St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

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June 2012

Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighbourhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent with a home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother’s heart. Knowing what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria hurriedly packed to go find her. On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janiero. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture—taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note.

It wasn’t too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” She did.

 Have you ever messed up?  Have you ever thought that you were doing something that was for the best but after a while it was quite clear that you had taken a wrong turn and made a wrong decision?  Did you or do you feel trapped by your circumstances and struggling to find a way even to reach the next day and stay above water?  The story above sets out to highlight the love and security of a home and family where failures can find acceptance, mistakes can be forgiven, the past can even be forgotten and all made possible because of the family’s loving desire to have their loved one back and a part of the family home once again.  The parable of the Prodigal son, taught by Jesus to lead the listeners into an encounter with the Loving Father emphasised that fatherly love towards a rebellious son, wishing us to see the love of God for us all in it.  The homecoming of the son was to a fatherly figure who appears to love unconditionally, has no problem with forgiving, and who becomes a party planner and all triggered merely by the returning son rather than any sorry letter that is offered. 

 For someone in a difficult situation, even like the one in the story, to move in the direction of the Loving Heavenly Father God is a move in the right direction.  And if that is you then come home and find Him gladly waiting for your return.   But is there a possible message or lesson for the church here too?  What if the church was supposed to act like the Loving Heavenly Father God that it teaches about.  If it is supposed to demonstrate that unconditional, loving invitation to come home for all those who have chosen a path that has turned out to be the wrong one?  It might mean that it has a mandate, a responsibility, a challenge to not only call those who have strayed from God’s path, home to their loving heavenly Father but to maintain and grow a church family home setting that in practice as well as belief, and purpose, is a place of unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  Should our church family and community life not bare some kind of resemblance to what we expect to experience in our Father’s house?  It makes sense to me that it should.  A place where whatever you have done, whatever you have become, you can find an unconditional acceptance, be caught up in a celebration that you have walked in the direction of your Loving Father and found a place that you can call home.




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