Friday, May 12, 2006

We Can Count on God's Love!

Release Time for today; This Time the narrative is so familiar. Nothing very imaginative, but the reality bears remembering. I usually wrote these lessons in less than an hour and tried to keep everything simple because I had about ten minutes to brief the other teachers and answer their questions before the actual classes met.

God sent Jesus Christ to live in our world so everyone could experience God's love and know how God wants us to be and act as the people of God. Besides acting in caring and careful ways toward people, Jesus told a lot of stories, or parables, about God and about life. One of the main reasons people listened to Jesus and followed him is that he not only told them about himself and about our Heavenly Father, but he also told them about themselves. We're all interested in hearing about ourselves!

We live in a big, modern, Western city. Jesus lived 2,000 years ago in a Middle-Eastern farming society. As we read Jesus' stories or parables, we notice the setting is different from ours, but the people are exactly like us!

Luke 15:11-19

11 Then Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."'
Sometimes we call this story "The Prodigal Son," sometimes "The Waiting Father." It is about a father whose son left home and began to waste his life by living in harmful ways. Although the story is about a son, we know that in Jesus Christ sons and daughters, men and women, are equal. In place of "son" we can read "daughter."
  • What happened so far in the story?
  • How are we sometimes like the son in the story?
  • Why did the son decide to go back to his father
Luke 15:20-32

20 "So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe - the best one - and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate. 25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' 31 Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"
As you read, think of God in place of the father in the story. Think of yourself in place of the son. Leave your Bibles open when you finish.

All the time the son was gone the father missed him. Even though the son had run away, the father went on loving him. As much as he wanted the son, he didn't force him to come home. We need to know and trust that God's love and care for us has nothing to do with the way we act. God gives us life and everything we need as a free gift. We sometimes use the word grace for this gift.
  • If someone offers you a gift, what do you need to do to receive it?
  • How can we earn God's love?
The son and the father aren't the only people in the story. Let's look at the servants and the older son.
  • What does the father tell the servants to do? Why?
  • If someone has a birthday or graduation, how can you help him or her celebrate?
  • What did the older son do and say? Why?
  • How would you feel if you were the older son in this story?
  • How would you act?
  • What does the father mean when he says the son was dead, but now is alive?
  • If you imagine God as the father in the story, what have we learned about God from this passage?
  • From this story, what have we learned about the way God wants us to live with and acts towards each other?
  • How does it show that we really can count on God's love?

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