2018-19 RCL-C Fourth Sunday in Lent
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Lent 04: March 31, 2019 • Gospel Text: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Prodigal In All The Other Ways
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
Two kinds of sinners are invited to the table with Jesus: prodigal sons, and elder sons. But is Jesus the Father in this parable? Probably. Because then his differing ways of relating to the prodigal and the elder play out in the parable: he really does run towards the prodigal, while chastising the elders. We might say that Jesus has a preferential option for the prodigal. Which of course doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the older siblings. It’s just, well, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
This is the second of two parables Jesus tells in response to the criticism that “this fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (15:3). Yes indeed, which is likely one reason some adults in the Catechumenate are considering joining themselves to his life in baptism. The Lord’s Supper, shared meals, becomes the teaching of the church. It attracts. This kind of story repeats itself in the history of Christianity over and over, sometimes with such extremes, as when MS-13 gang members in El Salvador leave behind the gangs and join evangelical Christianity, their only option that doesn’t involve being killed.
Death, or go home to the Father. That’s a choice.
The Prodigal Son has a rich history in visual art, and Luther Seminary has the definitive collection, fully searchable.
This becomes important for reader-response reasons. It’s unlikely the average hearer of a sermon on this text will think of themselves as the older brother, even though in point of fact most any of us in Christian worship on a Sunday morning actually are. Most of us idealize the extent to which we are the prodigal. So it requires a somewhat Herculean work on the part of the preacher to facilitate hearing the text in the way it’s clearly intended, as a critique of the older brother and celebration of the seemingly profligate and over-the-top welcome of the father.
The fact that we give this text the title “The Prodigal Son” belies the point: we focus on the wrong person in the narrative. Or at least we over-focus on him. The opportunity for return is always so very important, but we are called to ask ourselves as we hear this parable again: from where are we returning, and are we pre-disposed to scoff at the party to which Christ invites us.
The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by RCL Worship Resources or Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. Click here for more free RCL worship resources & planning materials.
Historical Exegetical Resources
"Parable of the Lost Sheep," Luke 15:1-10, Martin Luther, c. 1525.
"Parable of the Lost Sheep (2)," Luke 15:1-10, Martin Luther, c. 1525.
"The Prodigal's Return," Luke 15:20, Charles H. Spurgeon, 1858.
"The Approachableness of Jesus: Luke 15:1," Charles H. Spurgeon, 1868.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Christianity and Buddhism, Ernest Valea, 1999.
· "The Scandal of God's Welcome," Glenn Monson, Law and Gospel Everywhere, 2016.
· "A Sorry Excuse for a Party?" Melissa Bane Sevier, Contemplative Viewfinder, 2016.
· Pulpit Fiction, with podcast. Reflections of lectionary text, pop culture, current events, etc. Robb Mc Coy and Eric Fistler, 2016.
· Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.
· The Parable of the Lost Sheep, audio telling, story in episodes, graphic, audio and written commentaries. Go Tell Communications, Biblical Storytelling for the Global Village, 2010.
A Good Read
Home Tonight: Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son
Home Tonight follows the path of Henri Nouwen’s spiritual homecoming. More than three years prior to writing his great classic, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Nouwen suffered a personal breakdown followed by a time of healing solitude when he encountered Rembrandt’s famous painting. Within his solitude he reflected on and identified with the parable’s characters and experienced profound and inspiring life lessons.
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Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator, Pharisees, Jesus, Younger Son, Father, Slave, Elder Son
Narrator: Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying,
Pharisees: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Narrator: So he told them this parable:
Jesus: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father,
Younger Son: ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’
Jesus: So he divided his property between them. 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. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 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. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said,
Younger Son: ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “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 hired hands.”’
Jesus: 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. Then the son said to him,
Younger Son: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
Jesus: But the father said to his slaves,
Father: ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’
Jesus: And they began to celebrate. Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied,
Slave: ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’
Jesus: Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father,
Elder Son: ‘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. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’
Jesus: Then the father said to him,
Father: ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 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.’”