Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In groups of two or three, respond to the following, “What is the most reckless thing you’ve ever done?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes). Read: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.
- Why does Jesus tell this parable? Who is the main audience?
- What does the word “prodigal” mean? [Many falsely assume it has to do with acceptance or returning. The word means “reckless.”]
- How is the younger son reckless? How is the older son reckless? How is the father reckless?
- Sometimes this story is told as if it is about returning. How is the story more about searching and finding? (Hint: Read verses 4-10 for further confirmation – the shepherd finds the lost sheep and the woman finds the lost coin.)
- How are the older brother’s words self-incriminating? [The older brother notes that he has been working like a “slave.” He will not accept the brother as his brother, but rather, “this son of yours.” How does he know how the younger brother lived while away? Perhaps he was imagining what he would if he had the courage of the younger brother?]
- What do you think happens next in the parable? Do you think the older son learns to accept the actions of the father? Do you think the older son leaves the father and the brother?
- Why do you think the parable ends open-ended?
- How might the Pharisees and scribes be like the older son? How might we be like the older son?
- (R) What do we learn about God from this passage? What does this passage tell us about ourselves?
- (R) How might this parable being calling us to live? What might this parable be calling us to do?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following or a similar prayer:
God, the Hound of Heaven, we thank you that you continue searching for us and that there is no land too distant for us to wander outside the reaches of your love. Help us to accept our identity as those who have been found by your love. May we learn to be as gracious to others as you have been to us. Amen.