by Joanna Harader
Scripture: Luke 15:11-32
This week’s Gospel reading is the familiar story of the lost son—often called the Prodigal Son. Your children might enjoy watching one of these versions on YouTube:
• A reading of the text with an actor and accompanying drawings
• The story acted out by Lego characters
• A social media re-telling—would be appreciated by those who use Facebook
This is the third in a series of parables, or stories, that Jesus tells to a gathered crowd. This crowd is made up of two distinct sets of people: “tax collectors and sinners” who have come to listen to Jesus, and Pharisees and scribes who have come to grumble about how much time Jesus is spending with tax collectors and sinners. In each of the three stories, someone loses something—a sheep, a coin, and a son—and then rejoices when they find it.
When we hear the story of the lost son, it is easy to focus on the younger brother. How dare he ask his dad for his inheritance early? What in the world was he doing to run through his money so fast? Why did it take him so long to think about returning home?
We may also have some sympathy for the older brother—especially those of us who are older siblings ourselves. We know how it feels when things are not fair; when we work hard and see others who have been goofing off getting the same rewards.
At its heart, though, this story is about the father—this father who has been hurt by his son, yet stands ready to forgive and celebrate when the son returns home. Jesus wants his listeners to understand how deeply God loves them. Jesus wants those who have separated themselves from God to know that they can come back to God; and he wants those who have remained close to God to join the in the celebration when they do.
Questions to Spark Conversation
• Imagine that you are one of the sinners who hears Jesus tell this parable. What might it mean to you? How would you hear this parable if you were one of the grumbling scribes?
• Tell about a time that you had to ask someone for forgiveness. (Or a time you should have.)
• Has anyone ever had to ask you for forgiveness? How did you respond?
Jesus teaches us about the love of God and calls us to love each other. Right now it seems like a lot of people are talking about who we should hate. Talk about different groups of people who might be the target of hate speech. Choose one of those groups and find something to do to show love to people in that group. (For example, you might donate money to an organization that helps refugees or write a letter to someone in prison.)
When we do things that take us farther away from you, forgive us.
When other people do things that hurt us, help us forgive them.
Let us remember that you love all people.
And let us celebrate that love together.