Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Universe to Live In

“See, I will create
     new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
     nor will they come to mind. 
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
     for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
     and its people a joy. 
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
     and take delight in my people;
     the sound of weeping and of crying
     will be heard in it no more.”
-Isaiah 65:17-19 

Do people tell you sometimes that you live in your own little world? You may be able to talk researchers at the University of Maryland and Towson State to make one just for you, for real. An entire universe, in fact. Only problem with it is that it fits in a lab. And it runs pretty much like the one we already inhabit.
     The researchers in question announced this week that they had succeeded in creating a “universe” in something called Minkowski space - which as near as I can understand is geometric model of spacetime  that takes four dimensions into account: length, width, depth, and time. The researchers used a ferromagnetic liquid made of cobalt and kerosene, applied a magnetic field to make the cobalt particles line up in columns, and then passed a laser beam through the liquid. When they did so, the light behaved according to Einstein’s theory of relativity - which for the researchers is good enough to say that at least they’ve created a working model of a parallel universe. They could even create multiple universes, which seems to be the real breakthrough here, by varying the amount of cobalt in the liquid. When there wasn’t enough  magnetized cobalt to form the columns, the existing columns would collapse, and multiple universes would pop in and out of existence.
     Yeah, I don’t really understand it either. Then again, I’m sort of, uh, challenged in the realm of  theoretical physics. I guess I sort of understand what the scientists did; what I don’t get is why what they created is a universe. 
     The takeaway here is that creating a universe is apparently not as difficult as one might think.
     Creating one you could live in is another matter.
     God did, of course. Genesis tells the story - twice - in non-scientific language. It’s a description of the creation of a perfect universe, designed by its Creator to support life and ruled over benevolently by the Creator’s crowning creation, human beings, who bear his image. This universe was good. It was in harmony - creatures with Creator and with one another. And then the human beings went their own way, and catastrophe ensued. 
     Sin and death and sickness and hardship and heartache entered this perfect universe, and in a chain reaction everything spun off the rails. The creatures lost connection with the Creator. They hurt themselves, and each other. They neglected the creation they had been made to rule. Death, once a stranger, became a usurper of power in this once good universe. As the original goodness of the creation was lost in weeds and ruins, covered in hatred and pain, and pitted with grave after grave, the people forgot. We forgot our purpose. Our reason for being. The goodness and light that once filled the universe we inhabit. We forgot our Creator. 
     The universe he created for us to live in became a place for us to die.
     But our Creator didn’t forget. Even as his beautiful creation was spinning itself apart, even as human life was devalued and even cut short by rising greed, lust, and selfishness, he was working. He was calling people to remember. Enoch. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. He made one family into a nation. He revealed himself to them, made a covenant with them. They would be his people and obey his word. He would be their God and never leave them or give them up. 
     Still - they had to live in this fallen, dysfunctional universe, and faithfulness was sometimes easier said than done. Sometimes, like all of us would have, they forgot. Surrounded by sin and violence and grief and death, they sometimes forgot their Creator. But he refused to forget them. He preserved them, redeemed them, protected them, and saved them. 
     And then, through them, he acted. He acted to change everything.
     Through the people he called, he came. He came to his own creation, the Word through which it had come into being. He came talking about a day of renewal. He came declaring that God had come in power, that his realm was breaking in to restore his damaged universe. Isaiah’s hope of new heavens and a new earth, a brand new universe, was coming to pass. He showed what that new universe would look like: lepers cleansed, the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf and mute shouting the praises of God, those chained by sin and Satan freed, and even the dead coming out of their tombs, alive. 
      A universe human beings could live in.
     But the broken version of creation that human beings died in demonstrated that even he wasn’t immune to its laws. Inevitably, the hatred and fear and greed and death that eventually overcomes all of us overcame him, too. He was falsely accused and put to death. The world he promised, the new creation, the universe we could live in - it turned out to be a false hope.
     It seemed that way for two days. On the third day, God proved it wasn’t:

     Somehow, in God’s grace and power, Jesus’ death and resurrection becomes the new norm, the new guiding principle, the new theory of relativity for this new universe he’s creating. New creation begins, not from the outside in, but from the inside out - from the redeemed hearts and minds of human beings who hear the voice of God in Jesus and who remember who they’re supposed to be.
     We all want a universe we can live in - not one in which the inevitable end is death. In Jesus, that’s what God has created. A new heavens, a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
     A universe we can live in - truly, completely, eternally.
     So, may we start to live in it now. May it come into existence in the labs of our hearts and minds as we come to know Jesus. May we live with him, in harmony with each other, and conduct ourselves by the laws of the new creation. May this new universe be even more real to us than the old one as we allow its power and influence to make itself known in us. And may it displace the old universe in our hearts long before we see it do so on the day Jesus comes. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pure and Faultless

     Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
-James 1:27 (NIV)

There are people who live on the margins of our culture, out of sight of most of us as we go about our lives. It’s not that they’re driven there by pitchfork- and torch - wielding mobs, or sentenced to lives outside city gates by the ignorant and superstitious. But they’re no less marginalized.
     They are the poor, for whom life is all about navigating a tangle of cold, impersonal social services that keep them dependent and reinforce the very behaviors they need to change.
     They are the mentally ill, isolated in institutions or group homes. (They’re actually somewhat fortunate. How many suffer silently and alone, with no one to understand or help them understand their illness?)
     They are children in foster care, hoping that their next home will be with the family who wants them as their own, but too scarred by previous rejections to really expect it or even hope for it.
     The elderly, kept out of sight in nursing homes, with no one to visit them or provide for them or advocate for them.
       The alien, good enough to assemble the merchandise we consume in substandard factories and for substandard wages in their own countries, but not good enough to share in our prosperity here within our borders.
     The developmentally disabled, shunted out of the mainstream of human contact into special schools, special homes - or just kept out of sight.
     Mitchell Marcus could be in that last group, but he isn’t. Mitchell is developmentally disabled, but he has a school community who cares about him, and a basketball team who loves him and who gives him a chance to do something constructive and positive.
     Mitchell is a student at Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas. He has loved basketball since he was a little kid, and so Coronado head coach Peter Morales made him the team manager. But before the last game of the season, against their rivals at Franklin High School, Coach Morales had a special gift for Mitchell.
     A uniform.
     Mitchell got to dress with the players and sit on the bench like one of them. And, privately, Coach Morales had made another decision. However the game was going, whatever the score or situation, he was going to put Mitchell in the game at the end. And he was going to instruct his team to get the ball to Mitchell and give him a chance to score. He would later say that he was willing to lose the game if it meant getting Mitchell his moment. 
     Nobody else knew this, so Mitchell was no doubt as surprised as anyone when, with 90 seconds left and Coronado leading by 10, Coach Morales called his number.
     The Coronado crowd, of course, went nuts, and Mitchell got to hear his name chanted from the stands of the packed gym. His teammates got him the ball, and Mitchell shot and missed. On Coronado’s next offensive possession, they got the ball to him again, and again he shot and missed. 
      On the next possession, one of Mitchell’s teammates passed him the ball, and in his excitement Mitchell mishandled it out of bounds. With seconds left, Franklin had the ball again. Mitchell wouldn’t get a basket, but at least he had the chance to play.
     The official handed the ball to Franklin senior Jonathan Montanez. Montanez yelled something, but it wasn’t the signal for a play. It wasn’t even intended for his teammates. He yelled, “Mitchell!” And, when Mitchell looked, Jonathan Montanez threw the ball to him. He didn’t talk that over with his coach, or his teammates. He just knew what he needed to do.
     “I was raised to treat others how you want to be treated,” Jonathan would explain later. “I just thought Mitchell deserved his chance.”
     And, of course, Mitchell made the most of his chance. He took Jonathan’s “assist,” and put up another shot. Which hit nothing but net. 
     Here in March, when the “madness” of watching elite athletes hit game-winning buzzer-beaters is at a fever pitch, it’s probably important to remember that those athletes we idolize aren’t any more important to God than the people our world marginalizes. We might prefer to forget them, to place them out of sight and out of the way. But God doesn’t. He knows their names and their stories. And it’s required of us, as his people, to remember them too. It’s necessary that we make the subversive and counter-cultural move of caring for those our world pushes to the edges. If we want to be like our Lord, who touched the lepers and forgave the sinners and accepted the unacceptable, then we must look to the margins of our society and love the people we find there.
     “Religion” has almost a negative connotation in our world, and it’s because organized religion - Christianity included - has historically often lost sight of the marginalized. We’ve enriched ourselves and protected our institutions at the expense of the very people the Scriptures say should most occupy our attention. We’ve spent centuries fighting over proper doctrine and practice, but skipped over James entirely. Jesus too, for that matter. Religion that pleases God and is acceptable to him is concerned with personal holiness, but it’s also concerned with our attitude toward the marginalized. Want to know if you’re the True Church, or the New Testament Church, or whatever nomenclature you consider important? One of the first questions to ask is how you and your church treat those everyone else has forgotten, or overlooked, or ignored.
     It doesn’t take that much, really. It’s not about solving every social problem, or coming up with the right answers to every public policy question. It’s really just having eyes to see the people around us, and a heart to care about who they are, what they need, and what their stories are. It’s visiting a nursing home. It’s sharing food with someone in need. It’s spending time with a forgotten, hurting child. It’s helping someone who wasn’t born here find their place. It’s treating someone on the outside looking in as you’d like to be treated if the circumstances were reversed. It’s believing that everyone deserves a chance.
     Mitchell Marcus, it might be argued, was never marginalized. He was welcomed by the communities of his school and his team. But Mitchell, along with his new friend Jonathan Montanez, have become something of a phenomenon in recent weeks. They’ve been guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. They’ve been hosted by NBA star Chris Paul at an LA Clippers game. It goes to show, I guess, that when one person decides to treat another with respect, consideration, and kindness, the ripples of that decision can spread farther and wider than anyone might have predicted.
     Just try it, and see if it isn’t true for you as well. 
     See if an act of kindness offered to someone on the margins doesn’t take both of you to places you never imagined.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Godliness, Contentment, and the San Francisco 49ers

…Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.     
-1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NIV)

Hundreds of poor children in Nicaragua are wearing new shirts and caps, thanks to the Christian relief organization World Vision and the National Football League. The shirts and caps, donated by the NFL and brought to the southern Nicaraguan city of Diriamba, commemorate the 2013 Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers.
    Wait. What?
    In case you aren’t a football fan, the Niners actually lost Super Bowl XLVII on February 3rd to the Baltimore Ravens. But did you ever wonder how championship teams get their shirts and caps to put on while they’re still celebrating on the field or court? Well, the answer is that the companies who make the clothing crank out versions with both teams as winners, so they can start selling their product by getting them on the players while they’re still on TV. But that leaves a lot of shirts and hats that celebrate the wrong team’s victory, and so some years ago World Relief started taking those shirts to the poor in nations in Latin America and Africa. Better that than to destroy them, which was what happened before World Relief got involved.
    I suppose that for some folks, what team logo is on their shirts just doesn’t make a blip on their radar screens.
    Sometimes I wish that this was a world where everyone had the luxury of worrying about what logos or labels were on their clothing. Sometimes I wish that it was a world where everyone could be discriminating about what they eat. Sometimes I wish that everyone could choose to live in the best neighborhoods, send their kids to the best schools, drive the best cars. If we all had the privilege of being finicky, that would mean that everyone had plenty and no one went without.
    Kids in Nicaragua should care that their t-shirts and caps have the wrong Super Bowl champ on them.
    But there are hundreds, thousands, who don’t. Millions in our world who wouldn’t. Millions who couldn’t care less what neighborhood they live in, as long as they have a place to live. Millions of parents who would love for their kids to go to a school, a real school, somewhere, so that they could learn and grow and stretch and have a chance - just a chance - to escape poverty and hopelessness. Millions who would give anything, anything, if they could give their kids three meals a day, or even just one, instead of having to watch their children grow weak and malnourished.
    And what do those millions do? They go on about their lives, they do what they can, and if by some miracle they get through a day able to find life’s absolute necessities for themselves and their families, they’re content. More than content. Ecstatic.
    When was the last time you opened your closet and thanked God from your heart that it was full of clothes? Or do we more often worry about having “nothing to wear” – meaning by that, of course, nothing that makes us look 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter. When was the last time you opened the refrigerator or the cabinet and praised God that it was full of food? Or walked into a supermarket and thanked him for the abundance you enjoy and the means to buy it? Or are we more likely to complain about leftovers again, or because something isn’t prepared just how we like it, or because we have to make another trip to the store?
    “Godliness with contentment.” They go together. An important reminder, in a society where so many of us could, if we chose, enjoy the luxury of being particular. “We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it,” the Bible reminds us, probably because we can easily lose track of what life is all about. Why do we have that compulsion to accumulate more and more? Why do we give in to it? After all, it isn’t like we can take what we accumulate with us when our lives here are done. Obvious, of course, but it sort of opens our eyes to the farcical nature of our drive to acquire. The more we accumulate in this world, the more we leave behind when we go on to the next.
    As long as there are people doing without the basic necessities of life in our world, godliness demands contentment and gratitude of us. It demands that we praise God for all the good things that he gives us, and it demands that we learn to say “no” to that voice inside that continually demands more, and better, and to eventually choke it down. If we have learned the habit of avarice, godliness demands repentance. And if we have been blinded and deafened by our plenty to the crushing needs of so many around us, godliness demands that we open our eyes and ears.
    The fact is that there are just too many people in our world without the basic essentials of life for a few of us in one of the most prosperous countries on the planet to be anything but content. We must be content because discontent dishonors the God who has given us so much. And beyond that, we must be content because greed can lead us to spend our lives enriching ourselves while ignoring the predicament of people who really know what want is. When we’re content, we see how much we have and are willing to help those who have less. When we’re not, all we can see is what we want and feel so sure that we need.
     Is it me, or is there something just vaguely embarrassing about the excitement with which the rest of the world accepts what America throws away? What if, instead of our cast-offs and hand-me-downs, the church committed to generosity that was a bit more sacrificial? What do you think pleases the Lord more: a church full of well-dressed, well-groomed, people in new clothes and new cars? Or a church full of people – content with what they have been given -- who have put off buying new clothes and new cars so that they can share their abundance with folks who don’t have the essentials?
    I think I know the answer to that, and I think you do too.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Eternal Life

     Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. 
     Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
     “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
-Matthew 19:14-17 (NIV)

In a pivotal moment from the 1987 film Wall Street, Michael Douglas’ character Gordon Gekko addresses the assembled stockholders of Teldar Paper, a company he’s planning to take over. In his speech, Gekko says:

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

     Gekko’s point, of course, is not that greed is objectively good. The rest of the movie demonstrates clearly that Gordon Gekko isn’t a character who cares about objective good. His point is that greed is good given the rules of the game he’s playing. He’s saying that “greed is right” in the culture of 80’s yuppie consumption, that “greed works” to accomplish the ends that the world in which he lives says are worth accomplishing. Greed, he promises the Teldar stockholders, will make their company profitable and put a lot of money in their pockets. \
     We know that given other lives, priorities, and values, greed isn’t good. Gordon simply pictures the life that he - and presumably every other person at that meeting - wants to live, and argues that greed is the primary value of that life. 
     The man who asked Jesus about eternal life is essentially asking Jesus about the primary values of the life he wants to live.
     I know, we don’t really hear the question that way. We hear something like, “Jesus, what good things do I need to do so that I can go to heaven when I die?” Jesus lists a few of the Ten Commandments, and the man starts to feel pretty good about himself. But then, as we understand it, Jesus points out that he hasn’t done enough after all
     We usually say that the man is legalistic. We usually point out how ridiculous it is that he thinks he’s OK just because he keeps a few commandments. We usually point out that salvation only comes from following Jesus - that is, it’s only to be had by believing in him, confessing him as Lord, being baptized, and then living a good Christian life. (Though we don’t seem to notice that following Jesus includes selling everything we have.)
     But we’ve misunderstood what the man is asking in the first place.
     The misunderstanding is forgivable, because it rests on that phrase “eternal life.” That’s an English translation of a Greek phrase that is, well, hard to translate. If you wanted to translate it literally, you’d say that the man is asking Jesus what he needs to do to have “the life of the age.” 
     You see how “eternal life” kind of rolls off the tongue more easily.
     It’s not a terrible translation, but it does need some background to be properly understood. In Jesus’ time, and even before his time, Jewish people had a view of time as being divided into two “eons”, or ages. There was this age, the age in which we’re all living, the age in which sin and evil and death are in charge. For Jewish people in Jesus’ time, it was an age when the kingdom of Israel - God’s kingdom - was controlled by a foreign power. It was an age where good people could be crushed under the weight of poverty, oppression, and death. 
     But they also believed in an age to come. In this age, God would make himself known from heaven. He would break into the world in power. His kingdom would overthrow the kingdoms of the earth, like Daniel’s famous dream depicted. Jerusalem would be the theological, intellectual, and political center of the world
     And when Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of God was near, what the people heard - rightly - was that he was announcing the breaking-in of the age to come. 
     And so what this man is asking Jesus is how he can be a part of that age that’s coming. Life in that age would certainly be eternal, but the point is not “How can I go to heaven when I die?” It’s more like, “How should I live so what when this age to come you’re talking about arrives, I’ll be a part of it?”
     Now, the point of the exchange actually is that it’s a fallacy to think that eternal life can be had for the price of obeying a few commandments. Jesus actually is saying that it’s a much more difficult proposition than that, that it involves giving up other things and demands single-minded dedication. He says, in fact, that it’s impossible for people to enter eternal life on their own, that it can only be a gift of God. 
     But then he says what he’s been saying all along: that living the life of the age to come depends on our attitude toward him. The primary value of the life of the age to come isn’t a rule, or a law, or a doctrine. It’s him. It’s Jesus.
     We should know this even better than that man did. We know that in Jesus’ death and resurrection, something fundamental shifted. The old age began to die. And the new age, the age to come, came. It comes into being life by life, as human beings under the dominion of the old age are made new in Jesus. Into the darkness of the old age break millions, billions, of points of light, all blazing with the glory of the Light of the World.
     So we obey him, we do good, we resist temptation, not so that maybe we’ll be good enough to go to heaven when we die - but because in him we already live the life of the age to come. 
     Let that make you less sure of your own goodness, less sure of your own ability to do enough good to earn a piece of that life. Nothing good you’ve done, all the good you’ll ever do piled together, is enough to qualify you for the life of that age that’s coming, and that in Jesus is already here. 
     But let it also make you confident, because God in his love has invited you in Jesus to share in that life anyway. Not on the basis of your goodness, but on the basis of his. There’s nothing provisional about that life. It’s not just a hope toward which you aspire, and heaven is not something you attain if you’re good enough here in this life. Heaven is simply the continuation of the life you’ve already been given and that you’re already living in Jesus.
     And that is good.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Kingdom of God is a Party

    The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
    “My son,' the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
-Luke 15:28-32)

That’s right. I wouldn’t go in. Well, it would have been a farce for me to go to that party. Ungrateful, spoiled brat. My brother, you say? He’s my brother? Well, just because we have the same father doesn’t mean I have to be in the same room with him! As I recall, it wasn’t that long ago that he didn’t want to be in the same town as us.
    He didn’t tell you about that, did he? No, I didn’t expect that he would. My father keeps saying he was lost, but he wasn’t lost. He knew where he was, and it was right where he thought he wanted to be. He left. He didn’t wander off, or get turned around or kidnapped. He asked my Father for the inheritance he had coming to him and he left. Can you imagine? And dad – oh, he sold off some land and some of his herd so he could give that ungrateful jerk just what he’d asked for. And so he left. He told us we were provincial and that there was no life for him here, and he left the town that’s been good enough for generations of our family before him for pagan temples and brothels.
    Any idiot could see what was going to happen – any idiot except my brother, that is! As long as he was paying for the food and the wine and the whores, he had more friends than he could count. But then the day came when Big Shot had spent his last shekel, and suddenly all his “friends” had somewhere else to be. I know – what a shock, right?
    I guess he bounced around a little after that. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but get this: he wound up working for a guy feeding pigs. Yeah, how far can you fall, right? Well, it isn’t like my little brother had a lot of options open to him out there. Near as I can tell, feeding pigs is about all he’s qualified for. Well, I say that pig pen was just the place for him. You make your bed, you lie in it. If he started getting hungry, I’m sure the pigs would have made room at the trough for him.
    But, no. This town doesn’t look quite so “provincial” when you’re looking up at it from rock bottom. That’s when he came dragging home, dirty and tattered and smelling like pork chops. If I’d seen him first, well, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d have taken a stick to him and run him off. But I didn’t see him first. My father did.
    My father saw him first because, truth be told, my father put his life on hold the day my brother left home. Spent a lot of time sitting in front of the house, looking down the road. He suddenly got really interested in everything the merchants traveling through town had to sell; well, obviously, he was asking them all if they’d seen my brother, if they had any news about him. I’d talk to him, and it seemed like he was a million miles away. Always looking for him, always waiting for him, always waking up believing that every day might be the day that my brother came home.
    So I wasn’t surprised that my father saw him first. I was a little surprised when he hoisted up the hem of his robes and took off down the road to meet him. I guess the old man still moves pretty good
– still, how embarrassing. I heard later that my brother, in a rare display of humility, actually offered to be one of my father’s servants if he could have room and board. At the very least, I wish Dad had taken him up on that offer. I would have enjoyed that, having my brother as one of our servants.
    I would have enjoyed it more if dad had called the village together and stoned little bro to death.
    He didn’t do that either, though, and that’s why there’s music and dancing and food inside and why I’m standing outside. Dad hugged him. Took him in his arms and hugged him and sobbed on his shoulder like a sentimental old coot. And then he went completely over the top. He sent the servants off to find the best robe in the house – his robe, the one I would have inherited one day – and told them to dress him in it. He had them put shoes on him. He told them to put a signet ring on his finger – power of attorney for the household. And he had them kill the fattened calf and organize a “Welcome Home” barbecue. Like he’d been off fighting in a war or something, instead of wasting my father’s hard-earned money.
    I’ll never forget getting in from the fields and hearing the music. Want to know something? I thought for a minute it was for me. I thought for just a minute that my brother being unfaithful had made Dad realize and appreciate just how faithful I’d been. Should have known better. He wouldn’t even kill that tough old billy goat that’s been around here since Adam and Eve for me. And I work myself half to death for him. I do everything he asks! I guess you have to thumb your nose at him, steal his money, and waste your life for him to care anything about you.
     He did notice I wasn’t there at the party, at least. And he did come out to me. I mean, he didn’t go nearly as far for me as he did for my brother, but he did come talk to me. “You’re always with me, and everything I have is yours.” That’s what he said to me. Well, I know. It’s just nice to hear it sometimes.
    Know what else he said? “We had to celebrate and be glad.” Really? I thought celebration was for people who do what they’re supposed to. What is it about my Father that makes him so compelled to have a party when the son who has disrespected him and dishonored him comes home? And what is it that makes it so important to him that I come to the party too?
    I’m not sure I’ll ever understand it.
    Maybe…maybe it doesn’t matter, though. He is my father. Am I really that different from my brother if I don’t listen to him now? If he can forgive my brother, and if it’s so important to him that I forgive my brother…well, maybe I should. If he wants me to celebrate my brother’s return, maybe I should. If for no other reason than that it means so much to him. Enough to wait for him to come to his senses. Enough to run to him when he does. Enough to show him extravagant grace and generosity.
    Maybe I should, at the very least, open the door and go welcome my brother.
    At the very least, maybe I should show up at my father’s party.