And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them.
“Not many days later, the younger son gathered all that he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
“And when he had spent everything, a famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate, and nobody gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found!’ And they began to make merry.
“Now the elder son was in the fields; and as he came and drew near the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.
“And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’
“But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”
Now the toll collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them!”
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he finds it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’
“Just so– I tell you– There will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.”
Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it will begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish!’
“Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel, whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, when the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace.
“So, therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men throw it away! He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
One Sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him.
And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy.
And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”
But they were silent.
Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?
And they could not reply to this.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor– saying to them, “When you are invited by anyone to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited; and He who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man.’ And then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite only your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they invite you in return, and you be repaid.
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind– and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
When one of those at table with him heard this, he said, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for all is now ready!’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I pray you, have me excused.
“And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. I pray you, have me excused.
“And another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
“So the servant came and reported this to his master.
“Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city; and bring in the poor, and maimed, and blind and lame.
“And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you have commanded has been done; and still there is room!’
“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
“‘For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet!'”
At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow; and the third day I finish my course.’
“Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem– killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings; and you would not!
“Behold, your House is forsaken! And I tell you, you shall not see me until you can say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'”
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”
And he said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and not be able.
“When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’
“He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’
“Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’
“But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’
“There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God– and you yourself thrust out! Men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first; and some are first who will be last.”
Out of College Station, TX comes a book for my 86th birthday present: Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul. I’ve been reading it bit by bit. This morning in the quiet time came understanding: it’s a myth, the biblical myth, the American myth, yours and mine.
Great Britain was Egypt;
The Pilgrims were the Chosen People;
America was the Promised Land;
Like the first Chosen People they messed up in a hundred ways.
Roger Williams was the Prophet;
They banished him, just like the people put Isaiah in the cistern.
He told the future;
He brought Democracy (of a sort!).
But the myth goes on: layer by layer, bit by bit.
We are the Remnant.
He said therefore, “What is the Kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree; and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
And again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for 18 years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.
When Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight; and she praised God.
But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, not on the Sabbath day!”
Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it?
“And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for 18 years, be loosed from this bound on the Sabbath day?”
As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
He told them this parable: “A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none.
“So he said to the vine-dresser, ‘Look here! For the last three years I have been looking for fruit on this fig-tree without finding any. Cut it down. Why should it go on using up the soil?’
“But he replied, ‘Leave it, sir, this one season, while I dig round it and manure it. And if it bears this season, well and good. If not, you shall have it down!'”