The train clanked and rattled down the tracks one lazy summer afternoon as I traveled from Kyoto to Tokyo. My car was relatively empty -- a few housewives with children in tow and a few older folks going to or returning from shopping. At one station the doors opened and suddenly the quiet of the afternoon was shattered by a man who began to bellow violence and incomprehensible curses. The man was big, drunk, and filthy. As he yelled, he swung at a woman carrying a baby. The blow sent the woman into the lap of an older couple; it was a miracle that the child was not injured.
I am so happy to see you this morning. How are you? (children may respond)
Let's play a game I call “Lost and Found.” Okay? (children respond)
(presenter role plays) Uh, oh, I lost something for today's message. Hmm, I wonder where it could be. It's a box like this. (shows approximate dimensions) (instruct the children to look around the immediate area) (then presenter or child finds it)
Since the Fourth Sunday in Lent has been historically identified as Laetare (Rejoicing Sunday), it is most appropriate that the lessons collectively testify to a theme for which we can rejoice — God saves us by his grace!
In this familiar and well-loved story of the Prodigal Son, I often wonder what happened to the mother of the family. She's totally ignored. So are any daughters. It seems like a completely male stronghold. So much so that I wonder whether perhaps the mother had died some years previously, and that was the cause of much of the unhappiness displayed by both the father and the sons. Or whether the father was such a domineering character that his wife played no real part in family life, but simply bowed her head in compliance with all his wishes, no matter how extreme they were.