A great day yesterday! Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make it a success. The financial commitments that were consecrated to God’s work were most encouraging. Cards are still coming in, so we will hold off on a final report. If you weren’t here, expect a card in the mail this week. Thanks for returning it to the church as soon as possible. It is a joy to work with such generous people!
Steve Tollefson delivered a powerful sermon. It touched me deeply, as I’m sure it did you. It’s the stories told in sermons that we remember, and the one I will remember from yesterday was about the son who thought it would be funny to call his dad with a prank call in the wee hours of Sunday morning. His dad was a pastor, so this would be the worst possible time. A “police officer” (really one of his druggie friends) told his dad that his son had been arrested and needed to be picked up and taken home. The dad went from precinct to precinct searching for his son, finally finding him asleep in the drug house where he lived. Rather than awaken his son, he simply bent over and gave him a kiss. It turned out it was that kiss that turned this prodigal son’s life around.
It reminded me of a story from Meg Meeker’s book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. Ada was 16 when she ran away from home. She stole money from her parents and then took a bus from her home in the Midwest to San Diego. Her dad hired a private detective to track her down. He made the long journey to bring his daughter back home. She screamed at him. She said, “If you force me to go, I will just run away again!” So her dad make the long journey back home alone. His heart was broken.
One year to the day later, he traveled to San Diego again. She looked much worse. “For three days he cajoled pleaded, and cried.” She wouldn’t budge. She would rather live in a shelter.
Another year passed. On Ada’s 18th birthday, this dad traveled to San Diego yet again. This time he found his daughter living on the streets. “He barely recognized her and feared she had become a prostitute. She denied it, and he believed her, though he assumed she must be taking and dealing drugs.” He stayed three days and could not persuade her to come home. He bought her new clothes and left.
This pattern continued until Ada reached her early twenties. [Her dad] wrote letters, but didn’t send them, as she didn’t have an address. He saved money for her in a savings account. He told no one about this, fearing they would think him a fool. But he loved her and he wouldn’t stop. Ada had sliced his heart into thousands of pieces, but he was determined to love her. He couldn’t change her, but he could love her.
Then one day she called him on his phone. “Daddy?” He heard her voice but he could not speak. “Daddy, are you there? Please talk.” She began to cry. She explained that she was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her dad said, “Don’t move, Ada, don’t move. I’m on my way.” This time she was ready to come home. She was ready to get her life back on track. And she did.
No one ever figured out why Ada did what she did. There was no understanding it. It just happened. But it was only [her dad’s] tenacity and grit that brought her back.
Our God is like that. Exactly like that. He gives and gives and gives. He loves and loves and loves. He has given us free will, which means he cannot change us. But he can love us. And I know it gives him great joy when once in a while we give and love in return.