We often hear that two-thirds to three-fourths of American congregations are in decline or at a plateau with regard to membership. They are stuck where they are, immobilized by a flat growth line and in many cases by dwindling resources of time and money.
The majority of the world's resources pour into the United States. And as we Americans grow more and more wealthy, money is becoming a kind of narcotic for us. We hardly notice our own prosperity or the poverty of so many others. The great contradiction is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity-less and less public money for the needy, less charity for the neighbor.
During a Lenten retreat, we were asked to reflect on the feelings and role of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Though I had frequently thought about the parable over the years, I had not given the father much attention other than to consider him a symbol for God. Our retreat leader, however, asked us to think of the father as a real parent.