A Prodigal People

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With her permission, I have posted the following sermon given by my wife, Lietta Ruger, as a guest article. Lietta is a social worker by vocation who recently retired from employment with the State of Washington and who has been an advocate for victims of abuse for most of her adult life.

Guest Sermon: A Prodigal People

We have 8 children and 11 grandchildren (a 12th on the way) with a son-in-law and nephew about to rotate out of Iraq after more than a year’s tour of duty.

Lietta preaches a monthly sermon at the St. John’s Episcopal Parish in South Bend, Washington. This article is an edited version of her most recent sermon given last Sunday, 3/21/04.
*** Verses for March 21, 4th Sunday in Lent
Joshua 4: 19 - 24; 5: 9-12
2 Corinthians 5: 17-21
Luke 15: 11-32
Psalm 34 1-8
Note: Luke 15:11-32 is the Parable of the Prodigal Son
Good Morning. As you know, I have son-in-law and nephew deployed in Iraq so over this past year I have taken particular interest in following events since 9-11 and in particular the resulting war in Iraq. Today is March 21st but do you know that yesterday was the one year anniversary of the commencement of that war in Iraq?
Do you know that yesterday was also Global Action Day across the world with the theme "We still say No to War?"
There were assemblies in towns, states, and countries across the world.
Also, if you follow the news reports, yesterday the Methodist Church upstate ruled in favor of the lesbian minister - a unanimous "not guilty" verdict - that she was not out of accord with the Methodist Church view of Christian teachings.
What does this have to do with today’s verses? In my mind, it is somehow fitting that the verses on reconciliation would occur on the same weekend as these large scale world events with a united voice representing reconciliation as a sign of hopefulness. As for me personally, right now I sorely need some kind of indicators that HOPE is still alive.
I have followed, researched and read so much material on the war as it relates to politics, religion, social programs, national security, humanitarian needs and economic practices that I feel like I have taken a crash course in a college level curriculum – a course I would label "Ethics and Values in time of war-401” (not the ‘101’ Freshman level curriculum).
I came across an area of study last week that seemed to push me over the edge into despair and I want to take this opportunity to talk about what I’ve learned.
First, I need to thank the guiding Spirit and Wisdom that prompted me to switch Sundays with my husband who gave the sermon last week when it was my turn. I am giving the sermon this week when it is his turn and this parable of the Prodigal Son happens to be among his favorites - he references it frequently. So it is a peculiar turn that I would wind up speaking on this today instead of him. I will have a different take on this parable than my husband and I find it interesting that it corresponds somehow to the world events this weekend.
We know the parable as the Father with 2 sons and how he gives them valued resources to manage. One son goes out and squanders all the resources given him by the Father until he has depleted everything and rendered himself totally impoverished.
Let's look at the resources the Creator has given us in life on this planet. Everything that we need is already here. Everything to sustain life and flourish exists already and the problems we bring upon ourselves seem to be more about distribution of the plentiful resources and stewardship in caring for the abundance of this planet. Because we do have what we need in place already, it reflects poorly on us as a people of God in how we have managed these life-giving resources.
I am speaking generally, of course, and not specifically to our church members or specific Christian believers despite our general tendency to guilt ourselves when we fall short of the perceived perfection Jesus asks of us – “be ye therefore perfiect.”
It is not my intent to deliver a guilting message as much as offer something we share in common across all the spectrums - religion, country, patriotism, economy, politics and humanitarian compassion.
In the words of Chief Seattle: “We do not weave the web of life; we are but a strand in the web; what we do to the web, we do to ourselves; we may be brothers after all....” - wise words from another culture of another period of history that adhered to a Christian-based principle in their way of life prior to the benefit of knowing biblical teachings.
One does have to be in awe sometimes at how Creator works in the hearts of mankind. We might do well as a global nation to heed the wisdom of the Native American ways when it comes to stewardship of Mother Earth.
I'm going to tell you now about a devastating use of resources that affects us all in every corner of the world. In the aggression of War in Iraq back in 1991 and again now in Afghanistan and Iraq and where ever else our country may take the direction, these war efforts have truly released an evil in its own right. I am very concerned that it seems to be a genie we cannot put back into the bottle.
The military weapons being used contain Depleted Uranium, which in effect is not depleted of anything and if anything is more concentrated uranium radiation. It is a material used in the tanks, aircraft and munitions and when it is exploded it releases active uranium radiation into the air which is breathed into the human body.
One article I read tries to show the significance of breathing in a drop of this stuff as an equivalent to having 1 x-ray an hour - every hour for the rest of your life. The results are as devastating as anything you ever saw or read from the 1950's and 1960's about atomic radiation.
The Gulf War I veterans from 1991 are now sick with radiation poisoning to the point of being totally disabled by the time they are in their 30;s and tragically with children being born to these veterans that are born with disfigurements such as no arms, no legs, no ears, disfigured faces, organs that are not there or are not where they are supposed to be in the human body.
In Iraq right now babies are being born that are so grotesquely malformed they do not resemble anything human.
This has been ongoing since 1991 and with the coming military rotation, our soldiers in Iraq will be returning home after serving a year in Iraq while replacement troops are being sent in to do their tour of duty in Iraq. Approximately 150,000 troops will be coming home, approximately 200,000 troops will be sent in as replacements and most of those will be Reserves which are not trained for active combat.
What is among the first things the returning soldiers are going to do when they get home with their loved ones, wives, girlfriends? Weeks or months from now there will be new conceptions, new births - a new generation. Our own young of both sexes now will quite likely meet and form relationships with returning soldiers over the months and years to come and quite likely begin families. That is our God-given human nature.
In addition, what of all the other countries that have sent troops to Iraq? What of the civilians who have gone to Afghanistan and Iraq for non-military reasons? What of the Afghani and Iraqi people themselves? What of all that air-borne uranium radiation now floating around the world?
The beautiful resources given us have been so disrespected and abused and miss-used. I hope that we might realize how completely we have exhausted our resources and perhaps feel as the son in the parable feels – admitting a need to return repentant and humbled to our Father with a sense of humility that we deserve no more than what is rationed to the low station of servants.
I hope Father will welcome us and embrace us and restore to us what we have carelessly squandered away in foolish endeavors.
The brother in the parable who takes issue with the reconciliation of the foolish son gets set straight by the Father who tells him; “that which was lost has been found; that which is dead is alive again.”
I hope with all my heart with what right now feels like the last vestige of hope I have that we as a global people of God will come to our senses and come home in humbleness of heart for our foolish wastefulness of God's abundant resources.
I hope that we might find that what we have lost may come alive again - that which we have made dead come to resurrection.
I pray that this parable teaching of the Christ imprints itself in our hearts and guides us all to reconciliation.
On a lighter note, I also pray the Great Mother, as mothers are prone to do typically, will help us, the children to clean up the mess we have made.
Please, today remember the words I have tried to bring into focus: “Depleted Uranium: - and do a little investigation for yourselves.
Share the information because no one else is sharing it with all those who will be affected and who have been affected. Give our young generations and future generations an "informed" chance to nourish and help them bear the consequences of our present level of insane destruction.
I do fervently pray for our President to hear the call and heed this Christ-teaching; to return to the Father's grace and lead us in life-giving rather than death-making pursuits. I pray that he might be inspired to lead us to reconciliation.
In the Name of the One,

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