Two Sons, One Father
a sermon based on Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
by Rev Randy Quinn
Dick and Bonnie had difficulty starting a
family. It was embarrassing to talk about it publicly, but they had tried the numerous
suggestions made by family, friends, and doctors. Yet nothing worked. They finally
resolved themselves to the reality that they were not capable of having children. It
wasnt his fault, and it wasnt her fault, they just couldnt make it
But they knew they had love to share. They knew they would be good parents. They knew
they could provide a good home for a child. So they decided to look for children to adopt.
They finally found an agency that they trusted and began the process of filling out forms
and being interviewed. And then, almost without warning, they were given a baby girl. They
didnt know much about the young woman who had given birth to her, but they were
delighted to welcome a child into their family.
They named her Faith.
But Faith wasnt even crawling yet when Bonnie became pregnant! (You can probably
tell your own version of this story because that seems to happen quite often to families
that decide to adopt children.) So shortly after her first birthday, Faith had a sister
I came to know Dick and Bonnie while Faith and Joy were in their mid-20s.
I met Faith first. She was just like her mother in so many ways. They were both
meticulous in their appearance. They often made their own clothing, but always seemed to
walk off the pages of glamour magazines.
And like her parents, Faith was active in the church. While Bonnie had been involved in
womens programs, Faith was involved in Sunday School and educational programs. And
all three of them - Dick, Bonnie, and Faith - were in the choir and on occasion sang as a
People who didnt know it, found it hard to believe that Faith was the adopted
child. She seemed to be so much like her parents. Responsible. Frugal. Talented.
Joy was the rebel.
I met Joy at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service one year. Her hair was pulled back
in a tight ponytail and the clothes she wore were worn and tattered. She may have bought
them at a used clothing store, but Ive seen much nicer clothes used for rags.
The first time Joy ran away from home she was in the 7th Grade. It didnt last
long, but it was just the beginning. She wrecked her parents car shortly after
obtaining her drivers license. She opted out of college, but convinced her parents
to give her the money they would have spent for tuition. She took that money and
invested it in her own educational program - a world-wide tour.
Its funny. As I said, if you didnt know which was which, you would assume
that Joy was adopted, not Faith. In fact many people in the church assumed that Joys
"world-wide tour" was an attempt to find her real parents.
And maybe in some ways, it was.
Unfortunately, her tour came to a sudden end when she learned that she had contracted
AIDS. She came home for Christmas the year I met her, and stayed home until her death
three years later.
How did these two young women, raised by the same parents, become so different? Was it
in their genes? If so, why did the one with her parents genes seem so out of place
in her own family?
Of course anyone who has been a parent to more than one child knows there is no answer
to these questions. Children become whom they are through a variety of influences, not
just parenting and not just genetic codes. But we are still puzzled by the phenomena.
What was most remarkable about this family was the love Dick and Bonnie had for their
children. Faith and Joy were loved like very few other children. People who had known them
for years talked about how Bonnie stayed at home and Dick had given up promotions to spend
more time with them. And even in the worst of times, they always spoke highly of Joy.
I became more deeply involved in the family shortly after Joy returned home. Faith
called to talk to me. She was having difficulty accepting the love her parents seemed to
be lavishing on her sister.
Faith had gone to school, married, and settled down in a home not too far from where
she had been raised. Her own vision of the future sounded very much like the life she saw
her parents living.
But there was no room in that picture for someone like Joy. Joy seemed to be draining
the precious resources her parents had - not just financial, but emotional as well. Her
parents were spending more and more of their time with Joy; less and less of it was being
spent with their granddaughter, Faiths daughter, Hope.
Faith had not told Joy about her perceptions. She was too angry with her.
Had she done so, she would have heard things she could not have imagined. Throughout
their childhood, Dick and Bonnie had openly explained that Faith was adopted. They had
chosen her. She was special.
And that always made Joy feel less important.
Joy may have been born into the family, but she never felt welcomed in the same way
that Faith had been.
And as they grew up, Joy saw that she could not be the child that Faith was. She was
not as smart and she was not as pretty. She couldnt make a dress without it looking
like a tablecloth with a belt around it. And her short attention span made it difficult to
sit through church - making her uncomfortable in a place where their family spent a
significant amount of time.
So Joy began to look for other things to do - things where she could excel.
Her "world-wide tour" was an attempt to find something - something she
couldnt quite name, but it was supposed to make her parents proud of her. Instead,
it provided an opportunity for her to see what had been there all along - her
parents unconditional love.
The sad part of this family story is that while Dick and Bonnie loved both children,
neither child learned to love the other. While Joy was reconciled with her parents and
Faith eventually welcomed her parents love again, they had not reconciled with each
other before Joys death.
I tell you this story today because I believe we are all a little like Joy. At the same
time, we are all a little like Faith.
And the truth is, God loves us. But God wants us to love each other, too. Not just
people like us, not just people who live according the rules as we understand them, but
every person who has been created in the image of God.
We are all Gods children, whether we act like it or not.
We are all Gods children, whether we know it or not.
We are all Gods children.
Thanks be to God. Amen.