Happy Father’s Day! In honor of this special day, I thought it appropriate to offer up a special something involving the Comic Lens and scripture. When thinking of a good ‘dad story’ of the Bible to lift up for festive consideration, Jesus’ “Parable of the Prodigal Son” (or, as some will argue, “The Parable of the Prodigal Father”) came quickly to mind. Seems like a good choice, yes?
A couple of years ago, I created a modern version of this parable. As I’ve mentioned before, contemporizing Jesus’ ancient teaching stories is one of the best ways to discover their humor (and there is humor in Jesus’ parables; after all, “parable” is synonymous with “riddle”).
Of course, it’s also important to remember Jesus’ parables were intended to confuse us. (See Matt. 13:3 and elsewhere.) When we’re scrambled up enough we’re finally available to really learn something and/or experience the depth of God’s grace in the not-knowing. Which is actually a rather amusing place to be. Even and maybe especially on Father’s Day.
As you will see, I am obviously taking liberties with the situation that inspired my contemporary “prodigal parable.” However, and with tongue firmly in cheek, I like to think what I have here makes the point that Jesus may have intended to originally and comically make. Maybe. After all, this is a parable, so we can never be sure.
In any case, to bring you an upside-down gospel-type entertainment for Father’s Day, as well as prelude to tonight’s big NBA Game 7, this L.A. girl offers….
THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL OWNER
There was a man who had a son and a daughter. He owned a very beloved, successful big city professional basketball team that brought joy and meaning to the lives of millions of people.
His daughter was beautiful, talented, and beloved by everyone; especially by the greatest coach the team had ever had, now retired. The father, now old and ailing, had given her the job of overseeing the business side of the team.
His son was reclusive, unpredictable and foolish. Nobody quite knew what to make of him. As he saw his father getting sicker and sicker the son said to him, “Father, give me something important to do for the team – what you were going to hand over to me when you die.” So the father made the son president of operations; he would oversee team personnel.
The son promptly went out into the world and recruited mediocre talent he thought would be good and let go great talent he thought was no longer worth it. He fired an okay coach, refused to hire the great coach that was the fiancé of the beloved sister, and hired a coach who was unknown. The team began to lose more and more games, lose more and more fans, and infuriate everyone. He turned his back to all the criticism and continued running the team his way – right into the pigsty. When the pressure was too great, he lost himself in alcohol, women, and, it is said, a video of the 1968 Chicago Cubs.
One morning, the son woke up in a Ramada Inn in a small market city where an obscure and terrible team had just swept, putting his team in the league basement for the first time in 25 years. He saw on ESPN that his team was now back home, preparing to hold a press conference later that morning announcing they were all quitting right then and there (except for the remaining mediocre talent long ago recruited) and publicly denouncing him as horribly incompetent and a shame to the city that bore the team’s name. Suddenly, the quixotic son came to his senses and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have the gift of managing a team whatsoever. I’m going to go home and tell my father he should put me into buying items for the concessions. I like beer – I know what kind of beer we should buy. That’s about it. Really, my sister should be running the personnel part of the team, too.”
So the son hopped on a plane, ready to share with his dad and his sister the news that he was ready to hang in the towel, for the good of the team. When the plane landed, press cameras were flashing and packs of angry fans were booing before the son even exited the plane’s door. The father, despite his age and precarious health, hurriedly ran across the tarmac in order to hug his son and protect him from being ripped apart by a crowd unable to maintain control of itself.
So intent on protecting his son was the father that he wasn’t looking and tripped, causing his colostomy bag to be exposed and punctured as he fell to the ground. Undaunted, the father got up and ran to his son, embracing him with all of his might. No one bothered the father or son at this point, not only because they had such love and respect for the father, but also because now there was shit everywhere. They put plastic over the upholstery in the family limo and father and son sped back to the family compound where an amazing party was being planned.
The father was so grateful for the son’s return. Not only was there going to be a party but also an around-the-world cruise on the family yacht providing a nice long period of time for the son to rest up and get over his debacle. PLUS the father was going to provide his son a brand new wardrobe so he would look fabulous despite his considerable weight gain due to stress from total ineptitude on the job.
Last but certainly not least, the father gave the son his most beloved championship ring – the first -- although the team had won several subsequent championships. When the son returned from his travels, he was going to once again run the team. With that very special ring to help him.
The daughter was aghast at this plan of action. What was her father thinking? Had his age and illness caused him to lose his grip on reality? She refused to enter the party held in the son’s honor. As she stood by the door, her eyes welled with tears as she watched her father trying to give the son advice on the upcoming draft even though the latter was preoccupied with a slutty woman who had come to the party to find some prey.
The daughter reached into her purse for a Kleenex and when her father growled, “Get into that party.” No, Dad, I’m not going!” she said. “Do you have any idea what is going on here? All I do is work day and night to carry on the wonderful legacy we’ve created and do damage control for all that my brother has undone and I can’t stand it any longer. I just can’t. I’m sorry to say it, but I quit!”
“Oh no, you can’t quit!” said the father. “ I’ve set up the trust so that you have to stay with the team, with the family business, or we all have to sell it together. And I don’t want to sell it and no one else wants to sell it. This is your life. This is my life. This is our life. You have to stay.” (Luke 15:11-32)
All who have ears, hear! And Happy Father's Day, of course!!