This week we have some Give Thanks! devotions and then we will start Advent with our scratch-off Advent 2016 Calendar.
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Give Thanks! - The Prodigal Son
Friday, November 25
Luke 15:11-32 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
Then Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons. 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. 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, '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." 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, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 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. 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!' 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, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 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. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, '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.'"
"This brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found." That sounds like a reason for thanksgiving, doesn't it?
You're probably familiar with this, one of Jesus' most famous parables: a young man squanders his inheritance in a life of debauchery -- and when the money dries up, he's ashamed to return to the father he spurned. Little does he know that what awaits him in his father's house is not anger and condemnation, but love and forgiveness.
There's a lot of room for thanksgiving in this parable. As you read it, consider not just what it says about God's endless grace, but the place of gratitude in this story. Who in this story has cause to give thanks?
Things to think about:
- Can you identify the points in this story at which somebody should have been thankful, but wasn't?
- We usually read this story identifying with the prodigal son. But can you also identify with the father? Have you ever thought something -- or someone -- was lost to you, only to have it returned? What was your response, emotionally and spiritually?
- The older brother should have been thankful to see his long-lost sibling again. What do you think got in the way of his gratitude? Can you relate?
- Is there anything in your life that you know you should be grateful for, but something is keeping you from acknowledging? What can you do this week to change that?