August 16 edevotional
HOMILY IN MEMORY OF JOYCE KEYES, August 14, 2017
My Supervisor, Mentor, Friend, and Spiritual Companion
Once, in our many discussions, I told Joyce that she is like one of the prophets out of our Old Testament Hebrew Bible as she revealed to me her calling to reconcile the churches, the great divides that keep us apart, and to form a new, third way of being church. Joyce often told me she felt like people had a hard time knowing what to do with her. She was so passionate about her calling to have everyone know the great love of God. A theological junkie, she called herself. Gathering together peoples of all kinds, making safe spaces for reconciliation to happen and new God-sightings to be shared. That’s how the prophets described themselves–kind of strange, not really fitting in to any one group, an ear and a voice for God, some people don’t know what to do with them, they are like pests, always wise, helping to make meaning out of our lives, envisioning wild and new ways of expressing love. What trouble can we get into now? Joyce would wonder. She took my definition of her vocation as a compliment and as somewhat a relief for her. It is not an easy role, that of being a prophet, and Joyce did not have an easy life. But she took her vocation as a Social Worker, healer, and prophet very seriously and lived it so very well.
Joyce found great, great meaning in the parable from the evangelist and doctor Luke, a parable we have come to know as the Prodigal son yet we could title by many other names—the Prodigal Father, Welcome Home, or Get Over It, that last title referring especially to the minor character of the parable, the elder son. Joyce described being part of a study group, (I think she said the group was out of Wilmette and maybe some of you here today were a part of the group) on Henri Nouwen’s book about the parable. It was while in that group study, Joyce describes, she had an experience of the love of God beyond a knowledge of the words, or as we say in United Methodist circles, her heart was strangely warmed. Joyce grew up knowing God and grew up in the church. She, unlike some of the others of us, was so very thankful that she did not have to overcome bad or sad theology that taught God as punishing or vindictive, seeking to judge out of anger or revenge.
Yet, she said, it was not until her experience of this group study of Nouwen’s book, that she experienced the prodigal love of God, arms outstretched, hiking up his robe, and running to greet the younger son who had left home to squander the inheritance he had demanded from his father. When the younger son finally returned home ready to become one of his Father’s hired servants if only the Father would accept him back, his father sees him when he’s still far off, as if he’s been waiting for him all this time. Knowing that if the neighbors and friends see him and get to him first they will shame him and tell him to leave, Father does what no respectable landowner would do, he hikes up his robe and runs to his son, embraces him and before the son can even get his excuses and plan or anything out of his mouth, Dad takes him in his arms, into his home and throws a huge party inviting all of the neighbors and friends to welcome his son who has come home.
All this time the elder son is out working in the fields. When he’s finally on his way home he hears the singing and laughing and partying going on. He asks some of the servants what is going on. When they answer that his brother has come back home and that his Father is throwing a big welcome home party, the elder son refuses to go in. Again doing what no respectable and proud landowner and Father would do, the Dad leaves the party when he hears that his eldest son is outside. Stepping out on the porch where the elder son was complaining that Dad never threw such a party for him when he has worked hard all this time and now he throws a huge banquet for his no-good son, the father tells him to get over it and come in and join the party, for my son, everything I have is yours. “My son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” I can hear Joyce repeating those words even now. There will be many Joyce one-liners that will live on in me, but whenever she said those words of the father to the son, there was a holiness that came over her and enveloped me too. You’re missing out on so very, very much cries the father to the elder son. Come on in and join the party, the great celebration. “My son,’ my daughter, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth is alive for us this morning in Joyce’s prophetic voice and spirit ringing in our ears and in our hearts. The home of God is among us. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. “See, I am making all things new.,” says God. It is done. I will be your God and you will be my child. Such a prodigal, wasteful, wildly abandoned love let loose in our midst. We hear your invitation Joyce, to join in the party, and we are so filled with sadness and with great, great joy.
FUN AND IMPORTANT HAPPENINGS
Saturday August 26
Church Clean-Up Day
9:00 am-5:00 pm
Help the Trustees with odd jobs around the building
Come for an hour, come for the day
SPECIAL FOR OUR YOUTH:
$10 per hour credit toward attendance to the fall retreat
Sunday, August 27
End of Summer Beach Party
5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
$6 per person to enter the beach area
NUMC provides meats and condiments
Bring Dessert or side dish
RSVP on the church website: