats.

His luck began to run out and he started to lose his Daddy’s money. Then a severe drought hit and the cost of living went through the roof in the cities. When you didn’t grow your own food, it was really expensive to try and buy it. It was not long and old Jack was out of money, had no place to live and was starving. He hired on with a farmer but it was a pig farmer. Pigs are unclean animals to Jewish people. The worst part was that the pigs were eating better than Jack. One night while he was laying with the pigs the thought came to him that maybe he should go home.

Going home would be very tough, he had disgraced the family when he left. He had lost all of his money and James would likely kill him if his father did not. Yet, even the hired hands and the slaves were eating better than he was and if he didn’t do something quick, he might just starve to death. He decided that night he would go home, beg for forgiveness from his Dad and hope that they would at least let him live on the place and feed him. If he didn’t, he was going to die in the big city.

A couple days ago it was a warm afternoon and Dave was sitting on the porch again half asleep. He saw someone coming down the road so he sat up a little straighter and shifted in his seat so he could see past the shimmering heat rising form the road. He noticed by the way the man was walking it was Jack. Dave jumped up and ran down the road. What a sight it was. First of all, older rich people don’t run anywhere. They have someone else do the running. Second you should have seen him hike up his robe and take off I had never seen Dave run like that even when he was younger. He kept calling his name as he ran when he got there, he threw his arms around Jack.

When Dave finally let go, Jack said, Father I have sinned against you and lost all your money. By this time the servants had ran out to see what was going on. Dave turned and told them to go get a new robe for Jack and some shoes and a ring for his finger. He ordered another to get the fatted calf and butcher it, another he told to go the wine cellar and start bringing the barrels. He sent another to hire musicians and start inviting friends to the party they were going to have. The he turned and grabbed his son by the shoulders and said, “This my son was dead and is alive; he was lost and now is found.”

The party was just starting to get cranked up when James came in from the field. He grabbed one of the servants who was carrying a tray of meat and asked what was going on. He told him that this brother Jack had come home and that his daddy was throwing a real nice party for him. The servant suggested that James go get changed and grab his wife and kids and come celebrate. He told the servant that he was not going to the party and he could tell his dad just that.

The servant did tell his Dad and he came out to find James taking the harness off the mule that he had been using in the field that day. Dave said, “James come inside and see your brother he is here and he is alive and well.” But you see James was mad at Jack because he had left and disgraced the family. It was like staying home and doing the duty was more important than loving your brother. I have seen so many families who let things get between them and love. Often times it is over not being willing to forgive. Dave had no problem forgiving his son because he loved him so much, that he could forgive just about anything. It didn’t matter that Jack had cost him some serious money, he was back and alive and that’s more important than all the money in the world. But not for James maintaining the order and image of the family was all that mattered and he refused to join them.

Dave said James I will give you whatever you want, just come and celebrate with us, you can have your share of the land as well all you had to do was ask. But James’ heart was hardened and he refused. But that didn’t stop Dave from going back inside and having the tie of his life. I sure that James can find a way to forgive Jack, they are brothers after all. Love for one another should always be more important than money or land. Yet, the anger has had many years to build up. I am sure the father Dave will keep working on them and maybe he can get the boys to reconcile. After all that’s what the Father does, he runs down the road to show us just how much he loves us. Amen.

 

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