Lost and Found: The inheritance of forgiveness
August 31, 2009
By Tony Medici
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Sgt. Maj. Sarah Tillman, the Army Material Command senior Chaplain Assistant, and I participated in the U.S. Army North Command's Vibrant Response, an annual training exercise for developing responses to natural disasters as well as to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosives.
We worked the night shift as the Joint Task Force 51 Religious Support Team. One of our many tasks was to conduct a worship service for the night shift. As one of the highlights of the training, Sgt. Maj. Tillman and I conducted a worship service at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday in a corner of the Tactical Operations Center. The following is a summary of that worship service:
The service began with a responsive reading from Psalm 139, "O Lord, you have searched me and know me. You understand my deepest thoughts. You know where I play and where I rest..." Sgt. Maj. Tillman led the group in prayer and then I gave the meditation of the day from the "parables of lostness" - The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost sons. In each case, the individuals who were looking for the lost items were not satisfied until they were found - a crevice or a field searched until a lone bleating sheep is comforted by its shepherd, a house turned upside down until the coin is found, a long road visited often until a cherished son returns home.
The one open-ended piece of these stories is the elder son who remains at home to perform his duty in accordance with his position in the family. He does all the right things while his brother squanders all the privileges he has as a son. We hear of no party or of any special clothes given for the efforts of the elder son. What we do discover in the unfolding of the conversation between the father and his son is that in all his efforts, the elder son has also squandered the better part of his inheritance because he cannot accept his father for accepting the younger brother. This son does not take into account that he always has his father near him or that his father's true character is forgiveness of the highest level. He gets lost in the weeds of life, so to speak, and loses the essence of his inheritance, which is not his father's wealth or work ethic, but his father's very nature, to forgive. In the story, we are not told whether the elder son ever returns to his father to claim his inheritance - a gracious heart that knows truly how to forgive.
As a small child, I remember being lost only once. I was about four or five and was with my parents in a department store. I was looking at the dolls and hoping that one would magically go home with me. The next thing I knew, I was alone and afraid. A nice lady took me to the store office and the manager called for my parents over the loud speaker. By the time my parents came, I was crying. My Dad took me in his arms and suddenly everything was okay.
To be found is to experience the care of the Heavenly Father who takes us into His gracious arms and tells us that whatever our situation, He is with us and He is our focus. To be found is to understand that ultimately everything will be okay, but it is also to take on the forgiving nature of God Himself, which at times is humanly impossible, but is always possible with His grace.
What is the essence of the inheritance of forgiveness' In each case, there was great rejoicing over that which was lost and is now found. The sheep is gathered up by the shepherd and carried back to the flock, the woman regains a coin without further worry, and special clothes and a feast are prepared for a son. We are given a new chance at life. Forgiveness, among many things, is about rejoicing in the fact that we have been found and that we have hope in the fact that we are never alone even in our loneliest moments. Forgiveness is also rejoicing with others who are also found.
O Lord, you have searched me and know me.
You understand my deepest thoughts.
You know where I play and where I rest...
So we finished our service at about 3:50 a.m., renewed in our minds and spirits because we had taken time to worship.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 5,600 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.