How would you draw the prodigal son? An exploration of a parable for Adel Parish Church All Age worship 17th May 2020
Luke chapter 15
In our young people’s group on Sunday we thought about what questions we’d like to ask Jesus. One brilliant suggestion was “Jesus, are the stories you told true?”
I have to say I don’t think they are literally true. Take today’s gospel…I don’t think this particular man and his sons ever existed…I think Jesus told stories because they’re good ways to teach us about ourselves and about God.
Today’s story, the prodigal son, is one of my favourites – every time I read it I learn something new. I suppose it’s about running away from God and coming home to God, but there’s lots more in there too.
What does this story say to us today? Well for our All Age service I asked three artists in the congregation to answer this in the form of pictures. For our virtual service we had the pictures on the screen – you may want to look at them as you read.
Marjorie chose to draw the prodigal son at his lowest point. He’s sitting, in rags, on a rock in a muddy field. He’s thinking about the pigs he’s looking after – and how the only thing he has to eat is their food.
Marjorie linked her picture with the Lord’s Prayer – where we’re taught to ask God for our daily bread. God wants us to be happy with that and not to ask for more.
She says this is the pivotal point in the story, because it’s the point where the son decides to go home. She says he realises he doesn’t even have daily bread, whereas his father’s servants have all they need.
Does this story teach us that what we want is not always something that will make us happy? Does it remind us what ‘give us this day our daily bread’ should really mean?
Lucy’s picture shows the son returning home. He looks awful: ragged, hungry, ashamed. But he’s desperate and he’s thinking about what he can possibly say to his father.
Far in the distance – a tiny figure is shown – running towards him. The father – full of joy because he didn’t know his son was alive.
For me this is a reminder of a wonderful truth that I hope and trust in. That even when we wander off and forget about God, he is always waiting and hoping with open arms for us to return. We don’t need the right words to say we’re sorry – it’s enough that we’ve recognised our mistake and turned back to him.
Olivia – from our junior church – has also shown this bit of the story. But her picture is very different, it shows father and son, side by side, holding hands – both are smiling. There’s no sign of the son’s wretchedness or embarrassment.
Olivia has focused on the Father and how he’s feeling. She says he’s grateful that his son has come back to him. He forgives his sins and they’re together again.
Has Olivia discovered an amazing truth that coming back to God doesn’t just make us happy – it makes God happy too? That is certainly something to ponder this week.
In both Lucy, and Olivia’s picture – tiny and distant, is the other son, the one who stayed all the time, helping his father. It seems he can’t bring himself to be happy…because this welcome doesn’t feel fair. I wonder if he thinks his brother should be punished – at least a little.
Is that a reminder that trusting God will welcome us back when we wander off – means accepting God will welcome other people back too? Even if they seem to have strayed much further than us. That welcome will happen, we can join in – or we can stay on the outside.
We never hear what happened to the elder son at the end of this story…but as someone who could sulk for England as a child, I like to think that in a day or so he realised he’d run away from the father, almost as much as his brother had, and came back to find his own welcome, and join the party.