Today's lesson in our lectionary is most commonly known as the parable of the "Prodigal Son"- the one who squandered. And yet, as I heard yesterday, perhaps this is a product of our mindset. We here in the land of plenty hear this as a story predominantly focused upon the son who demanded the inheritance and squandered it and then came back. How often do we see this as a story about being open to "others" not us- who screw up and should be forgiven? How often do we engage this form from the standpoint of the son who has followed all the rules?
Today after worship, one of the ushers came to share that there was a homeless woman in the back of the church and she parked her cart in the narthex. As the relating of information continued, I recognized who the woman was. I see her at our free breakfast and sometimes she stays and reads in our library during the Sunday school hour.
I came out and greeted her and was correct in my assumption. I asked how she was and we talked about how the wind and rain had made things hard for her. Her umbrella had been taken the last time she was with us.
Her umbrella was taken in church.
So she had put on her layers and now most were wet. But even more than this she shared that she loved to sit in empty churches and pray. This was a time she could encounter God.
It could be that she enjoyed the silence and the space.
It could be that it was easier to pray.
But empty churches.
Beautiful and sacred, but alone.
How I longed to ask why empty churches.
Instead, I encouraged her to take her time in the space and to stay as long as she liked.
She already had her hands folded.
That was the end of first service,
and at the beginning of second, as I came in, one of the ushers told me that a homeless woman was looking for me.
They took me to her.
She had stayed.
I asked if she was OK and she shared that she wanted to know that I was here.
She stayed and worshipped.
At this point, she had been in some form of worship or teaching or prayer since 7 am till Noon.
I know she struggles and that this is not her "home."
I know she cries and that she cannot share why,
but I pray that she felt this day that we were not a pack of brothers or sisters sitting in judgment deciding whether she was worthy.
I pray that she got some glimpse otherwise.
That she saw that we too are the ones who hope and believe in a God who has met us, we the unworthy.
We the "not quite cleaned up." We the ones who have no reason to expect grace,
but who have experienced it.
That we who were redeemed by a God who ran out and met us with extravagant grace could do the same- run out and meet another who needs more than our recrimination.
Who needs someone to point the way to extravagant love and grace.
Who doesn't care where she has been or why she is here or the baggage she has in tow, but simply says,
"Child, you are loved. Let's celebrate that you are here."