Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Everyman's Journey

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable:  "There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. --excerpt from Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Arnel Pineda's story follows the familiar lines of a modern rags-to-riches, rise-to-fame story. A member of the rock group Journey, seeking a new lead singer, finds videos of Arnel singing Journey songs on the internet. Eventually the group hires Arnel, who has already overcome a lifetime of poverty and hardship.

The famous story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible begins as a story of a young man whose life goes in the opposite direction--from riches to rags. The story of the Prodigal Son can be frustrating for most good Christians to hear. Being good Christians, it is hard for them to relate to this son, who has everything and throws it away, seemingly on a whim. One possible explanation is that, having been born into a sheltered atmosphere, he does not appreciate his own good fortune and does not understand how quickly money disappears when not treated with respect and frugality. Some people need to learn things the hard way, and this young man appears to be just such a person.

In real life, most of us relate best to the other son in the story, who feels that his father fails to adequately appreciate for his loyalty and dedication and general lack of flakiness. Which brings us to Jesus's point: how do we really feel about new or returning people in our communities of faith?

Every church says they want to grow in numbers. They want more people to to give money and to volunteer on church committees. They want to hear more voices joined together in the singing of hymns. But when new people do show up (or former members return after a long absence), resentments can form. Old timers can think, "Why is the church electing a new person to a position of leadership, when I've been quietly serving on that committee for years?" Churches tend to be filled with sons and daughters who resent the embrace of Jonnny and Janey Come Lately types. This is human nature, but for in order for a church to grow, it needs to be overcome.

A new or returning person brings new gifts and changes, which can fuel resentment and rejection. Arnel had to overcome the skepticism of old fans of the group Journey, who feared he would not be as good as the previous lead singer and founding group member Steve Perry. Some fans, no doubt, turned their backs on him, but others stuck around and came to accept and appreciate him.

You cannot please everyone. And change is never easy. But it never hurts to give someone a chance, or even a second chance.

No comments:

Post a Comment