I remember a friend I had in high school. He was a nice guy, but he always tried a little too hard to fit in, if that makes sense. It was as though he wanted desperately to fit in, so he would say and do things in an attempt to gain favor that were awkward. One day he invited me to join him and his family at their bay house on Galveston Island, and I said, "Sure, be glad to." We went, and it was his mom, dad, and older brother. The older brother was a local celebrity of sorts. Very popular in high school and a member of a band at our high school. He was the epitome of "cool," so when I was in the presence of the entire family, I suddenly understood my friend's problem.
His brother brought his guitar, and we sat in the living room while he played and sang. My friend started to say something, and his dad fired a look and a barb at him when he spoke, "Son, don't talk while your brother's singing!" I joked about it later with another friend and said, "He could have come running in and said he had just accidently stepped on glass and had a gash in his foot and his dad would have looked and said, 'Son, your brother's singing, don't interrupt!'"
This takes me to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke. We read it and learn that a young man foolishly wanted to take his share of the inheritance that was to be left to him and go off on his own to live life as he wanted. His father agreed, and after blowing the inheritance, he came crawling back to dad who welcomes him with arms wide open and celebrates. Then the older brother finds out and resents it, and the father gives a "lost but now is found" response to the older brother. (Luke 15)
What if the younger brother had resentment at some point toward the other brother? My friend didn't have it toward his older brother, but he easily could have (he basked in the popularity of the older brother). What if he said, "Hey, I'm out of here" like the younger brother in the parable? We always focus on the younger son in the parable, but the question is, "When are we like the older brother?"
This Easter, we will have people come to church, and our joke will be they are coming for their once a year visit. But isn't that arrogant of us to say that, much like the older brother who was angry that his father celebrated the younger brother's return? So, do we look at these once a year visitors to our midst and say, "I've been at this all year, this grace being served is for me, not the visitor who only graces our presence in this visit." Do we, like my friend's dad, glare at the visitor and say, "Don't disrupt our routine! We know what page we are on and what we are about to say!"
We pray that we are not the older brother and that we see Holy Week as the opportunity to welcome the person new to church. We pray that the Spirit move us to seize that opportunity as people who are new in our midst feel the same grace that we have, and that they know this grace is available to all. We pray we celebrate this moment and that the Spirit move their heart to faith.
Hope Men's Ministry