Writing the Nurturing Faith Bible study curriculum is one of my most challenging opportunities, and I’m always looking for ways to help teachers make their lessons engaging as well as informative.
In the online commentary and resources for the March 10 lesson, based on the familiar story from Luke 15 commonly known as “the prodigal son,” I cited a light-hearted retelling of the story that I’ve known since the 1970s, but I didn’t know the author.
The recounting, which I called “A Parable in the Key of F,” recounts the forays of the prodigal son, with the vast majority of the words beginning with the letter “F.”
After the lesson appeared, I heard from Mike Taylor, an attorney friend from Chapel Hill, and it turns out that his grandfather, Rev. W. O. Taylor, was the mystery author. Taylor, a man of considerable accomplishment, was a Baptist pastor in Arkansas who was born in 1890, graduated from Southwestern Seminary in 1924, and served for many years as both a pastor and associational missionary.
In a brief biography of his grandfater, Mike Taylor wrote of Rev. W.O.’s loyalty to the Southern Baptist Convention:
Upon learning in 1925 about the Cooperative Program (the brand new South-wide program of raising denominational money), Dad Taylor led the Wilmot Baptist Church to become the first church in the entire Southern Baptist Convention to adopt the Cooperative Program. Grandfather helped organize and or revive more than a dozen churches and in his years as a missionary was active in the actual construction of many rural church buildings, sometimes raising money for construction by issuing a challenge for a cotton picking contest in which he offered to beat any one adult man or any two junior boys.
Taylor also helped found Williams Baptist College of Walnut Ridge and three Baptist camps, and was involved in many mission projects. He attended his first Southern Baptist Convention meeting in 1918 and continued to attend as a messenger until a couple of years before his death. In the early 1980’s, at the age of 91, Taylor recited what he called “The Final Fixing of the Foolish Fugitive Found in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Gospel of Luke” at a breakfast for retired pastors at the SBC meeting.
In his eighties, Taylor wrote a two-volume autobiography, The Old Timers Did It This Way and Seventy Years in the Ministry, along with other works on genealogy. His 100th birthday was celebrated statewide in Arkansas, and in that year he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by his alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University.
As an active member of First Baptist Church in Melbourne, Arkansas, Rev. Taylor celebrated his birthday each year by preaching the Sunday morning sermon there — the last one at the age of 105, just a few months before his death.
Mike Taylor can remember his grandfather reciting his version of the “prodigal son” as early as 1976, and how the aged preacher traveled by Greyhound Bus from Arkansas to visit North Carolina relatives at the age of 93, and again at 96.
For the record, here is Rev. Taylor’s version of the “Final Fixing of the Foolish Fugitive,” which can also be found here:
Feeling footloose, fancy-free and frisky, this feather-brained fellow finagled his fond father into forking over his fortune. Forthwith, he fled for foreign fields and frittered his farthings feasting fabulously with fair-weather friends. Finally, fleeced by those folly filled fellows and facing famine, he found himself a feed flinger in a filthy farm lot. He fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from fodder fragments.
“Fooey! My father’s flunkies fare far fancier,” the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, frankly facing fact.
Frustrated from failure and filled with forebodings, he fled for his family. Falling at his father’s feet, he floundered forlornly. “Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited further family favors . . .”
But the faithful father, forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged his flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast.
But the fugitive’s fault finding frater, faithfully farming his father’s fields for free, frowned at this fickle forgiveness of former falderal. His fury flashed, but fussing was futile.
His foresighted father figured, “Such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivities? The fugitive is found! Unfurl the flags! With fanfare flaring, let fun, frolic and frivolity flow freely, former failures forgotten and folly forsaken. Forgiveness forms a firm foundation for future fortitude.”
Thanks to Mike Taylor for helping me give credit where credit is due, but even more for sharing the memories of his grandfather — whose legacy is clearly still very much alive.
[Image from Ophelia’s Art at zazzle.com]
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.