Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org


Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 10th:

Call: 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
Text: Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32
Read: Psalm 32 (766)


In the last half century,
I have lived in six different communities in NY State
In five of them, I have written plays
   None of which has been published
   All but one have had at least one public performance

I first became a playwright in Baldwinsville in 1964
When, in a creative writing class,
I wrote a play about the Constitutional Convention
   It was a comedy complete with anachronistic characters
      Including Lincoln who born 20 years later
And before you ask,  the fact that it was a comedy was intentional

To date my seminal work has not had a public showing
   By now, I am inclined to think that it never will.

While in Binghamton in the mid to late 1960s
   I helped write a sketch about Captain Marvel - in French
      We performed the skit "Capitan Marveux" in class.
   Later my college roommate and I wrote, produced, directed
and starred in a slide show "take off" on James Bond films
changing the heroic spy's last name to Barnes
   And showed it at the annual school carnival
These two Southern Tier productions were comedy as well

After a number of years of semi retirement

I returned to the genre in the early to mid 1980s
   When as cub master in Oneida
I wrote a melodrama which the Cub pack performed twice in the center of Riverside Mall in Utica
      A mall which closed not many years later
      Not that my play was a contributing factor

In this play three knights were given the chance to rescue the king's daughter, Princess Daffodil (or Daffy, for short) from a scary dragon

The first knight failed.      His name: "Sir Strong"
The second failed as well  His name: "Sir Quick

But the third outsmarted the dragon and won the princess' hand.
   His name was   "Sir Ebral"    [This too was comedy]

In Jordanville, I switched from comedy to drama and wrote a Christmas play that has proven to be my most performed work
   Having been performed not only in that community
   But also in Massena     and a couple of years ago in Potsdam

And then while in Massena I wrote a new Christmas play as well.

Why do I reminisce on my virtually invisible career as a playwright?

Because it occurred to me that the only NYS community
   In which I have lived during the last half century
   But in which I have not written a play
      Is Potsdam - a community with a long tradition of performing arts.

And I felt bad.
I felt like I had cheated this community.

And today I start to rectify that slight,
For we have the perfect scripture to adapt for my next play.
   "The Parable of The Prodigal Son."

Can't you just see this as our next fund raiser?
   "The Prodigal" a play in four short acts
      produced by the Potsdam United Methodist Church
      Starring members of the congregation
      Written by Jim Barnes and Jesus The Christ
[On second thought maybe we should reverse that order]

I am about to begin designing this play - right here, right now
As I do so before your very eyes, I want us to think about
which part we want to play       and which part we do play

First though, let's look at the context in which the story was told
   [Luke 15: 1-3]

Knowing that Christ told the story
   Because of the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes
      Over his welcoming and eating with sinners
 let's now refresh our knowledge of the original work [15: 11b-32]

That's the story.    Let's get to work on the adaptation.

The first act will open with the father and the two sons engaged in an animated conversation:

   "Dad, don't be a fool.  He'll just waste what ever you give him."
   "No, I won't.  I just want to get out of this god forsaken place
and make it on my own."
   "On your own?  You want to make it on Dad's money.  Money that I have helped him earn while you have done as little as possible."
   "You are the oldest and will get most of what Dad has anyway.  Why shouldn't you do most of the work?"
   "You see what I mean, Dad?  Did you see what kind of an attitude your younger son has?  I can hardly believe he is my brother."
   "If I had my choice, I wouldn't be your brother.  What do you say Dad?  Can I have what will be my inheritance anyway?"

   "Do you really want to leave here - and leave me?"
   "Yeah, I do.  There is no future for me here.  I want to see what the world is like and how I fit into it."
   "I don't want you to leave, but I don't want you to feel trapped .  You do realize that if I give you the money, it means that you won't get anything when I go to sleep with my ancestors?"
   "I know that."

   "Well, then, you shall have the money.  Are you really sure?

After the younger son heads out to the road with a spring in his step, the Father turns to the older son,
   "I am going to miss him.  I hope he comes back some day."
   "I'm not going to miss him.  I hope I never see him again."

At the end of the first act, to whom do we relate?
   The younger son who wants to make his way in the world
Even though it means leaving his father and brother?
   The older son who remains to take care of their father and manage his assets?
   The father whose sons differed and squabbled and who appears to have lost his younger son for good?

Act two opens amid loud music with the younger son partying
   He is drinking excessively
   He has a loose woman on each arm

The act closes with no words having been spoken
   And with the second son lying on the floor
      Totally wasted
      An empty money pouch lying beside him.

Again I ask:   To whom do we relate now?

And I share a concern I had not anticipated:
   If we only use our parishioners
   How are we going to find anyone to play the loose women
      We may have to see if another church can provide them
      Although I would feel a bit awkward calling Trinity or St Mary's and asking if we could borrow a couple of loose women.

Act three begins with that same son speaking with a pig farmer.
   "You sure that you want the job?  I ain't never had a Jewish boy work for me before?  Your law says my pigs are unclean.
   But I guess you ain't particularly clean yourself."

The pig farmer leaves.
And the act closes with the second son's soliloquy
   "Look at me.  I have nothing.
      No money, no food, not much of a place to sleep
I am feeding and cleaning up after pigs!
   And I'd eat their food if I wasn't afraid of being caught
If my father saw me now, he would be so ashamed of me."

And then, in his dismay the second son came to himself:
"How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough - and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!"

I will get up and go to my father and I will say to him,
   "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.
   I am no longer worthy to be called your son
   Treat me like one of your hired hands."

For the third time I ask?  To whom do we relate?
And a second question,
   "Would we rather be the second son now?
Or while he was living it up on Daddy's money?

Our final act starts with the Father gazing longingly down the road from his house - in the direction his son had walked some time ago

   Then a look of recognition enters his face

And he turns and speaks directly to us in the audience,
   "That's my son, my second son.  He's trudging down the road like a man on his last legs..
   He left me as if I were dead, taking his full share of his inheritance.  I feared I would never see him again.  And now here he is?
   Do I reject him and send him away?
After all he got all he deserved from me
   I can't do it.
I am so excited to see him that I want to celebrate."
      And with that he races to his son.

The son confesses to his father.
He tells him that he is not worthy to be called his son.

The Father steals a quick look at us.  Then shouts to his slave.
   "Bring the best robe and a ring and sandals for his feet
   Kill the fatted calf.  Let us eat and celebrate."

I'd like to end the play right there
Then when I ask to which character we relate

Some might well say
   I relate both to the repentant and humbled son
And   I relate to the loving and forgiving parent

I am not convinced that we would be being honest if we said that.
   For I fear that as the son, we might well justify our actions and portray ourselves as the victim
      Instead of being repentant and humbled.
   And too, I fear that as the father, we might well
Lecture and scold rather than hug the son who had made us feel rejected and hurt.

But Christ didn't end his parable there
And because he didn't,  you and I have to face reality.

For Christ told us about the older son's reaction
   A reaction of jealousy, selfishness, and self pity
Remember his words?
   [15: 29b - 30]

Is there anyone of us here who can honestly say that he/she doesn't relate to the older son at least as much as to the other main characters?      I can't - and not just because I am an oldest son.

All three characters are us
   In the older son, we see ourselves as we do not want to be
   In the second son, we see our imperfect selves
But also an example of humility and repentance
   In the father, we see God (which is what Christ intended)
hurt,       but willing and eager to forgive
and anxious to have his child return to him
      someone whom you and I must emulate.
The message to the scribes and Pharisees was that
   God loves God's children - even while wayward
   And is not only willing, but anxious
to be with     and forgive    them.

God forgives because God loves us
You and I have to forgive because we want to be like God.

If we desire to be forgiven, we must also be prepared to forgive.

Is it really all that hard?

That's our play
   It may not be the best written
   But you can't beat the parable on which it is based.

If it is ever performed,
I want those present to sing "Freely, Freely"
   Before the curtain comes up
I want those present to sing "God, How Can We Forgive"
   After the curtain goes down
   I want the program to include
      The words of Psalm 32 and 2 Corinthians 15

And I want those present to come to themselves
   And trusting God, be ready to forgive others.

We did the first three (the songs and the scripture) today.

When we leave here, let's do so, prepared to do the fourth
   (the trust and forgiveness parts)
every day      of the rest of our lives.