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8:30AM, 9:45AM in the hall, or 11AM

Location:
7150 Pines Blvd
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
The SE corner of Pines Blvd and 72nd Ave
Across the street from Broward college South Campus lake
(954) 989-1903
tlcppines@gmail.com


Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

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Trinity Robbed

Sometime between late last night and early this morning, Trinity Lutheran's main sanctuary was broken into and robbed. Taken items inc...

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Trinity Robbed

Sometime between late last night and early this morning, Trinity Lutheran's main sanctuary was broken into and robbed. Taken items included a number of items used as part of our music ministry including an amp/mixer, keyboard and guitar as well as a partner congregation's mixer. The front door to the sanctuary was shattered with a large brick.





The broken door has been secured and our losses tallied to in the neighborhood of $1750 which will again fall below the threshold of our insurance deductible. As this is the second break-in on our campus in the past year we are contacting alarm/security companies and will be moving forward with increased monitoring of our facilities. Anyone so moved to assist on with replacing stolen items, your donations made out to Trinity Lutheran Church would be most appreciated.
The police did come, but no obtainable fingerprints or other clues as to the perpetrator was found.
Since people have graciously been asking - our address is Trinity Lutheran Church 8362 Pines Blvd suite 431 Pembroke Pines FL 33024. 
Due to a number of requests, we have set up PAYPAL account for online donations to TRINITY. You can either use your PAYPAL account or just a credit card with no PAYPAL account necessary. The button is top of the BLOG on the right side. And thank you for all of the kind thoughts, prayers and messages of support in the wake of the robbery at Trinity. It is such a blessing to be surrounded by such amazing people!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Meditation on Mary and Gabriel

The reading for Sunday, December 4, 2016:

Luke 1:26-38

Today we get the wonderful Gospel story of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, and Mary's response. Protestants traditionally don't spend much time thinking about Mary, which is a shame, because she has much to teach us.

I love Mary's measured responses. She ponders. She wonders how the events that Gabriel mentions can be true. Everything that Gabriel says would challenge the brain that tended towards the literal, which frankly, is how I think of the modern brain--if we can't prove it scientifically, don't bother us. Most of us would have jeered at Gabriel and sent him on his way. We'd have told our friends about the stupid angel who thought we'd believe that a post-menopausal woman, like our cousin Elizabeth, could get pregnant.

But Mary has a different response. I like that she's not punished for her questions. Gabriel answers, and she accepts.

I like that God sends Gabriel to prepare the way. Many of our Advent lessons seem to revolve around God preparing the way, whether it be with angels or with prophets or with strange men crying in the wilderness.

And it's important to note that Mary has a choice. We always have a choice. I've had nonbeliever friends who call God a rapist because of how God treated Mary, but that's not the God I know and not the God that the story presents. Gabriel paints a scenario, and Mary submits to God's will. Mary could have said no, but she chose to say yes.

I always wonder if there were women who sent Gabriel away: "I'm going to be the mother of who? It will happen how? Go away. I don't have time for this nonsense. If God wants to perform a miracle, let God teach my children not to track so much dirt into this house."

We won't ever hear about those women, because they decided that they didn't want to be part of God's glorious vision.

How about you? How is God calling to you?

Most of us aren't visited by angels, and if we are, we know better than to talk about it. But God speaks to us in other ways. There's the traditional way: through the Scriptures. But God also speaks to us through our yearnings and dreams.

God breaks into our world in many wonderful ways, but most of us aren't paying attention. If the angel Gabriel did appear, we might not even notice, because we're so busy, which makes us too exhausted to even dream of a better life.

Winter is a great time to become more introspective. The days are shorter and darker--what better time to stay inside and write in your journal. You could get back to that valuable tool of keeping a gratitude journal--every day, list 5 things for which you're grateful. Or, every day you could list one time when you felt God's presence; once you train yourself to be aware, you'll have more to list. Or you could list the ways you'd like to see the world change to become more aligned with God's vision for the world--and maybe you could list ways that you could help with that transformation. In your journal, you could keep a prayer list, so you remember the people and places that need your prayers--and maybe, in future years, you'd consult the list and be amazed at the way that God answers your prayer. Maybe in your journal, you could practice the ancient art of lectio divina--take a passage of the Bible and meditate on it awhile--write about the passage for 10 minutes and see what happens.

You might start with these words of Gabriel: "For with God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1, verse 37).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Dinner at Trinity

WHERE ARE YOU EATING FOR THANKSGIVING?

Please join us in the Trinity Fellowship Hall at 3PM on Thursday November 24th (thanksgiving Day) for a potluck Thanksgiving meal. There will be Turkey, Ham, Stuffing and sides and I've baked five loaves of Oatmeal Wheat Bread and there will be so many desserts. Sweeter still is the time we spend together in fellowship and thankfulness. All Welcome!

Amazon Smile As You Shop!

If you are going to be doing shopping through amazon.com in the coming season (or any season) and have not already designated a recipient for Operation Smile, please consider Trinity Lutheran church. Help us better feed the hungry, clothe the needy, fight for justice and share the Good News of Jesus!

You can support Trinity with each purchase that you make through Amazon.com with NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU!
By registering and using the smile.amazon.com link, a small percentage of what you spend at Amazon will be returned as a gift to Trinity.
This is the link:
https://smile.amazon.com/ch/59-1159569

Thanksgiving Eve

Interfaith Prayer, Reflection and Conversation on Thankfulness and Generosity Tonight, Thanksgiving Eve,  in the Trinity Fellowship Hall at 7:30PM. Desserts and Coffee provided. All welcome!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Words Becoming Flesh

The reading for Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016:

John 1:  1-14

When I was younger, the Gospel of John confounded me. What kind of nativity story did John give us? Does he not know the power of narrative, the importance of a hook in the beginning?

Look at verse 14, which may be familiar: "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." As a child, I'd have screamed, "What does that mean? How does word become flesh?"

And then I became a writer, and I learned how the word becomes flesh. I invented characters who took on lives of their own, who woke me up early in the morning because I wanted to see what happened to them. Yes, I know, I was the God of their universe. But as anyone who has had children will know, you make these creations, and they have their own opinions, and they live their lives in ways you couldn't have known they would.

Many of us know the truth that John gives us in a different way. Words become flesh every day. We begin to shape our reality by talking about it. We shape our relationships through our words which then might lead to deeds, which is another way of talking about flesh.

Our words become flesh in other ways, of course. It's not enough to profess we're Christians. Our words should shape our actions. The world is watching, and the world is tired of people who say one thing and act another way.

How can we enflesh our Christian beliefs incarnate in our own lives? That's the question with which we wrestle year after year. It's easy to say we believe things, but it's much harder to make our actions match our words, to live an authentic life.

The good news: it gets easier. You must practice. Our spiritual ancestors would tell us that daily and weekly practices help to align our words to our actions.

I have an atheist friend who says she envies me my ability to believe. I tell her that there's not a class of people who just have faith. We come to it by our actions. We pray, we pay attention, we meet in church, we study, we read the Bible, we help the poor and outcast, we pray some more--and years later, we realize that we are living a life consistent with our values.

Here we are, at the beginning of Advent, a season that for many of us is a time of frenzy and exhaustion.  Let us plan now.  How can we create a more a contemplative corner for Advent?  Let these words of commitment become flesh and live in us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Parable of the Tenants

The reading for Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016:

Luke 20:  9-16

Today's reading contains a parable that clearly tells the story of Christ, in the vineyard owner's son, who is killed by the tenants.   What else should we take away from this story?

I suspect that when modern readers, many of whom own property, read this lesson, they identify with the vineyard owner far more than they do with the tenants. But what would happen if we thought about ourselves as the tenants?

What is it the tenants hope to gain by this behavior?  If we take this parable on one level, we have to wonder what we're being taught.  The system is set up against the tenants.  They do not own the land.  They will not be able to own the land, given the approach they are taking.  But as with every parable, there's more, if we dive below the surface.

Let's return to the parable again.  Let's look at that landowner, who goes away and then tries to claim what is his.  Are we seeing the same lesson from a different angle?  The landowner, too, cannot change approach.  The landowner tries to settle a problem by the using the same approach, time after time after time.

Notice how all of the characters are so stuck in their self-destructive ways that they can't change. Now, as we settle into the season of autumn, as we race towards the end of the year, it might be useful to do some self-evaluation. What are our habits that get in the way of us living as the people of God? By now, you might despair to realize that these are the same patterns you've wrestled with before. But take heart. As you continue to attempt to make changes and go astray, each time you try to get back to a more wholesome way of living, it should take less time to make the necessary adjustments.

All this talk of going astray may not be the most useful image for us. Many of us have grown up in churches that berated us with talk of sin and tried to make us change by making us feel ashamed. We live in a toxic culture that tells us that we're not doing enough, not earning enough, not buying the right stuff. Many of us spend our days with voices in our head telling us those same messages. Who wants to come to church to hear the same thing? We've tried, we've failed, we know, we get it.

The danger is that we might quit trying to live the life that God envisions for us. God doesn't want us to live the way we've been living. Many of us might agree--we don't want to be living these lives.

So take a different approach. What would a healthier life look like? What would a God-centered life look like?  The answers will be different for all of us. How would a God-centered life feel?

When you go astray, take heart. Remember that God promises that no matter how far away you are from that vision of a God-centered life, God will meet you more than half-way. If you're feeling like a rejected stone, remember that God has great plans for you. You can become the cornerstone that supports a building that you weren't even able to envision at an earlier point in your life.


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

What Do We Do Now?

What do we do now?

Some folks are happy. Some sad.
Some fearful. Some expectant.
Some anxious. some relieved.

So what do we do now?

Well, I pastor a congregation of disciples who seek to walk in the Way of Jesus. A faith community that seeks to share Christ, live by loving, care by serving and see Christ in all. And by all we mean ALL. We're weird that way. And we screw it up sometimes. But every time we dust ourselves off, turn from our way to God's way, and try again. Grace is cool that way. It gives us an everlasting hope.

We are a faith community that is Reconciled in Christ (RIC) and is welcoming to all. We seek to be a community that embodies radical hospitality. So If you are Native American, Asian, Hispanic, Black, White, Bi-Racial or Multi-Racial...If you are three days old, 30 years old, or 103 years old...If you’ve never stepped foot in a church; or if you are Catholic or Protestant, Buddhist or Jain, Jewish or Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, atheist, agnostic, or Christian, a seeker or spiritual or not quite sure...If you are single, married, divorced, separated, or partnered...If you are male or female, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer...If you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, Libertarian or of any or no political persuasion...If you have, or had, addictions, phobias, regrets, or a criminal record...If you own your home, rent, live with your parents, or with your children or with your friends, or are homeless...If you are fully-abled, disabled or a person of differing abilities...
You are welcome here at TLC!

We are also a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (not of America) and as such we take the work of justice and holding people and governments accountable for their actions seriously. Our justice ministry is our largest ministry. And we also seek to be a community of mercy who feeds and clothes the hungry and the outcast.

We worship and we pray. We praise and we encourage. We equip and send one another out for the work of the gospel. And gospel means good news. And in all of this that good news is not diminished one bit.

Jesus is our Lord.
We are in the world and not of it.
We pray for our leaders, but are under no illusion that they will  embody God's concerns for the hungry, the voiceless, the outcast, the imprisoned, the widow and the orphan, the immigrant and the marginalized.

And so we pray and will seek to hold them accountable.
We will stand with the poor.
We will stand for the immigrant.
We will stand with the LGBTQ community
We stand with all women who have been and continued to suffer from a society at large that will not see and treat them as equals. That talks over their stories of harassment, objectification, and pain.
We stand with #blacklivesmatter because in this country all lives are not equal.
We will stand for peace and justice.
And we will stand for the marginalized and the suffering because that is what people who seek to walk in the Way of Jesus do. It is what all Christians are call to do. The election did not change this, but perhaps it has brought our work more clearly into focus and with renewed urgency. As we all catch our breath and breath our prayers there is great love and goodness all around us if we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts soft enough to embrace it. God invites us to enter that love, God's love, the peace that passes all understanding.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Lazarus and the Rich Man

The reading for Sunday, November 13, 2016:

Luke 16:19-31


This Sunday, we return to familiar themes with the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus is so poor that he hopes for crumbs from the rich man's table and has to tolerate the dogs licking his sores. Lazarus has nothing, and the rich man has everything. When Lazarus dies, he goes to be with Abraham, where he is rewarded. When the rich man dies, he is tormented by all the hosts of Hades. He pleads for mercy, or just a drop of water, and he's reminded of all the times that he didn't take care of the poor. He asks for a chance to go back to warn his family, and he's told, "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead."

To hear the Christians who are most prominently in the media, you'd think that the Bible concerned itself with homosexuality.  Yet many Bible scholars would remind us that economic injustice is one of the most common themes in the Bible.

In his book, God's Politics, Jim Wallis tells of tabulating Bible verses when he was in seminary: "We found several thousand (emphasis his) verses in the Bible on the poor and Gods' response to injustice. We found it to be the second most prominent theme in the Hebrew Scriptures Old Testament--the first was idolatry, and the two often were related. One of every sixteen verses in the New Testament is about the poor or the subject of money (mammon, as the gospels call it). In the first three (Synoptic) gospels it is one out of ten verses, and in the book of Luke, it is one in seven" (page 212).

And how often does the Bible mention homosexuality? That depends on how you translate the Greek and how you interpret words that have meanings that cover a wide range of sexual activity--but at the most, the whole Bible mentions homosexuality about twelve times.

If we take the Bible as the primary text of Christianity, and most of us do, the message is clear. God's place is with the poor and oppressed. The behavior that most offends God is treating people without love and concern for their well being--this interpretation covers a wide range of human activity: using people's bodies sexually with no concern for their humanity, cheating people, leaving all of society's destitute and despicable to fend for themselves, not sharing our wealth, and the list would be huge, if we made an all-encompassing list.

It might leave us in despair, thinking of all the ways we hurt each other, all the ways that we betray God. But again and again, the Bible reminds us that we are redeemable and worthy of salvation. Again and again, we see the Biblical main motif of a God who wants so desperately to see us be our best selves that God goes crashing throughout creation in an effort to remind us of all we can be.

Some prosperity gospel preachers interpret this motif of a God who wants us to be rich. In a way, they're right--God does want us to be rich. But God doesn't care about us being rich in worldly goods. Anyone who has studied history--or just opened their eyes in recent years--knows how quickly worldly goods can be taken away. But those of us who have dedicated our lives to forging whole human relationships and helping to usher in the Kingdom now and not later--those of us rich in love are rich indeed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

A Meditation for All Saints Sunday

This Sunday, we will celebrate All Saints Sunday. Traditionally, this day celebrates the saints who have gone on before us. Traditionalists would only celebrate the lives of the truly beatified and the lives of those martyred for the faith.  Many modern churches have expanded this feast day to become a day when we remember our dead. 

Could we approach this day differently?  Could we use this day to remind us of the saints we are called to become?

Certainly we can begin with the lives of our lost loved ones.  What aspects should we invite into our lives?  Maybe it's the charitable giving of our grandparents or our mother-in-law's hospitality.  Maybe we would like to do more for the church, like sing in the choir.  Maybe there are some spiritual practices, like daily devotions that our parents used to have with us as children, that could enrich us even now.

If those family members are still living, we should write them a note or a card. Some day, you'll remember them on this feast day. Write them a note of appreciation now, while they are alive to appreciate your gratitude.
And then, let us expand our meditations to others who have gone before, those whom we may have never met.  That's the good news about All Saints Day and Reformation Day. We tend to forget that all the saints that came before us were flesh and blood humans (including Jesus). We think of people like Martin Luther as perfect people who had no faults who launched a revolution. In fact, you could make the argument that many revolutions are launched precisely because of people's faults: they're bullheaded, so they're not likely to make nice and be quiet and ignore injustice. They're hopelessly naive and idealistic, so they stick to their views of how people of faith should live--and they expect the rest of us to conform to their visions. They refuse to bow to authority because they answer to a higher power--and so, they translate the Bible into native languages, fund colleges, rescue people in danger, insist on soup kitchens, write poems, and build affordable housing.

The world changes (for the better and the worse) because of the visions of perfectly ordinary people--and because their faith moves them into actions that support that vision. If we're lucky, those people are working towards the same vision of the inclusive Kingdom that Jesus came to show us.

Soon we will be skating down the corridor which takes us to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's a time of breathless pace for many of us.  Let us take another day to remember the souls of those gone before us.  Let us think of our own mortal souls which will not be on this earth for a very long time.  Let us resolve to strengthen our spiritual lives, so that we serve as living lanterns for those coming after us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Meditation for Reformation Sunday

Here we are, back at Reformation Sunday.  Each year, as this Sunday of celebration approaches, I find myself thinking about what needs to be reformed and what should be preserved.

Perhaps you feel like we've been living Reformation for the past few years as the Lutheran church has wrestled with the fallout from the various sexuality decisions of the Churchwide Assembly in 2009. Perhaps you are not happy with the changes that have been wrought. Or perhaps you are unhappy with the more recent election of a female bishop to head the ELCA—or maybe you’re unhappy because there are so few synodical bishops. Maybe you find yourself feeling very sympathetic to the Catholic church of Luther's day, the Church that found itself torn asunder by many movements of reform.

Regardless of the side on which we sit with these recent struggles, we might find ourselves feeling a bit fearful. We might worry about schism. We probably worry that there won't be a place for us in the church that emerges from all of this.

We should take heart that the Church has always been in the process of Reformation. There are great Reformations, like the one we'll celebrate this Sunday, or the Pentecostal revolution that's only 100 years old, but has transformed the developing world in ways that Capitalism never could. There are smaller ones throughout the ages as well. Movements which seemed earth-shattering at the time (monastic movements of all kinds, liberation theology, ordination of women, lay leadership) may in time come to be seen as something that enriches the larger church. Even gross theological missteps, like the Inquisition, can be survived. The Church learns from past mistakes as it moves forward.

Times of Reformation can enrich us all. Even those of us who reject reform can find our spiritual lives enriched as we take stock and measure what's important to us, what compromises we can make and what we can't. It's good to have these times where we return to the Scriptures as we try to hear what God calls us to do. It may be painful, but any of these processes may lead us to soil where we can bloom more fruitfully.

We may think of that metaphor and feel despair, as if we will never be truly rooted, flowering plants. But rootlessness can be its own spiritual gift. The spiritual wanderers have often been those who most revitalized the Church, or on a smaller level, their spiritual communities. The spiritual wanderers are often the ones who keep all of us true to God's purpose.

If you have been feeling despair, take heart. Jesus promises that we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. You might not be feeling like you know what the truth is at this current point; you may feel tossed around by the tempests of our current times. But Jesus promises that we will know the truth. We will be set free. We don't have a specific date at which we'll know the truth. But we will.

Rest in God's promise that we are all redeemable; indeed, we are redeemed. Rest in the historic knowledge that the Church has survived times of greater turbulence than our own. Rest in Luther's idea that we are saved by grace alone. Rest.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

PUMPKIN PATCH OPENINGS

The pumpkin patch is underway! Thanks to all volunteers who helped with offload and manning the patch for the 1st week. We have the following shifts available for week 2 and kindly ask that you consider taking a shift (or a portion of a shift). No heavy lifting required-just a friendly face to greet the community!
Please contact Kathy at
954-478-4395 or by email at kathryn4301@att.net if you can take a shift or if you have any questions.

**Unless otherwise noted, we need 2 volunteers for each shift**
Monday, Oct. 24
12:00-2:30
2:30-4:00 1 person needed6:00-8:00

Tuesday, Oct. 25
12:00-2:00
2:00-4:00
6:00-8:00

Wednesday, Oct. 26
2:00-4:00
4:00-6:00 1 person needed6:00-8:00

Thursday, Oct. 27
12:00-2:00
2:00-4:00
6:00-8:00

Friday. Oct. 28
2:00-4:00
4:00-6:00 1 person needed
Saturday, Oct. 29
10:00-12:30
3:00-5:30
5:30-8:00

Saturday, October 22, 2016

REFUGEE SUNDAY

This Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church we will be Commemorating REFUGEE SUNDAY lifting up especially the work of the Lutheran Immigration and Resettlement Service http://lirs.org

While politicians demonize the refugees who come to us seeking asylum from war and persecution, groups like LIRS have resettled half a million people some 1939.

I will be preaching on Matthew 25:
Lord when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are
members of my family, you did it to me.'
See You Sunday!
Pastor Keith

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Relief for the Bahamas

Collecting for the people of the Bahamas affected by Hurricane Matthew for distribution through Our Savior Lutheran Church, Freeport. Items may be left in the box in the narthex. All items to be donated must be received by Sunday November 6th.

CEREALS (assorted)
CARNATION CREAM
BABY DIAPERS
RICE
GRITS
CAN TUNA
CAN CORNER BEEF
VEGETABLE SOUP
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
ASSORTED RAMEN NOODLES
TOLIET PAPER
BLEACH (gal or 1/2 gal)
Pine sol (24 or 48 ounces)
Detergent
Dish washing liquid
Bath soaps
Tooth paste
Tooth brushes

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Unjust Managers

The reading for Sunday, October 19:

Luke 16:1-13


Ah, the parable of the unjust steward, the dishonest manager. This parable may be one of the toughest to understand. Are we to understand this parable as a pro-cheating text? It seems that this tale is one of several types of unjustness, and it's hard to sort it all out. Let's try.

Much like the parable of the Prodigal Son, which sends up wails of protests about unfair treatment of undeserving children, this text makes one want to wail at first reading. There's the master, who believes the charges brought up against his steward, who seems prepared to dismiss him, based on those charges--let us remember that the charges may be false.

But the behavior of the steward seems slimy too; accused of unethical behavior, he seems to behave unethically, dismissing debt in an attempt to curry favor for a later time when he is dispossessed.

And then there's the surprise twist--the master approves of the steward's shrewdness.

There are several different approaches to this parable. The easiest approach is to look at the final lines of the Gospel, those familiar lines that so many of us would like to ignore, that we cannot serve God and money. This parable seems to suggest that it's hard to have dealings with money that don't leave us looking slimy.

We might ask ourselves how a stranger would view us if they looked at our budgets. On a personal level, the way we spend money shows our values. So if I say I'd like to wipe out childhood poverty, but I spend all of my extra money on wine, a stranger would question that. If I say that I value a Christ-centered economy, but I only give money to my retirement accounts, what would that stranger say? I will be the first to admit that I want to hoard my money, that it's hard for me to trust that God will provide.

We could ask similar questions about our institutional budgets. What does our church budget say about us? If we give more money to the upkeep of our buildings than to the poor, are we living the life that Christ commands us to live? These are tough questions, and I will honestly say that I haven't met many institutions, sacred or secular, that achieve balance very gracefully--especially not when hard times come, as they always do.

Christ commands us not to lose sight of the true riches, the riches that our society doesn't comprehend fully (or at all). We are not our paychecks. There's so much more to us than our job titles. We have been entrusted with so much. We will be judged by how well we show stewardship of those resources.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (or the Two Lost Boys)

The reading for Sunday, October 16, 2016:

Luke 15:  11-32

Ah, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We've heard it so many times that we may have forgotten pertinent details. We remember clearly the younger son, the one who squanders his fortune in a foreign land and becomes so hungry and desperate that he yearns for swine food. We understand this part of the parable. Even if we haven't been the wastrel child, who among us has not occasionally envied the ease with which some of our society just do their own thing and give themselves to riotous living. We assume the younger son represents us as our worst sinner selves.

We forget that this story has two lost sons.

Yes, the older son is just as lost as the younger. Perhaps more so.

Look at his behavior and see if you recognize yourself. He has to find out from the servants what is going on. He hasn't been invited to the party. He has done all the right things, been steadfast, honored his father and society, and what does he get? Does he get a party? No!

Which child is more lost? The one who gives into his animal nature, who indulges in carnal pleasures? Or the one who shows himself to have all sorts of repressed anger, a well of resentment that erupts all over his poor father?

In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen explains that this parable as being about love and how we're loved and how we're afraid that we won't be loved. We spend a lot of time looking for the approval of others. Nouwen says, "As long as I keep running about asking: 'Do you love me? Do you really love me?' I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with 'ifs.' The world says: 'Yes I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much'" (42). Obviously, we can't win this game.

Luckily, we don't have to win. God loves us regardless. Of course, learning this lesson of love may take us a lifetime. We have to force ourselves to the disciplines that will thaw our frozen hearts. Nouwen suggests, "Although we are incapable of liberating ourselves from our frozen anger, we can allow ourselves to be found by God and healed by his love through the concrete and daily practice of trust and gratitude" (84).

He goes on to say, "There is a very strong, dark voice in me that says the opposite: 'God isn't really interested in me, he prefers the repentant sinner who comes home after his wild escapades. He doesn't pay attention to me who has never left the house. He takes me for granted. I am not his favorite son. I don't expect him to give me what I really want" (84).

Yes, trust and gratitude can be difficult moods to sustain. But we're called to do that. And then we're called to work on a deeper transformation. We must become as full of love as the father in the parable.

The traditional approach to this parable is to see the Father character representing God, which is certainly true. But many of us assume we cannot love the way God can. Maybe not. But we have to try. Nouwen says, "Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: 'Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.' . . . "what I am called to make true is that whether I am the younger or the elder son, I am the son of my compassionate Father. I am an heir. . . . The return to the Father is ultimately the challenge to become the Father" (123).

How on earth can we accomplish this? Nouwen suggests that we cultivate these three traits: "grief, forgiveness, and generosity" (128). To those I would add that we should commit ourselves to believing in resurrection. Believe in the possibility of second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Believe that the lost will be found. Believe that the Prodigal will return. Throw a fabulous party. And when you notice that someone is missing from the party, someone is standing in the shadows, stewing in resentment, anger, grief, envy--go get that person and invite them to the party. Remember that we are children of a God whose love we cannot begin to comprehend.