Once upon a time, tragedy struck a small church family where an eighteen-year-old boy took his own life. A suicide note was discovered that revealed a heartbreaking reality. The note said, in part, that the boy would rather die than to ask for help. He would rather die than to take a long, hard look at himself and expose his weaknesses to another person. He would rather die than to risk a change of heart and ask God for help. As extreme as that attitude seems, it's probably not uncommon. The miracle is that one could continue to live that way for a lifetime.1
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.