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Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom

A Reflection for Mothering Sunday can be found here

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Luke 15.1-3 & 11b-end "Parable of Lost Son "

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

Stories of families and communities often include someone who went away to start a new life somewhere else. Not all succeed. Some return because they couldn’t make it work as they had hoped; a few became notorious - the 'black sheep' in a family’s history.

Do you have any stories like this in your family or community? Some may be painful - perhaps from many years ago, or maybe more recent.
A Window on the Text

This is one of the best known tales in the Bible. Jesus taught using parables, short contemporary stories with an underlying meaning suggesting how people should live or behave. Imagine the picture: he has collected a crowd of listeners, some curious, others hostile. A mix of ordinary people: some like tax collectors working for the Roman government of occupation; some Pharisees – educated Jews who knew the best way to behave; and probably a lot of casual observers.

This is about 3 people: a man and his two sons. The younger one asks for his share of his father's inheritance. What a cheek! Normally this would not be given until the father had died; if earlier, the father would expect to continue receiving some of the income from land. This is a parable, so the exact circumstances are not important but, just as in modern times, this type of request was unusual.

Off went the son, far away, and spent the money. He tried to enjoy himself, and probably did, but the money ran out and he fell on hard times. The descent from a young man spending freely to a poor farm labourer feeding pigs, not far off being a slave, was dramatic. So hungry that he wanted to eat the food the pigs had? What would be the reactions of Jesus' audience: revulsion that anyone would think of eating food meant for pigs, traditionally unclean anyway - but pigs will eat pretty well anything. You can picture any children listening to Jesus squirming with disgust.

But now comes a change in the young man. He realises he can return home. We see him thinking about the reception he will face, and the deal he thinks he will have to negotiate with his father. When he gets there, his father's reaction is entirely unexpected. This transformation is frequently seen as a picture of man's journey in his relationship with God, and the parable allows everyone hearing it to understand that God's love is utterly forgiving.

The parable continues and has much more. Look at the response of the elder brother. It is an incredibly powerful and emotional picture. Outright indignation at the way his father favours his younger son with lavish celebrations: no wonder he was angry. His brother had been given his inheritance, spent it, and now his father spends more on a fantastic homecoming. Would the two brothers ever be reconciled?

Let us now return to the crowd who heard this parable from Jesus. Imagine them discussing it, as they walked away: 'So hungry he would eat pig food - how disgusting'. 'That elder brother, he was right to be angry'.
Responding as a community
  1. Imagine you are the elder brother. What would be your reaction to the behaviour of your younger brother, and your father?

  2. How does your church community normally react towards people who have ‘lived riotously’?
Praying Together
  • Pray for genuine love for those whose behaviour we dislike.

  • Share your fears and concerns in prayer.

Mothering Sunday

Luke 2.33-35. " An old man recognises Jesus' potential "

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

When you were young, did anyone ever predict who or what you could become when you grew up? Perhaps a teacher did – can you remember any comments from your school reports?

A Window on the Text

Joseph and Mary have taken Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord. According to the Law of Moses, this should be 40 days after his birth (Leviticus 12). Their first public outing as a family had great significance: it was an important ceremony in Jewish life to present your new born child in the Temple.

The few verses before these (read them please, v 29-32, they are very well known) tell how the devout Simeon recognises that Jesus was special: he had been waiting and waiting for God's salvation to come to the nation of Israel, long under occupation by the Romans. Simeon saw that Jesus would bring this about. Its meaning is one of major change for the better: transformation, liberation, deliverance.

Our reading goes on from the well known verses to ones that are not so familiar. Simeon blesses Joseph and Mary and then speaks with more sombre words, foretelling the impact of Jesus' life that we now recognise, but must have been hard for Joseph and Mary to understand. Simeon spoke of Jesus' future in a quite disturbing way: this child would have a major impact on the lives of people in Israel, creating dissent and deep soul searching: he would affect them very deeply. Did Joseph and Mary, the young parents, hear what Simeon said? How much of it did they comprehend?
Responding as a community
  1. What impact do you and your fellow Christians in your Church have, in practice, on your local community?

  2. Are there any in your Church who have greater potential than they are being allowed to exercise?
Praying Together
  • Remember those from your community who have exercised leadership in their lives outside the Church.

  • Pray for guidance to support and nurture others to fulfil their true potential in what walk of life they follow.

Click here to return to the Reflection for Lent 4



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