May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
- Against the snares of the evil one.
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.
Realized today I never put up the middle school study from this week. The goal was to delve into one of the two greatest parables. I thought it might be too well known, but the recent experience and meditating on Esther and the annual reader of the Megillat kept me from falling into that trap.
In my youth I spent a lot of time thinking about things with a focus on the lost son, and then as a parent having new appreciation for the father. I've spent time thinking about the father to learn about the Father. It took me a long time to get around to thinking of myself as the older brother.
Text is from the Message.
Prodigal Son: Who are you?
Today as we read we’ll try to get deep into the meaning of this important and familiar parable by trying to create the images of what it was like.
Starting Connection: what is a parable? Have you heard the word before? What does it mean?
Background: Luke Chapter 15 starts out like this:
Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
1) What do the Pharisees and teachers mean? Are they happy or mad about this?
Jesus responds by telling three stories. The first is about finding a lost coin. The second about finding a lost sheep. The third is about a lost son. It has also been called the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal is an unusual word that means wasteful. It is considered by many people to be one of the two most important parables.
The Story of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Then he said, "There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, 'Father, I want right now what's coming to me.' So the father divided the property between them.”
2) In other words, the younger son asked for his inheritance. That usually comes after someone dies, and they leave what money, property or valuable things they have to their family or to charities. How does each son and the father feel here?
It wasn't long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
3) How does the younger son feel? If the father and brother had no way to know what had happened, what would they be feeling?
That brought him to his senses. He said, 'All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father.
4) Would that be hard to go back? Why does he say he doesn’t deserve to be called his father’s son anymore? What would you imagine his father would say? His brother?
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.' But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!' And they began to have a wonderful time.
5) What is each of them feeling? The younger son? The father? The brother?
All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day's work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, 'Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.'
6) Imagine a sumptuous meal with your favorite food. Fixed for the person who has caused you the most trouble. How would you feel?
The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't listen. The son said, 'Look how many years I've stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on bad people shows up and you go all out with a feast!'
7) Have you ever felt like the older brother? What makes you feel like life isn’t fair?
His father said, 'Son, you don't understand. You're with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he's alive! He was lost, and he's found!'
8) What is each of them feeling? The younger son? The father? The brother? Which person do you feel the most like in the story?
9) Why did Jesus tell stories like this one to the Pharisees and teachers who are complaining at the start?
10) What’s one thing you take away from studying this parable?
In general, the students made great connections, and definitely got what the point for the Pharisees was. It was hard for them to imagine the lost son being so out of touch that the father didn't know what had become of him. (Why would he imagine him as dead?) The aspect of life feeling unfair was something to which all of them could relate. One student made a connection new to me - asking for you half is like treating your parent as if they are already dead. Whew!