THE FORGIVING FATHER

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1 BOOK 1, PART 3, LESSON 4 THE FORGIVING FATHER THE BIBLE: Luke 15:11-32 THEME: We can discover what Jesus wants us to do and be by hearing the parables Jesus told. PREPARING FOR THE LESSON MAIN IDEA: Jesus told people about God s forgiveness and love for them. MEMORY VERSE: You willingly forgive, and your love is always there for those who pray to you. Psalm 86:5a KEY WORDS AND CONCEPTS TO BE LEARNED: a. Forgiveness. b. Be willing to say I am sorry to others and to God. MAJOR LEARNINGS: Children will understand that because God is always ready to forgive us, we are sorry for doing wrong or hurtful things. The children will feel glad that they are loved by God. BIBLE BACKGROUND: Jesus told this story to help his listeners (and us) understand the depth of God s grace. In the story God is like the father who never stops loving either of his sons, though one removes himself physically and the other emotionally from that love. The early division of the estate was unusual in that time. By law each one would have received his inheritance at his father s death. By asking for his share in advance, the younger one treated the father as if he were dead and gave up any further legal claim to his father s resources. The father s action in running to meet his young son was surprising to Jesus listeners. To run was to lose dignity. Then the father not only forgave the son but treated him with special regard. Each of the items called for robe, ring, and sandals was a sign to all that the son was accepted back into the father s household. UNDERSTANDING YOUR STUDENTS: Not all fathers or mothers are as loving as the father Jesus portrayed. Some children may not have a father in the home. Emphasize the loving actions of the father more than his relationship to the son as you point out that God loves and forgives us in the same way.

2 DEVELOPING YOUR FAITH: Read Luke 15: We know it s hard to say, I m sorry. It might even be harder to say I forgive you, and really mean it. When God forgives, God takes all those memories of what we have done wrong and throws them away, never to be brought up again. 1. INTRODUCTION TEACHING THE LESSON Prepare questions that encourage the children to recall experiences of doing or saying something that they were sorry for. Some possible questions are: Have you every pushed someone away when you knew that person loved you and then felt really sad? Have you ever refused to share something with your brother, sister or friend? When we feel sad or unhappy about something that we have done or that we should not have done, we can say I m sorry. Let s say together the words (I m sorry). SAY: When you say to me I m sorry, I will say I forgive you. Forgive is another hard word to know. To say I forgive you is to let the person know you love her or him. It is one way to say everything is OK. Let s all say I forgive you. Have the children say the word. SAY: God wants us to say I m sorry and I forgive you. Jesus told a story about a father and a son. Let s see which one the father or the son said I m sorry and which one the father or the son said I forgive you. 2. EXPLORE THE BIBLE Using the teaching pictures, tell the story, The Forgiving Father. Practice reading the story until you are comfortable reading it or telling it to the children. THE FORGIVING FATHER This is the story that Jesus told. There was once a man with two sons. The younger one went to him one day and said, Father, give me my share of the property now. So the man divided the property between his two sons. After a few days, the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. He spent everything he had. Then a terrible famine spread over the country. There was very little food, and he was left with no money at all. So he went to work for a farmer who raised pigs. He did not like working with the pigs. They were noisy and

3 smelly. But the boy was desperate, and that was all the work he could get. In fact, he was so hungry that he wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat. At last he said to himself, All my father s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve! I will get up and go to my father and say, Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of you hired workers. So he got up and started back to his father. He was still a long way from home when his father saw him. His father s heart was filled with pity and he ran, threw his arms around the son and kissed him. Father, the son said, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son. But the father called to his servants, Hurry! he said. Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast! For this son of mine was dead, and now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found. And so the feasting began. Meanwhile the older son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked, What is going on? Your brother has come back home, the servant answered, and your father has killed the prize calf because he got back safe and sound. The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in. But he spoke back to his father, Look, all these years I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! But this son of yours wasted all your property on bad things. And when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him! My son, the father answered, you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive. He was lost, but now he has been found. (Based on Luke 15:1-2, 11-32, Good News Bible) 3. RESPOND TO THE BIBLE MESSAGE ACTIVITY 1: Retell the Bible story FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN: SAY: Let s make either a happy face or a sad face to answer some questions about the story. I will ask questions, and you make a happy face or a sad face to answer. When the son left, was the father happy or sad? (Sad.) The children should make a sad face. Why was the father sad? (He loved the son and missed him. He was worried about him.) When the son was away from the father, was the son happy or sad? (Happy at first, then sad.) Children should make a happy face then a sad one.

4 When the father came home, was the father happy or sad? (Happy.) When the father forgave the son, was the son happy or sad? (Happy.) SAY: I am going to say some things. I want you to say what I say after me, and to make a happy or sad face to show me how you feel about what I say. Say the following sentences, reminding the children to say them after you and to make a face that shows how they feel. God loves me. Sometimes I do bad things. God always forgives me. I am part of God s family. (Add your own.) FOR OLDER CHILDREN: After the parable is told or read, divide into three groups. Fathers will be in one group, younger sons in another group, and older sons in the third group. Give each group the questions below. Have each group talk about the answers and what that character would do the next morning when the three characters meet. Fathers: How did it feel to be the father in this situation? Did you want to favor one son over the other? Why? What do you think of your two sons now? Younger sons: What are some of your feelings? How do you feel about your father? About your brother? About yourself and what you did? Older sons: What are some of your feelings? How do you feel about your father? About your brother? About yourself and what you said? After ten minutes ask for a volunteer from each group to act out what they would say and do when they meet the next day. When they are finished, ask the whole group: What do you think family life will be like in this family from now on? ACTIVITY 2: Review the Bible story ASK: The younger son left home to live by himself and have fun. What went wrong with his plan? (He used up his money. A famine came along.) Do your plans always work out? (Encourage the children to answer but do not force them. It is okay if they only think about the answers.) SAY: The younger son realized he had made a mistake. How do you think he felt about returning home? (Accept all answers.) Think of a time when you didn t want to face someone because you had done something wrong. Don t tell what you did, but tell why it was hard to face the other person. (Possible answers: afraid the person would be angry, did not want to disappoint the person, afraid the person would not forgive, afraid the person would no longer

5 like me.) SAY: The father in the story forgave his son for leaving home and spending all his money. How did the father show forgiveness? (Ran to meet his son, gave him a big hug, gave him some new clothes, and had a party for him.) Jesus tells us that God is like this father, always ready to welcome us if we are sorry for doing something wrong. How does this make you feel? Do you think the son was surprised? Why was the older brother so angry? (He didn t think he had been treated fairly.) Do you think that he has the right to be angry? Why? Or why not? (Yes, he will miss out on a good relationship with his brother and father if he stays angry.) Retell the Bible story another way using a modern day story of forgiving parents, grandparents, or any caring adult one that you write on your own or one that has been told to you. 4. CLOSE IN PRAYER PRAY: Dear God, thank you for forgiving us when we have done things that make you unhappy. Amen. Resources: The Story the New Testament Tells by Esther Megill and students and Sunday School Teachers in Sierra Leone and Zambia, p.135. Come to the Storytelling Tree, Vacation Bible School, Grades 3-4, 1998, p.31.)

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