Year C – The Fourth Week of Lent – Luke 151-3,11-32

Gospel Lesson – Luke 15:1-3,11-32 NRSV

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

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.”’ 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.’”

Summary – This classic story is known to us as “The Prodigal Son.” While most of the narrative is fixed on the wayward son, the real “moral of the story” has to do more with the father’s forgiveness than with the younger son’s repentance. In the story the father symbolizes God. The prodigal son symbolizes the tax collectors and sinners of verse 1 specifically, and generally all who are lost in sin. The elder brother symbolizes the self righteous Scribes and Pharisees of verse 1, or anyone for that matter who claims to serve God, while resenting the fact that God forgives sinners. Jesus’ teaching is simple and powerful – through God’s gracious and unmerited forgiveness, those who are lost in sin and not worthy to be considered sons, are restored to son-ship and made heirs of the kingdom. We should rejoice.

Insight – While rummaging through the pig slop looking for food, the lost son realizes his self inflicted predicament. He comes to his senses, and goes home and tells his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your slaves.” The younger son was an heir, but he spurned that blessing, and lost it. He repented, and was content to being only a slave in his Father’s house. His father was not content with him being a slave though, and restores him to his status as a son and an heir. The older son, though externally faithful, was an heir, and yet did not recognize the blessings he had. Rather he considered himself a slave (v. 29). Through anger, un-thankfulness, resentment, and self-righteousness, the older son that was an heir found himself not on the inside feasting with his long lost brother and his father, but rather on the outside (v. 28). He had refused to go into the feast, and thus he had disinherited himself from the blessings of his father.

This Lenten season, let us be reminded once again what Galatians 4 says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7). True sons repent. True sons are thankful. True sons count their blessings and do not consider their service to God as slavery. Therefore be encouraged that you are an heir of God, and that you have the Spirit of His Son given to you at your baptism. But take heed, lest your heart becomes deceitful and wicked and unthankful and resentful at God’s goodness toward you and towards others. If not checked now, you might not have opportunity to check it later. Then you might just find yourself on that final day, just like the older son, on the outside of the feast looking in. Take the time now and confess your sins, be thankful that you are one of God’s children, and that you have other brothers and sisters to feast with in the kingdom of God, especially your Big Brother, Jesus who purchased the feast, and your adoption, with his own blood.

Catechism – Why is the Lord’s Supper a celebratory meal? Because we were once dead, but have come to life, we were lost, and have been found.

Discussion – Discuss the importance of repentance and thankfulness, and the relationship that has to being a son and an heir of God.

Prayer – O Lord, our Father, we give you thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We were dead, and your Spirit made us to live. We were lost, and you found us. We were hungry, and you feed us with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. You prepare a feast for us when we deserve to eat with the pigs. You embrace us anew with love and joy, even after we rejected you and spurned our inheritance. Thank you so much Father for loving us, and giving us the Spirit of your Son Jesus, that we might cry to you, Abba, Father. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

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Year B – Epiphany 4 – 1 Corinthians 8

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ 5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8‘ Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. 10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Summary – In this passage the apostle Paul addressed a first-century problem. In an ancient pagan city like Corinth, the temples to the gods and goddesses were also the town’s main butcher shops and “restaurants.” A person or family would bring their sacrifice to the temple and when the pagan priest would kill the sacrifice he would cook part of it for himself and the worshipers, but a lot of the meat from the sacrifice would be sold at a market. A lot of the Christians in the church that Paul is writing to had come out of this pagan worship. Paul taught that loving and building up others in the church is more important than having knowledge that only leaves you prideful and willing to hurt others.

Insight – Imagine you are a new Christian, living in the Corinthian church at the time of Paul’s letters. You converted out of a pagan lifestyle. You and your family had often gone to the temple. It was mysterious, and you sensed a dark feeling every time you went in that would make you shudder. The only time you ate meat was when you did rituals at the temple. But then someone shared the gospel of Jesus with you, and you were able to get ride of those dark, mysterious and evil practices that were part of your life. You were trying to discover what it means to follow Jesus and live as a Christian. You can not eat meat, in fact every time you have to walk by the old temple on business and you smell the smell of meat cooking outside of it, it makes you shudder and you remember your former lifestyle. Some of your new Christian friends have you to their house, and they serve you meat, from the temple where you formerly worshiped false gods. You ask them how they can eat that? Their response is to make fun of you, and to tell you that the false god’s don’t exists, and they laugh at your concerns. This is the situation that Paul is addressing. It is not wrong to eat meat, even meat that was sacrificed to idols, because God is Lord of all creation. But what is wrong is to not have love for your brothers, to not care about offending their consciences. Love of one another is the most important aspect in a Christians life.

Catechism – How do you know that God knows you personally? Because I love my Heavenly Father. (1 Corin. 8:3)

Discussion – Have you ever felt that you knew something that someone else didn’t? Did that give you a sense of pride? Have you ever done something that you wanted, even though it meant hurting someone else?

Prayer – Our Gracious Father, we give you thanks that you know us, and that you love us. We ask that we would learn to reflect that love towards those around us. We ask forgiveness for those times we are selfish and we do not act in love towards those around us. We ask that you would kill our selfish desires and that we would be more willing to love others. We ask this in the name of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Contributed by Jared McNabb