Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

Other New Resources

Recommended Resources

{Based on requests from several members (although I am reluctant to do so since my favorites may not be those of others), I am listing here some of my own favorite resources. FWIW!!]
  • Changed Lives

    Illustrations from the Archives
  • Forgiveness and Reconciliation

    Illustrations from the Archives
  • Repentance and Sin

    Illustrations from the Archives
  • Gettysburg, Fifty Years Later

    an Illustration
    ("In the Ken Burns series on the Civil War that public television put on there were a number of scenes of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg held in 1913. The old men came back one summer day, Confederate and Union veterans both, to commemorate the occasion, and there were some ancient movies of them as they moved around jerkily through the grainy, lightstruck film...")
  • He Is Leaving

    Author Unknown
    ("He tells me he is leaving on Monday. Today is Wednesday. Not enough time to prepare my heart, to even let this sink in. The reality that my son, who is barely sixteen, is leaving home for parts unknown. Well no, not totally unknown. I know the kid he is heading off with is a street-corner drug dealer...")
  • Prelude to a Parable

    by D. Mark Davis
    (includes lots of Greek help)
  • The Prodigal Son

    by Jerry Fuller, OMI
    ("Perhaps we can understand this parable better by reflecting on another story. It is a novel set in South Africa, and now that that nation has uprooted the terrible evil of racism, probably few people read the great novel of that struggle by Alan Paton. Cry, the Beloved Country has been made into a film twice..." and another illustration)
  • The Prodigal Son

    by Jerry Fuller, OMI
    ("Rev. Steven Siniari is on his knees, but he is not praying. And he is definitely not in church. Pushing aside a torn section of chain-link fence, he crawls beneath the Boardwalk, looking for a teen-age runaway..." and other illustrations)
  • Let Go and Let God

    by Sil Galvan
    There is a story told about a Rolls Royce that stopped on a skid row street. A well-dressed, refined woman got out of that fine automobile and rushed into a dilapidated hotel nearby. She inquired about a certain man who was staying there. Informed of his room, she hurried on, impervious to the stares of the other residents of this run-down establishment.
  • Two Sons: How Will the Story End?

    by Janet Hunt
    Over the past week I have been reading Jeanne Bishop's story in her book, Change of Heart. In it she relays the horrific story of the murder of her sister, brother-in-law, and unborn child by a high school student named David Bier who was then just shy of his eighteenth birthday. More than that, she offers her own, now thirty year long story of movement from profound brokenness to healing.
  • What the Prodigal Son Story Doesn't Mean

    by Amy-Jill Levine
    This article is quoted by several other authors listed elsewhere on this page.
  • Lent 4C

    by Bill Loader
  • The Fifth Voice

    by Larry Patten
    ("In his insightful 2004 book The Four Things That Matter Most, physician Ira Byock wrote, 'I have long thought that the phrase dysfunctional family is redundant'. After reflecting on Jesus' The Dysfunctional Family parable for the 4th Sunday of Lent, I couldn't agree more with Dr. Byock..." includes a quiz that might stimulate some conversation in your congregation!!)
  • Exegetical Notes

    by Brian Stoffregen
    (always excellent exegesis with several quotes)
  • Illustrations, Quotes and Lectionary Reflections (Lent 4C)

    by Various Authors
    Lots of good stuff here!!
  • A Modern Day Prodigal Son

    by Philip Yancey
    ("A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. 'I hate you!' she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she runs away...")

Narrative Sermons

  • A Servant Girl Reflects

    by Beth Johnston
    3 Dramatic Monologues
  • Pigs and Parties

    by Christina Berry
    ("You know, my brothers have always been rivals. Not that they need to be. My father loves them both, which is obvious if you heard the story just now. David, my older brother, the first born, is just like our father...")
  • *We Believe in Welcoming Everyone to the Table

    by David Cobb
    ("I’m the oldest brother. Enid was next, then Jamie. Nine years later, Sarah, the youngest, was born. Of course, as my sisters are glad to remind anyone who will listen, brothers are not always a blessing. Cain killed Abel. Jacob tricked Esau with a bowl of soup and a hairy disguise...")
  • Come To The Table (A Story of Homecoming)

    by Frank Fisher
    ("'But I don't want to come inside! We're still playing!' Those words burst from your lips in a scream of frustration. For you're eight years old and it's much too nice out here for you to be willing to come inside for dinner. Your mother's voice rises ever higher as she continues to call you. It seems that your answer doesn't amuse her....")
  • The Mother's Story

    by Cheryl Fitch
    (Sermon for Mothering Sunday) ("I'm the mother of the prodigal son that Jesus talked about. Oh I know you have never heard from me before, you won't read my story in the bible because in those days the mother just was not important. It did not matter that I carried him in my body for nine long months...")
  • Prodigal Son

    by Garrison Keilor
  • Welcome Home

    by Catherine MacDonald
    ("You don't hear of me in that story that was just read did you? I am Lydia, the mother of those two boys. Those two very different boys. Nathaniel the eldest and Zachariah, the child of our old age. And of course, I am a wife, Simon's wife. I want to tell you a little bit more of the story...")
  • Who's That in the Distance?

    by Francis Miller
    from the perspective of the older son
  • Prodigious Love

    by James Nutter
    ("It is hard to sleep when you are hungry, when you know that you have hit the end, when you cannot sink any lower, when you are doing things that make you ashamed. This is where I was. I couldn't sleep because I knew that if I continued what I was doing, I would die... ")
  • A Modern Take on Luke 15

    by Christy Thomas
  • Never Too Late

    by Pamela Tinnin
    ("It was forty years that I did not speak to my brother; forty years from the day he came back into our lives. I was almost a man when he was born, near 12 years I was. He came squalling into the world, fists clenched, his voice already demanding his rightful share and more...")
  • My Foolish Father

    by Bill Versteeg
  • Asher's Story

    by Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
    "Shalom everyone. Some of you may remember me as the 'elder son' in Luke's Gospel, chapter fifteen, and my name is Asher. For centuries people have read this story with a particular bias and have given me "bad press." Too many people pay way too much attention to my brother, the "younger son," his name is Reuben..."

Illustrated Resources from 2019 to 2021

  • Warning: Selfie Derangement Syndrome

    by Jim Chern
    On Friday, there was this article online saying “Dumb tourists risk their lives for selfie with hippo.” Couple of things: First I love that headline. They don’t even try to be sober, neutral, or professional about it anymore. They’re going full throttle with an opinion, attention grabbing, judgmental headline with the lead word being DUMB. Secondly, the headline works because, of course, I had to click the headline to see it for myself. Even better, it wasn’t a written story, but a video of exactly what the headline said – Dumb toursists getting closer and closer taking pictures of this enormous creature who looks pretty docile (but the captions keep warning are not, as the tour guides are yelling at the people to get away). I will be honest… nothing happened. The hippo looked up, looked perturbed, people were shouting to get away and the video ended. Very, very anticlimactic...
  • Return as Far as You Can

    by David Hodges
    In Jewish rabbinic literature, there is similar parable that tells of a king who had a son who went away from his father for one hundred days. The son's friends said, "Return to your father," but the son said, "I cannot." Then his father sent word, "Return as far as you can, and I will come the rest of the way to you." So, God says, "Return to me, and I will return to you."...
  • Sermon Starters (Lent 4C)(2019)

    by Scott Hoezee
    From Robert Farrar Capon’s “The Parables of Grace”: (The father is speaking to the older brother): “The only thing that matters is that fun or no fun [in the far country], your brother finally died to all that and now he’s alive again—whereas you, unfortunately, were hardly alive even the first time around. Look. We’re all dead here and we’re having a terrific time. We’re all lost here and we feel right at home. You, on the other hand, are alive and miserable—and worse yet, you’re standing out here in the yard as if you were some kind of beggar. Why can’t you see? You OWN this place, Morris. And the only reason you’re not enjoying it is because you refuse to be dead to your dumb rules about how it should be enjoyed. So do yourself and everyone else a favor: drop dead. Shut up, forget about your stupid life, go inside, and pour yourself a drink.”...
  • Down the Road (Luke)

    Art and Theology by Victoria Jones
    Discusses the song "Prodigal Son" by Robert Wilkins and covered by the Rolling Stones (!)

    Also a painting by James B. Janknegt

  • We Can Turn Away from Faith But Humans Will Always Hunger for Meaning

    by Terrance Klein
    Some argue that human nature observes no rules, yet our history shows clear patterns. And what is history but human nature, playing itself out? Here is one of those patterns, one we dare not ignore: When people starve, they migrate toward food. The Ponca Indians were never a large tribe on the American Great Plains. At first contact with Europeans, they numbered only around a thousand. By the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition, smallpox had reduced them to only a few hundred. Yet the tribe managed to grow corn, squash and fruit trees along the banks of the Niobrara River in Nebraska. Their numbers began to grow as well. This was despite being oppressed by the more militant Lakota, who limited the ability of the Ponca to hunt buffalo and who periodically raided them. By 1850, however, the Ponca were in a pincer, caught between the Lakota and white settlers...
  • Unconditional Grace

    by Nicholas Lang
    “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert is known for weaving religion into his monologues, and sometimes calling out the immorality in Christians—pointing to the real meaning of what Jesus taught us. In a candid conversation on the talk show “Faith in Focus,” Colbert revealed that his religious convictions haven’t always been so strong. He struggled with doubt in his younger years. He was walking through the streets of Chicago on a cold night, when a stranger handed him a little green pocket New Testament. Colbert remembered that the pages were frozen stiff, so he had to crack the book open. What appeared was an index listing what to read based on your emotions. Colbert was feeling anxious so he flipped to the suggested Bible verse. It was this passage: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” The words spoke directly to him. “I was absolutely, immediately lightened,” he said. “And my life has never been the same.” That night was Stephen Colbert’s return: unconditional grace...
  • Lent 4C (2019)

    by Jacob Morris
    After experiencing a near-fatal staph infection he acquired from a routine knee-surgery, Eugene Peterson draws a comparison between hospital-acquired infections (iatrogenic, caused by healing) and a type of spiritual infection that Peterson names eusebiagenic (caused by devout behavior or holiness). Eusebiagenics names sins of self-righteousness and a legalism reflective of do-it-yourself sanctification— sins that are only possible within the life of faith.[1] Such infection sets in when our chronic condition of lostness is forgotten. Symptoms might include feelings of superiority to others whose “lostness” is more readily apparent than our own, and an assessment of one’s relation to God by comparison to how together it seems others’ have their lives...
  • The Prodigal Son's Brother

    by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
    Recently, while giving a series of lectures, I was confronted by a rather angry man who accused me of being soft on hell, God’s judgment and God’s justice. “I cannot accept what you say,” he shouted at me. “There is so much evil in the world and so many people are suffering from other people’s sins that there must be, after this life, some retribution, some justice. “Don’t tell me that all these people who are doing these things—from molesting children to ignoring all morality—are going to be in heaven when we get there! What does that say about God’s justice?” His lament is, in fact, quite an old one. The prophet Isaiah had the same kind of wish...
  • The Door Is Always Open

    Sermon Starter by Leonard Sweet
    He was a rebel, a college drop-out, a carouser, and a partier. He smoked, he drank Johnnie-Walker, he was a brawler, and had more run-ins with the law than you would care to count. By his own admission, he was the quintessential prodigal son. But now he stands to succeed the most respected, admired, and perhaps famous American of the Twentieth Century Billy Graham. His name is Franklin Graham. Today Franklin Graham not only has a tremendous benevolent ministry called The Samaritan Purse, and has met needs all over the world, but he is now preaching the gospel just like his Dad to thousands and thousands of people. He is where he is today because he had a father who made sure the door was always open...
  • What Lost Looks Like

    by Debie Thomas
    As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, the parable became limp from too much handling. In many ways, I’m still struggling with this limpness. A few years ago, I tried to remedy it by writing imaginary letters to the two sons in the parable. My hope was to make the brothers real and relevant again, and to somehow find my own story mirrored in theirs. When I read over those letters this week, they still felt like the truest responses I can offer right now to Jesus’s famous parable. So here are the two letters I wrote about the shapes and forms of lostness. Here’s what I wish I could say to the boys whose father ached to bring them home...
  • Disentitled

    by Carl Wilton
    The word “entitlement,” of course, contains within it the word, “title.” Think of some of the things that word “title” means. In a country like Great Britain, for instance — that has a class system even to this day — there are certain people who have titles. They are, of course, members of the nobility. When the American actor Meghan Markel married Prince Harry, one of the many things she acquired was a title: Duchess of Sussex. The gift of the Sussex title to her husband — from whom she acquired it by marriage — was at the sole discretion of the Queen.Once people are entitled in that way, the title attaches permanently to them. Should a member of one of those noble families fall upon hard times and be forced to sell off their country estate or castle, the title doesn’t go with the property. It can’t be bought or sold. It belongs, irrevocably, to the person. The only one who can change that is the Queen, who would take away the title only in the most dire of circumstances, like treason.In another sense of the word, a title conveys ownership of something. We recently bought a new used car, to replace the old junker Claire had been driving. We couldn’t make the trade-in until we’d brought in not only the car itself, but also the title: the legal certificate of ownership...

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from 2016 to 2018

  • The Prodigal Father

    by Neil Bishop
    Tom Wright suggests that the younger son represents the Jewish nation, exiled because of its disobedience to God but now finally welcomed home at the coming of the new Messiah. The older brother is not just the Samaritan community but the guardians of the restored temple started by King Herod and still under construction. The story is a challenge to all of these separate factions to reunite under a generous God who is willing to forgive all their various faults and failings. The story is open-ended because the ending is still being worked out in the mission of Jesus.
  • The Home of Repentance

    by John Martens
    Amy-Jill Levine, in her excellent book Short Stories by Jesus, offers an examination of Jesus’ parable of the two sons, traditionally known as the parable of the prodigal son. In her study she corrects a number of common misreadings of the parable, especially those that come from reading Jesus’ story as a comparison between “merciful” Christianity and “unforgiving” Judaism.
  • Young Man, Young Man

    Faith and Art by Lynn Miller
    for Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas (and poet James Weldon Johnson), this son was lost. Absolutely lost. Following the text of Johnson's poem "The Prodigal Son", Douglas has focused on the portion of the story where the son is squandering his inheritance. Women, music, money, cards.
  • Prodigal Jesus

    by Andrew Prior
    includes several quotes
  • Prodigals: Are We the Older Brother or the Party Friends?

    by Nancy Rockwell
    none of our prodigals got into their messes alone. Haven’t we all helped someone to Just have one more before you go. Or: I’d never forgive him, never. Or: Don’t worry about what people say, go for it. Or: That’s a big salary. I’m really proud of you, son. Or: Go ahead, treat yourself. It’s only money. Jesus tells us that the prodigal son took his inheritance and squandered it – all of it – on things for which he needed companions. Loose living, is the rubric. And most of us hear excess, addiction, and chasing after good times.
  • The Prodigal Son's Brother

    by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
    Alice Miller, the great Swiss psychologist, suggests that the primary task of the second half of life is that of grieving. We need to grieve, she says, or the bitterness and anger that come from our wounds, disappointments, bad choices and broken dreams will overwhelm us with the sense of life’s unfairness. Her solution is simple: Life is unfair. Don’t try to protect yourself from its hurts—you’ve already been hurt! Accept that, grieve it and move on to rejoice the dance.
  • The Beloved

    by David Sellery
    only one thing about the Prodigal remained constant. He was The Beloved. He was born and raised in love. He abused it and strayed from it. He squandered it and returned broken and sorrowful; begging at best for some miserable scrap of mercy. But that’s not what he found. He walked right back into unbounded love… not a grudging acceptance or a plea bargain, not even tough love with lots of strings attached. His father ran wildly to meet him, to embrace him, to rejoice in him, to love and forgive him.
  • The Undesirable Son

    by Ryan Young
    Author Jonathan Kozol spent months among homeless families in New York in the 1980s. One of the most damaging effects of extreme poverty that he witnessed was the isolation it brought; the sense of being ostracized from and despised by the community in which they lived. Writing about a makeshift homeless shelter called the Martinique Hotel, he writes: Self-hate is common among many women here. If a woman feels she is despised, and has no recognition of the forces that demean her, perhaps it is inevitable that she will feel despicable. If nothing can affirm her dignity…it seems understandable that she may see herself as worthy of contempt. Drug use in the Martinique strikes me repeatedly as a routinely exercised attempt at self-annihilation.

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from 2010 to 2015

  • This Man Welcomes Sinners

    by Daniel Clendenin
    ("Much of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889) is characterized by darkness and despair, reflecting his lifelong interior struggles. After converting to Catholicism, which estranged him from his Anglican family, Hopkins burned much of the poetry he had written, and even stopped writing for seven years. After ordination as a Jesuit priest, an assignment in Ireland left him feeling isolated and melancholy...")
  • You Owe Me!

    by Tom Cox
    "Maybe every generation thinks the one following it is worse, a bit lazy and arrogant. The most recent generation of adults born between 1982 and 1995 have been called 'Generation Y' who believe that it is their right to have everything given to them more than any other previous generation. I feel the truth is in every age we have an unhealthy level of feeling that 'we're owed' something...."
  • Turn, Turn, Turn

    by Lindsey Crittenden
    ("As a girl, I watched my brother get away time and time again with mischief, trouble-making, disobedience. I heard my parents explain to him why it was wrong to throw water balloons at cars or vandalize my dollhouse or steal coins from my father's top drawer. I listened to him say, 'I won't do it again,' and I heard them say, 'Okay, then.' Of course he did it again...")
  • Which Comes First: Grace or Repentance?

    by Robert Dunham
    ("A couple of years ago I heard a story on NPR that reinforced such a belief for me. Michael Garofalo told the story on Morning Edition about a 31-year-old New York City social worker named Julio Diaz. Garofalo noted that Diaz's customarily followed the same routine each evening, ending his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he could eat at his favorite diner..." great story!!)
  • Generous or Wasteful?

    by Robert Elder
    ("I know a family that had not two but four handsome sons. The boys were part of fellowship programs, part of the life of the church. When the boys grew into men, each left home to make his own way in the world. The youngest son — let's say his name was Alfred — was a popular member of the youth group all through his high school years...")
  • To Be Lost, To Be Found, To Know the Difference

    by Robert Elder
    ("The composer of Amazing Grace, John Newton, was a new believer around the year 1750, yet after coming to faith he had continued to command an English slave ship. Eventually he saw that any role in the slavery trade was antithetical to the Christian faith, and he left the sea for good. He studied for the ministry, and for the last 43 years of his life preached the gospel in Olney and London....")
  • The Day God Ran

    by William Flippin, Jr.
    ("This Prodigal reminds me of the story of a kite that was flying and the kite began to talk to itself. The kite said, 'If only I could get rid of this string. If the string wasn't holding me back, then I could fly. I could fly above the clouds. I could fly as high as I wanted to. If I could get rid of this string, there would be nothing holding me back. I'm limited by this string.'...")
  • God Is the Prodigal Son: Reinventing Christianity's Most Beloved Parable

    by David Henson
    ("What if God is the God who comes to us in the disguise of those we despise, those who have hated and killed us, rejected us and abandoned us, those who annoy and frustrate us most, those who are excluded? In the guise of the sinner, the debauched, the prostitute, the unclean, the enemy, the unsavory, God comes to us and challenges us to participate in a radical, irresponsible hospitality...")
  • The Prodigal Son

    by Jason Hildebrand
    (video on this parable)
  • Embracing Love/Re-membering Grace

    by Kate Huey
    (includes several quotes)
  • The Stories We Find Ourselves In

    by Janet Hunt
    ("In 1960, before any of us were born, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She was teaching school and all the children were required to get a skin test for TB. She went first to show them it wouldn't hurt. Hers flared up and before she knew it she lost her job and was sent off to a TB sanatorium in Milwaukee...")
  • A Twist in the Tail for Two Brothers, And Us

    by Rex Hunt
    ("In Henri Nouwen's book The Return of the Prodigal Son, is a reflection on Rembrandt's famous painting of the same name. The longer I look at 'the patriarch', the clearer it becomes to me that Rembrandt has done something quite different from letting God pose as the wise old head of a family. It all began with the hands. The two are quite different. The father's left hand touching the son's shoulder is strong and muscular...")
  • The Scandal of Grace

    by Beth Johnston
  • Heading Home

    by Terrance Klein, SJ
    ("Many years ago, shortly before I was to be ordained a deacon and thus to declare lifelong celibacy, I was summoned to a meeting with the rector of our seminary. He asked me 'Terry, could you ever, under any condition, see yourself leaving the priesthood?' "You would never leave the priesthood under any circumstances? Suppose that ministerial life drove you to drink...")
  • Hear It Again

    by Jeffrey London
    There was a man who had two children, the eldest was a girl, the youngest a boy. The man owned a car dealership in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was out on the lot one day when his young son came to him and said, "Dad, I want a new Mercedes convertible and my share of the family fortune and I'll get out of your hair. I'm going off to conquer the world! You'll never hear from me again!" So the father regretfully divided up the money and got his young son a Mercedes convertible and waved goodbye. A few days later the young son found himself at a blackjack table in Las Vegas, Sin City. It didn't take long for the young son to lose everything — all the money, the car, everything was gone. And with nothing left, and after having been kicked out of a comped room at the casino, the young son found himself alone, completely and utterly alone. With no where to go and no money left, the young son was forced to hire himself out as a pool boy to Celine Dion. It proved to be a horrible existence...
  • The Prodigal Gets His Brother's Goat

    by Jim McCrea
    A 17 year old girl in a church youth group got pregnant. The father of the baby was a 20 year old who also hadn't finished high school. He was described as someone who had 'long hair, several earrings […] army fatigues, [and] looked unwashed.' In other words, his appearance set him apart from the apparently staid congregation.
  • David Whyte on Anger, Forgiveness and What Maturity Really Means

    by Maria Popova
    ANGER is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for
  • How Van Gogh Found His Purpose: Heartfelt Letters to His Brother

    by Maria Popova
    In January of 1879, twenty-six-year-old Van Gogh, who had dropped out of high school, was given a six-month appointment as a preacher in a small village — a job that consisted of giving Bible readings, teaching schoolchildren, and caring for the sick and poor. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to the task and, in solidarity with the poor, gave away all of his possessions to live in a tiny hut, where he slept on the ground. But his commitment backfired — the church committee that had hired him saw this as extravagant posturing of humility and fired him
  • The Welcome Mat

    by Joseph Robb
    Door mats have become a product for sale. My wife, Deb tries out different ones for different occasions: She has one at the back door which reads: "A Golfer and a Sane Person live here." Another one that says: "Wipe feet here please" – that's at the door as you come in from the garage. Then she has all kinds of colorful designs: From "Sunbursts" to "autumn colors" to "The Rainbow spread" to Santa Claus", and so on. I'm sure you decorate your entrances with door mats also?! What a door mat does is say something to someone coming to visit about you and those who live in the house. Having read our Gospel lesson today about the "Prodigal Son", what do you think the door mat would say in the father's home?...
  • God's Unconditional Love

    by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
    ("If God loves everything and everyone perfectly, does God then also love Satan? Indeed, does God love Satan as much as he loves Jesus' mother, Mary? The answer can only be 'yes', God loves Satan as much as God loves Mary. The difference is not in how God loves them, but in how they, each in turn, love God...")
  • Difficult Freedom

    by Mark Ryan
    ("In an intriguing rendition of this story, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke imagines that it was the father's love that drove the younger son away. And it is that love, or the fear of receiving it, that most terrifies him about the prospect of return. The son returns to welcoming arms of the family he left behind: '[The son], the one who was recognized, had no longer thought, preoccupied as he was, that love could still exist...")
  • Are You Part of the Scandal?

    Sermon Starter by Leonard Sweet
    In many local elementary schools, every few weeks the 'Lost and Found' box is emptied out and the contents are scattered down the length of the main hall. Coats, mittens, shoes, sweatshirts, gym clothes, are all laid down and spread out in the hopes that their owners will spot them and take them home. But the scene of all those empty clothes creates an eerie sensation.
  • Loving the Lord

    by Keith Wagner
    ("I heard a story a long time ago that really helped me to understand the lesson of the prodigal son. A woman told me that her husband never did the dishes with her. After dinner he would take a walk, while his wife did the dishes. When he returned he would always, without exception, present her with a flower. She never questioned where they came from...")
  • Disentitled

    by Carlos Wilton
    ("Unless you've been living under a rock, there's one word you've been hearing again and again, in news reports about the Federal budget: entitlements. Generally what people mean by "entitlements" is Social Security and Medicare — although it really means any sort of benefit people think they deserve, by virtue of belonging to a certain group. Entitlements are among the hardest parts of the Federal budget to cut...")
  • Movies/Scenes Representing Grace

    Compiled by Jenee Woodard
  • Movies/Scenes Representing a Prodigal

    Compiled by Jenee Woodard
  • Movies/Scenes Representing Repentance

    Compiled by Jenee Woodard

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from 2007 to 2009

  • Come Home

    by Mary Allman-Boyle
    ("I recently read an essay by a famous author entitled My Confession. He was raised in the Orthodox Christian Faith in the 1800’s in Russia. When he went off to college he discarded all belief and realized later that he never had a serious belief...")
  • Return Trip: A Little "Big Brother" Looms in Us All

    by John Auer
    In 1996, while working at Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, Dr. Taylor awoke with a sharp pain behind her left eye. Her speech and motor functions failed. “She melted into what she called a euphoric stupor and lost all sense of where ‘Dr. Jill’ ended and the rest of the universe began.” It was the rupturing of a congenitally deformed vein-artery connection deep in her brain – the first stage of a potentially killer stroke. As befits her situation (all of our life situations??) Koehler says nothing unfolds in her book as we might expect. The surest sign of the Spirit is to lead us where we never (or only!) dreamed of going! The bottom line, says Koehler, is “amazement” – “Ph.D.-level clarity and awareness of detail combined with childlike exuberance!” – “the shattering of the self-created box we live in that we call ‘life’!” Here is what Taylor finds in the “right-brain/little brother” part of herself – Wow, what a strange and amazing thing I am. What a bizarre being I am. Life! I am life! I am a sea of water bound inside this membranous pouch. Here, in this form, I am a conscious mind and this body is the vehicle through which I am ALIVE! I am trillions of cells sharing a common mind. I am here, now, thriving as life. Wow! What an unfathomable concept! I am cellular life, no – I am molecular life with manual dexterity and a cognitive mind!”...
  • The God of Nincompoops

    by Charles Christian
    ("Walter Wangerin tells a story about his father from his childhood. Wangerin’s father was a serious man, a professor and pastor who was rarely referred to by his first name. He was a man of great dignity and poise who carried himself in a way that could seem cold at times but always commanded respect from those around him, especially his children...")
  • Back to the Future: Party On, Dudes!

    by Robert Corrner
    ("Elizabeth, I continue to hear these stories told by his friends, but I am also learning to look for God in the same places his friends had found him. Wherever someone is hurting, God is there. Wherever someone is hungry, God is there. Wherever someone is thirsty, God is there...")
  • *Race Against Waste

    by Tom Cox
    ("But God in his centuries old tangled dance with humanity has a more radical idea of us. He doesn't make junk and he doesn't like waste. We get a glimpse of God, of ourselves and our attitudes in what we call the parable of the prodigal son...")
  • Pinocchio: Being Fully Human(e)

    by George Cushman
    ("Today, we want to start with one of the classics, the story of Pinocchio. There are numerous sermon topics in this story, as there is in any story, but I will look at maybe the most overarching in the movie, the question of, 'What does it mean to be fully human, to be a real person?'...")
  • The Other One

    by Patricia de Jong
    ("Contrary to the title, Sherry Baby is not a movie about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. My husband, Sam, and I rented it recently, hoping for a little relief from the rigors of the week. Instead, we began to watch a movie about a Prodigal Daughter coming home after serving a prison term for drug possession..." and another illustration)
  • The Younger One

    by Patricia de Jong
    ("We come home, by first returning to ourselves and then returning to a life filled with compassion even as we recognize the compassionate embrace of the Beloved. Desmond Tutu believes that forgiveness and reconciliation is a human necessity...")
  • Coming All the Way Home

    by Daniel Deffenbaugh
    ("Toward the end of his life the great Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen became particularly intrigued by Rembrandt’s rendering of this parable in his painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen relates how over a period of several years he would return to this work simply to sit and contemplate its significance for his life...")
  • Letting God Be God

    by Mark Doty
    ("Last summer there was a news story about a man, a judge, who had been attacked by his son three years ago. The young man had a terrible addiction problem, and the family had tried every kind of rehabilitation program to get help for the boy, but nothing seemed to work. And the article said one night while the father slept, the young man-high on drugs-took his guitar and smashed his dad's face..." and other illustrations - recommended!)
  • The One Who Stayed Home

    by Mark Doty
    ("Many years ago when I was pastoring in South Texas, I became friendly with an Hispanic family who lived up the street. The couple who lived there had two sons, Joaquin and Pablo, born a year apart. At the time of this particular incident, Joaquin, the older son, had recently graduated high school. Pablo was then a high school senior....")
  • The Two Brothers

    by Gwen Drake
    ("When my Dad was killed, I was 14 years old, and I wanted my older brother to take his place in my life. Doug was four years older than me, a senior in high school, the center of the Heppner High School football team. I thought he walked on holy ground, you know, like my Dad did...")
  • Expanded Imagination

    by Heather Entrekin
    A 12 year old boy named John was playing with the 9 year old girl who lived next door, Marie. They found a loaded pistol in a dresser drawer and before long their make-believe game turned into a tragic nightmare and little Marie was dead. Everyone in the small town attended the Marie's funeral — except John, who could not face anyone and refused to talk. The morning after the funeral, Marie's older brother went next door to talk to John. "John, come with me," he said. "I want to take you to school." John refused, saying, "I never want to see anyone again. I wish it was me who was dead." The brother insisted and finally persuaded John to go with him. The brother talked to the school principal and asked him to call a special assembly. Five hundred and eighty students filed into the gym. Marie's brother stood before them and said, "A terrible thing has happened; my little sister was accidentally shot by one of your classmates. This is one of those tragedies that mars life. Now I want you all to know that my family and John's family have been to church together this morning and we shared in Holy Communion." Then he called John next to him, put his arm around his shoulders, and continued: "This boy's future depends much on us. My family has forgiven John because we love him. Marie would want that. And I ask you to love and forgive him, too." Then he hugged John and they wept together...
  • Lent 4

    by Andrew Greeley
    ("Once there were two teenagers whose parents went away for the weekend. As some teenagers do, they decided they would have a party. You know the rest. A couple hundred people showed up. They drank all the family liquor, trashed the house...")
  • Filled with Compassion

    by David Harrison
    ("Thulile Seleka was my personal assistant — although she only recently told me her story. This is what she says: 'I have been raped twice. I believed I deserved it, and so did my boyfriend who slapped my face and locked me out when I came crying to him after the second rape. I was drunk at the time. On one hand, the rapes distressed me..." and another illustration)
  • *The Prodigal Son Returns

    Humor by Janine Hill-Pettit
    ("My brother, a strict vegetarian, travels abroad for long periods on business. When he got back from Europe one time, he called our parents' home and told Dad he was about to pay them an unexpected visit. Dad hung up. 'The prodigal son is returning!' he called to my mother. 'Kill the fatted zucchini!'...")
  • Invited to Extend Forgiveness

    by Charles Hoffacker
    Henri Nouwen's book The Return of the Prodigal Son is an extended reflection on a splendid Rembrandt painting that depicts the father welcoming back his younger son. In the epilogue of this book, Nouwen writes: "Rembrandt portrays the father as the man who has transcended the ways of his children. His own loneliness and anger may have been there, but they have been transformed by suffering and tears. His loneliness has become endless solitude, his anger boundless gratitude. This is who I have to become. I see it as clearly as I see the immense beauty of the father's emptiness and compassion. Can I let the younger and the elder son grow in me to the maturity of the compassionate father?"...
  • Leaving Home

    by Rex Hunt
    He tells me he is leaving on Monday. Today is Wednesday. Not enough time to prepare my heart, to even let this sink in. The reality that my son, who is barely 16, is leaving home for parts unknown. Well no, not totally unknown. I know the kid he is heading off with is a street-corner drug dealer. I know the town they say they are going to is a place where youth go. A place where there are flophouses, drug parties, and lost children.
  • *A Boy, Another Boy, a Dad and a Pig

    by Anne Le Bas
    ("A story about a boy and another boy? It is bound to end up in a squabble. Siblings, whatever their gender, seem to have no trouble finding something to fall out about. It happens in the best regulated families. They squabble because they are alike.They squabble because they are different. They squabble for no reason at all sometimes...")
  • The Lonely Lady of Blairstone Park

    by Edward Markquart
    ("Once upon a time, there was a family named Miller. George and Jean Miller plus their two young children. The family lived in THE BIG CITY Chicago and for them, living in BIG CITY Chicago was a stress-filled ratrace. Traffic jams. Congested streets. No parking. No time. No good friends. Nobody knew each other on their cul de sac...")
  • The Prodigal Son

    by Edward Markquart
    ("Once upon a time, a long time ago, about a hundred years ago, there was a country Christmas. It was Christmas Eve in a small village, and everyone had gathered in this village into the town hall. There was a giant Christmas tree in that town hall, and everyone was festive and merry and singing around the tree...")
  • Coming Home

    by David Martyn
    She lives in a tiny village of 3,400 people just north of Nazareth where Jesus was born. It is a poor village the average income being half that of the national average. She is a member of an ancient people, now known as Druze, whose tradition states that they are the descendants of Jethro (the priestly father-in-law of Moses). In the biblical tradition, they journeyed alongside Israel in the Wilderness, sharing a long history of kinship. It was Jael, a Druze woman, who saved the people of Israel by killing the enemy Canaanite general with a tent stake (Judges 4:21). Later in the Bible, they are also called “Rechabites”, blessed by God (Jeremiah 35:17-19). Indicators of strong women in the Biblical tradition. A few months ago, the slim brunette Druze woman changed her name to Angelina (after Angelina Jolie) and entered the Miss Israel beauty pageant, hoping to be crowned queen, a title that carries a modelling contract, a cash prize and a new car. The dream suddenly turned to a nightmare when she was threatened with death, allegedly targeted by a group of men from her village that included two uncles who accused her of disgracing their family name, the family honour. She was swiftly taken by the police in Tel Aviv into protective custody and the men were jailed. However she dropped out of the competition. She said she had to. “Out of respect for our religious leaders and dignitaries. Above all, it was out of respect for my family,” she explained. Honour killing, as it is called, happens when a woman is slain by members of her own family for supposed sexual offences, which have somehow brought shame to the family name...
  • Arriving Where We Started

    by Nathan Mattox
    ("The story is so powerful because it is a story of the most important idea in our faith tradition. It is the story of Grace. And the beautiful thing about this story’s communication of Grace is that the grace that is shown and expressed in this story is not just the grace that we see with the Father running out into the road to welcome home his son...")
  • Lost

    by Ted Newcomb
    ("I confess to being one of the folks who sees a lot of meaning in the television series LOST. The show itself revolves around those who are lost after a tragic plane crash on an island. But not only are they physically lost, each person through the mechanism of flashbacks reveals the way they are lost in their own lives...")
  • *Lent 4

    by Andrew Oren
    ("There was a young man who had the good fortune of inheriting $250,000 from the estate of his late uncle. Well, this was like pennies from heaven and the young man quickly embarked on living his wildest dreams and before a year was up, all the money was gone...")
  • After the Party Ends, Life Continues

    by John Pavelko
    Late in his life Nouwen developed a fondness for the famous painting by Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son. He first saw a poster of the painting in 1983. Nouwen had just completed an very demanding lecture tour on Central American justice issues. Something about the painting really touched him. Three years later he accepted an invitation to lecture in Russia, mostly because it would allow him to see the original painting which hangs in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Nouwen would visit the museum sometimes twice a week and sit gazing upon the painting. The title of the painting suggests that the focus of the viewer should be on the son, kneeling before his father in tattered rags, but my eye was first drawn to the dark space above the father. In the shadows two figures lurk. I wonder who they are? What did Rembrandt see in those silhouettes? While I considered the possibilities and reflected on the other figures in the painting another thought came to me—what happened to these three people after the feast ended? After the food was eaten, after the music faded, after all the guests left, did they live happily ever after?...
  • *We're on Our Way Home

    by Michael Phillips
    ("There's a beautiful song, performed by Simon and Garfunkel, entitled Homeward Bound. The lyrics in the chorus are: Homeward Bound, I wish I was, homeward bound. Home, where my thought's escaping Home, where my music's playing Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me...")
  • Then and Now

    by David Prince
    ("In September of 2005 in the Sunday New York Times Magazine there was a reflection by the writer Joan Didion on the sudden death of her husband in December of 2003. Her play based on that event and the death of her daughter is now in previews on Broadway, The Year of Magical Thinking. Almost in passing she commented on the death of her parents several years earlier...")
  • There's a Party Goin' On 'Round Here

    by Sarah Shelton
    ("In his book Shepherds and Bathrobes, Thomas Long tells the following story: I was once staying in a motel in a large city and was surprised to find, posted to the elevator door, a small handwritten notice that read, 'Party Tonight! Room 210. 8:00 p.m. Everyone invited!' I could hardly picture who would throw such a party, or for what reason...")
  • A Long Way from Home

    by Martin Singley
    I wonder how far "a long ways" is? And I want us to think a little bit today about people who are a long ways from home. People like Sally, a woman who never made it up to the altar, or into the church, or even to the beliefs of the Christian Faith. Sally had a hard life, you could say a prodigal life. Bad relationships, bad drugs, bad drinking. Bad choices all the way around...
  • Phooey on Pharoah

    by Jim Standiford
    ("For those of us who are adults, hear the words of the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize-winner, Gabriela Mistral: 'Many things can wait; the child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed. His blood is being made. His senses being developed. To him we cannot answer tomorrow. His name is Today!...")
  • Lost? Finding Forgiveness

    by Billy Strayhorn
    ("Ernest Hemingway understood this and understood the search home in our lives. He wrote a short story titled The Capital of the World, which was first published in 1936. The story is set in Madrid, Spain. A father and a teenage son, named Paco, have had a falling out and the son has run away to the big city to make it in the world...")
  • The Parable of the Dysfunctional Family

    by Barbara Brown Taylor
    Chances are that nine out of ten of Jesus' listeners were rural farmers, like the family in the parable. Their land was their livelihood. They received it in trust from their ancestors and they held it in trust for their children. There was no courthouse where they could record their claims to it. Those claims were kept in the memory of the community...
  • Don't Miss the Big Dance!

    by Keith Wagner
    ("During the Korean War there was a young Korean exchange student at the University of Pennsylvania. He left his apartment one evening to get his mail. On his way home he was mugged by eleven teenage boys. They beat him with a blackjack, lead pipe and with their fists. They left him lying dead, lying in a gutter. All of Philadelphia cried out for vengeance...")
  • Illustrations

    by Tim Zingale

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from the Archives

  • The Parable of the Loving Father

    by Mark Adams
    ("You may remember that during the imprisonment of fifty-two American hostages in Iran, it became popular to wear or display yellow ribbons as expressions of our joy in welcoming the released hostages back home. The use of the yellow ribbon grew out of the following true story: A group of college students were en route from New York to Florida for a weekend. As their bus passed through New Jersey a man dressed in a plain, ill-fitting suit sat down in front of them...")
  • The Older Brother's Story

    by Mickey Anders
    ("Being an older brother is not an easy thing to do. I was almost 11 when my little brother came kicking and screaming into this world. He was a demanding child from the beginning, but he was always the apple of my father's eye. And my mother fussed over him like he was the king of Egypt. I remember being jealous at times of all the attention that my brother got as a baby...")
  • The Fable of the Forgiving Father (A Paraphrase)

    Submitted by Gayle Bach-Watson
    ("Feeling foot-loose and frisky, a feather-brained fellow forced his fond father to fork over the farthings. He flew far to foreign fields and frittered his fortune, feasting fabulously with faithless friends. Finally facing famine and fleeced by his fellows-in-folly, he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy farmyard...")
  • The Joy of Being Lost and Found

    by Edward Beck
    ("Once I got so lost that I began to wonder if I'd ever get found. I was on a thirty day retreat in a hermitage, no less, in the hills of California. I'd decided to take a long walk to a beach about five miles away that I'd heard was a wonderful place to watch the sunset. And indeed it was...")
  • Illustrations

    from Biblical Studies
  • Two Kinds of Sin

    from Biblical Studies
    ("The elder brother is the dark contrast which heightens the glowing picture of the repentant prodigal. When we look at sin, not in its theological aspects but in its everyday clothes, we find that it divides itself into two kinds. We find there are sins of the body and sins of the disposition...")
  • Not Jealous or Boastful

    by Peter Blackburn
    ("Somewhere deep within, self-satisfied, secure, I feel uneasy. I do not say in words, and yet I think that what you mean to me is such that I resent what you may mean to yourself or to others. I have an nnamed fear that the life of the world might cease to centre on me...")
  • Patient and Kind

    by Peter Blackburn
    ("Our life upon this earth forever presses on - we hurry across life's stage and then pass on. Yet God who made us sees each moment's worth, and charts the progress of our life on earth. In patient love od calls to us to see in patient loving service life is free...")
  • The Return of the Prodigal Son

    by Phil Bloom
    ("Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote a helpful book with the same title as the Rembrandt masterpiece. The painting questioned him. Who are you? Which of the figures do you identify with? His first thoughts were that he did not know what it was like to be the prodigal son, to be held and loved, to rest his head on the Father...")
  • *Prodigal Son in the Key of F

    by Tom Cox
    ("Francis the Foolish felt little filial fondness for his flawless, fastidious Father, Ferdinand. Feeling footloose and frisky, Francis forced and finagled his fond father to fork over his share, then fled his Father’s fertile fief...")
  • *Right Deeds, Right Attitudes

    by Tom Cox
    ("A revealing insight on today’s Gospel is given by one of Mother Teresa's congregation. Attending a First World conference on the poor, she spoke at the closing session of her emotions over the previous afternoon which was left free for people to shop and relax until an evening gourmet meal...")
  • Really?!

    by Pat de Jong
    ("Some years ago, James Fowler wrote a helpful book called Stages of Faith. His study shows that we invent God in our own image--or more precisely, in the image of our parents. If our parents were critical, abusive, or unreliable, we are likely to grow up with low self-esteem and an image of a God who is punitive and petty...")
  • Expanded Imagination

    by Heather Entrekin
    ("A 12 year old boy named John was playing with the 9 year old girl who lived next door, Marie. They found a loaded pistol in a dresser drawer and before long their make-believe game turned into a tragic nightmare and little Marie was dead. Everyone in the small town attended the Marie's funeral, except John, who could not face anyone and refused to talk...")
  • The Third Son

    by Richard Fairchild
    ("John Newton - who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace back in 1779 certainly identified with the younger son - the son who wasted his inheritance -in this way. As a young man he left home and went to sea - and there lived wildly and free...")
  • Young Goats and Fatted Calves

    by Richard Fairchild
    ("St. Peter and St. Paul are at the Pearly Gates. Paul is looking through The Book of Names, and he says to Peter, 'There are more people in heaven than there is supposed to be! Go find out what has happened!' Peter runs off, and some time later he returns to Paul...")
  • What Is Freedom?

    by Art Ferry, Jr.
    ("I read several weeks ago of a man in a modern city who decided that he was going to build a wooden tool shed on the back of his property. And the city said, 'you can't build a wooden tool shed here, the fire code says it has to be brick.' He said, 'it's my lot, I'm free, I'll build it like I want'. They said, 'No you won't.'..." and other illustrations)
  • Let's Party!

    by Vince Gerhardy
    ("A group of young adults from the church went on a retreat with their pastor. They were encouraged to invite friends who knew a bit about the church but even less about the gospel of salvation. After everyone settled in their dorms on the first night, one of the group asked, "What are we going to do at this retreat?" ...")
  • Lost and Found

    by Mark Haines
    ("Following an exhilarating performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, celebrated classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma went home, slept, and awoke the next day exhausted and rushed. He called for a cab to take him to a hotel on the other side of Manhattan and placed his cello—hand-crafted in Vienna in 1733 and valued at $2.5 million—in the trunk of the taxi...")
  • I Have Sinned..

    by Peter Haynes
    ("He was a janitor making minimum wage at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where some of the best and brightest are trained. The irony of it all was that he was the smartest one there, a genius, but no one knew it. No one knew, that is, until he completed an extremely complex mathematical problem left as a challenge for students on a blackboard...")
  • Beliefs That Matter: Forgiveness and Reconciliation

    by Wayne Hilliker
    "Remember that video taken during the race riots in Los Angeles a few years ago showing a man by the name of Reginald Denney being pulled from his truck and then receiving a savage beating including a brick being hurled at his head. Some months later, after he got out of hospital, the driver was filmed again in a meeting with the men who had attacked him..."
  • The End of All Exploring

    by James C. Howell
    ("A while back, we brought Millard Fuller to Charlotte. Millard Fuller, you may know, was a wealthy businessman who heard God's calling and started Habitat for Humanity. We decided that instead of having a professional, preacher type to introduce him, we would get a resident from a Habitat House..." and other quotes, etc.)
  • God in the Pig Pen

    by Beth Johnston
    ("It happened in a congregation that was comprised of a large number of people who were hearing impaired. Their only way of comprehending the scripture readings and the sermon was to look at the hand signals of a person who knew how to translate English into American Sign Language...")
  • You Didn't Get a Goat?

    by Richard Jones
    ("Many years ago, executives of the Time-Life publishing organization discovered that the company's profit margin had shrunk to an alarmingly low level. Consequently, they began an intensive effort to try to cut costs. Efficiency experts suggested that substantial savings could be effected in the renewal department...." and other illustrations)
  • Coming Home

    by Fred Kane
    ("In one of his columns after World War II the famous news correspondent Ernie Pyle talked about going home. His mother had suffered a stroke and wasn't expected to live. He received the phone call and got on a plane and headed for Indianapolis...")
  • Enjoying a Life on Loan

    by John Killinger
    ("A few months ago, I was visiting some old friends in North Carolina, Bill and Emily Tuck. Bill is a pastor in Lumberton, North Carolina. We fell to reminiscing about our children and places where we had lived. We spoke of the pain we felt at giving up certain things in our lives. Emily asked if I had read a book by Joyce Rupp called Praying Your Goodbyes...")
  • Outrageous!

    by Linda Kraft
    ("Kenneth Bailey, who has lived there for forty years and has studied the peasant culture in that part of the world actually went around asking people what they thought of our gospel lesson for today. He told them about the younger son's request for his portion of the inheritance and then asked: 'Has anyone ever made such a request in your village?'...")
  • Desperately Desired...Grudgingly Given

    by Ron Laeger
    ("As many of you know our friend Roger Flinn spent over 2 years in hospitals from wounds received in combat from a North Vietnamese mortar round. Shrapnel tore through Roger's body nearly killing him instantly. Thanks to a Medic Corpsman's fast work, Roger was flown to the hospital in Da Nang and later to Travis hosptial in San Franciso and Vancouver...")
  • Desperately Seeking Grace

    by John Landgraf
    ("I invite you to think of the elder son as a 'Child of Law'. Let's imagine that he was born just ten months after Mom and Dad got married. Though they would never have admitted it, even to themselves, the newlyweds rather resented him. They were lovebirds. Honeymooners. They were not ready for a baby to come dominate their lives...")
  • Homecoming

    by David Leininger
    ("Fred Craddock tells the story of the first time he ever went to talk to a pastor about something that was personal. It was very difficult, he said, to do that. He and some fellows were working at a box factory, and one day they went downtown to get a hot dog or hamburger for lunch. He still had on his nail apron and they had on theirs...")
  • Is God Like Daddy?

    by David Leininger
    ("D. T. Niles of Ceylon, who at the time of his death, was probably the best known preacher in all of Asia, was sent to live with his grandfather when he was only a year old. His mother had died and his father was unable to care for him..." and other short illustrations)
  • Sonny Moneybags

    by David Leininger
    As most of you know, I am a golfer. I use the term loosely because I do not play very well and I do not get to play very often any more, but I still consider myself a golfer. There is an old expression in the game that says, "Every shot makes somebody happy," which means if you hit a good one, you are happy. If you hit a lousy one, your opponent is happy. Whoever came up with that line was not quite as charitable to the gentle folk who play the game as he or she might have been, but the point is well taken: good fortune for one does not necessarily mean good fortune for someone else. We can all think of examples of that. Buzzer-beaters in the basketball tournaments these past couple of weeks. One team ecstatic, the other in the depths of despair...
  • *The Prodigal's Brother

    by Leslie Lewis
    ("I’d like to tell you the story of Simeon. Simeon was the son of a rich farmer, the oldest son, heir to two-thirds of his father’s land. He worked hard from sunrise to sunset and even beyond. He learned everything about the business of farming – what to plant when, where to buy the seed, how to sell the crops, who gave the best prices, who paid their bills...")
  • A Bent Tale About a Dog

    by William Loader
    ("Dogs know. In a moment she was off, tail high and wagging its crooked shape vigorously as she bounded down the path. Moments before all was still, just a twitch of the nose scenting the air. Six months back it was different...")
  • Is There Joy in God's House?

    by Thomas G. Long
    ("Many years ago I read an essay in which a woman was reminiscing about her father. She said that when she was young, she was very close to her father. The time she experienced this closeness the most was when they would have big family gatherings with all the aunts and uncles and cousins. At some point, someone would pull out the old record player and put on polka records, and the family would dance..." and another illustration)
  • Surprise Party

    by Thomas G. Long
    ("A student of mine went jogging with his father in their urban neighborhood. As they ran, the son shared what he was learning in seminary about urban ministry, and the father, an inner city pastor, related experiences of his own. At the halfway point in their jog, they decided to phone ahead for a home-delivered pizza...")
  • Are We in This Story?

    by Ben Manning
    ("I know a woman who is lost. At least the direction of her life and evident lack of faith seem to indicate so. Her words seem to suggest it. Life was not kind to her. When she was a little girl of 10, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Within a few months, her mother died and she was left alone...")
  • Beyond Shame

    by David Martyn
    ("Tomorrow night one billion people will be watching the 70th Annual Academy Award ceremonies. Front and center, will be the movie, with 14 nominations, Titanic. Already at 471 million it has made more money than any movie ever produced...")
  • Would You Come to the Party?

    by David Martyn
    There is a Sufi story about a beggar who approached a Mullah and he emerged from the mosque after prayers and asked him for alms. “Are you extravagant?” the Mullah demanded of the beggar. The beggar answered yes. “Do you like sitting around drinking and smoking?” The beggar replied yes again. “I suppose you like to go to the baths everyday?” The answer again was yes. “And maybe even amuse yourself by drinking with your friends?” The beggar hung his head and said, ”Yes, I like all these things.” “Tut, tut,” answered the Mullah, and gave him a gold piece. Another beggar nearby solicited the Mullah and was asked the same questions to which he replied, “No, no, no, I want only to live meagrely and pray!” The Mullah gave him a small copper coin. “But why,” wailed the beggar, “do you give me, an economical man, a penny when you give that extravagant fellow a gold sovereign?” “Ah,” replied the Mullah, “because his needs are greater than yours, I must give him more.”...
  • Do Overs

    by Jim McCrea
    ("Larry Winebrenner tells of his father, whom he calls 'a borderline abuser, [who would use] thick Marine belts, boards, and even fists to keep his children in line'. He adds, 'Because of my father's personality, I believed God was a stern judge demanding retribution for any wrong act. It was hard to believe God could love me because I had the notion that my own father didn't love me.'...")
  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son

    by Philip McLarty
    ("Several years ago, conductor Robert Shaw was interviewed on the anniversary of his 25th consecutive year to conduct the Bach B Minor Mass. In the course of the interview, he was asked the obvious question, 'How can you conduct this work, year after year, without getting bored, without simply going through the motions, without losing your cutting edge?'...")
  • The Land of Milk and Honey

    by Eric Muirhead
    ("It's been another hard day for you. You started before the crack of dawn, and without much in the way of any breaks, you've worked non-stop. But it's not all that bad. At least you like what you do. Like your father before you, he's one of the people in life you really respect, you work hard for a living...")
  • Masculine and Feminine God

    by Henri Nouwen
    "The longer I look at 'the patriarch', the clearer it becomes to me that Rembrandt has done something quite different from letting God pose as the wise old head of a family. It all began with the hands. The two are quite different..."
  • Is God Like Your Father?

    by Luke O'Donnell
    ("A father had a young son who was extremely ill, suffering from inoperable cancer. After undergoing an exhaustive series of tests, the boy's father was told the devastating news that his ten year old son had a terminal illness and would die quite soon. The young boy accepted his Christian religion, so the father knew that his little boy would go to heaven when he died...")
  • Not Just Amazing But Unbelievable

    by John Pavelko
    ("The three prodigals walked with their heads down. Their boastful talking had given way to silence. The rain had started earlier that morning and continued off and on throughout the day. The boys were wet and cold but they kept walking with one arm extended, hoping to 'hitch a ride'. Their plans were to go to Atlantic City but they were still a long way from Pittsburgh...")
  • Another Look at an Old, Old Story

    by Benjamin Reaves
    ("It was one of those brief TV interviews that reveal more than is anticipated. She was reviewing her life spent on the fast track. Showgirl, escort, high priced call girl. 'But you weren't raised that way,' said the TV host. And in the stark, grainy black and white of the TV medium the camera zoomed in on a tight shot of her face, revealing the wear and tear of her life journey and more...")
  • Lent 4

    by Thomas Rightmyer
    ("Toward the end of the First World War a young Swiss working with adolescents in a psychiatric hospital noticed characteristically different responses to a popular game of blotto – ink blots on paper. Hermann Rorschach published his findings in 1921, but died, age 37, the next year. From his work others developed a projective psychological instrument....")
  • Pigpen or Party?

    by Paul Rooney
    ("I'm reminded of the rejection theme in the story of the mother and her son. Every Sunday she would have to go to his bedroom and wake him up, in order to get him to church on time. 'Son, every Sunday you keep sleeping in later and later; get out of bed and get going or you will be late for church.'...")
  • Older Brothers Anonymous

    by Jeeva Sam
    ("You may not realize this, but is a support group tailor-made just for you and me! I realize the name would be considered sexist by today’s standards, but the group was founded nearly 1950 years before Gloria Steinhem and the members decided to keep the original name for historical reasons...")
  • *Home

    by Norm Seli
    ("Mark was a young man who had a certain memory of home. It was throwing a football in the front yard. Playing 500 with his brother and father - his dad would kick the ball in the air and the two would chase after the ball, hoping to catch it in the air for 100 points or after a couple of bounces on the ground for 50 points...")
  • The Parable of the Presbyterian Son

    by Byron Shafer
    ("The great 20th-century Jesuit thinker Henri Nouwen once observed that the sin that lies in the heart of the elder son is the sin of feeling morally superior to others and wanting to stay that way, a sin we often mistake for righteousness, a sin that harbors within itself a buried resentment at God's all-forgiving love toward others...")
  • On the Way to the 21st Century

    by Martin Singley
    ("For many people in this postmodern world, Melissa and Sean exemplify what Christians are all about. You probably read about this married couple from Georgia. Back on March 11th, Sean and Melissa went to see The Passion of the Christ. When they left the theater, the couple began arguing about the movie...")
  • Contagious Compassion

    by Mike Slaughter
    ("Anyone who has owned an animal knows how you develop an emotional attachment. My wife and I have two dogs. We have a giant Schnauzer and a miniature Schnauzer named Toby. Toby is eleven years old. Several years ago on a Friday night, the whole family went to one of my son's baseball games. We got home late. I was the last person entering the house and so the family left the door open for me...")
  • All Things New

    by Deborah Sokolove
    ("Twenty-eight years ago, long before I knew much about Lent, or even Christianity, I spent the few weeks leading up to Easter in a village called Villars, high in the mountains above Montreux, in Switzerland. The man I was married to at the time had gone to boarding school there for several years, and he remembered both the small school and the entire area with great affection...")
  • Getting Ready for the Resurrection Through Restoration

    by Billy D. Strayhorn
    ("In one of his books Robert Fulghum tells the story of a young American woman he met in the Hong Kong airport. She was dressed in the traditional garb of the East. next to her was a well worn backpack that showed the signs of hard travel. It was clear, she had been exploring the world. Now she was on her way home..." and another illustration from the Andy Griffith show)
  • Table Manners

    by Barbara Brown Taylor
    So if I were putting together a sinners table at the Huddle House, it might include an abortion doctor, a child molester, an arms dealer, a garbage collector, a young man with AIDS, a Laotian chicken plucker, a teenage crack addict, and an unmarried woman on welfare with five children by three different fathers. Did I miss anyone?
  • On Our Way to the Passion: Coming to Ourselves

    by Alex Thomas
    ("When I was counseling full time in the field of Addictions, a woman, we'll call her Jane, came into see me one day. She sat there for awhile in my office without saying anything and finally she blurted out that she was an alcoholic. She went on to say that she had been sober about two years and now it was time to make some decisions about her life...")
  • Risking the Journey Home

    by Alex Thomas
    ("One day a teenage boy walked into a little café and sat down. It was a small place with only a few stools at the counter. The boy said, 'I'm hungry, but I don't have any money. If you will feed me, I will be glad to wash dishes.' While the owner was getting the meal, he asked,'Why don't you tell me about it son?' and the boy told him that he had argued with his father and left home...")
  • Chill Out!

    by Keith Wagner
    ("Last summer my young grandson disappeared from his parents. They were on vacation at Myrtle Beach. They called, but he didn’t respond. They looked everywhere, fearful that he may have been kidnapped. That is one of a parent’s worst nightmares. When he could not be found they called the police to report him missing...")
  • Life's Unfair

    by Keith Wagner
    ("When I was in the seventh grade I had an experience with a Math teacher that changed my thinking about what is fair and what isn’t fair. The teacher believed in competition as a learning tool so he had us go to the blackboard and see who could solve problems the fastest. I was the fastest problem solver in my class...")
  • Outrageous Parties

    by William Willimon
    ("One spring break, I took a group of students on a retreat called 'Exploring the Christian Faith'. The retreat was designed for people 'who know something about Jesus, but are not yet ready to put their money down yet'. I told them, 'I am going to use any means at my disposal — films, arguments, worship, music, Bible study — to arm wrestle you into following Jesus...")
  • A Fresh Start

    by Tim Zingale
    ("Dr. Buchheim says in his hook The Power of Darkness, 'I received a modern understanding of this homecoming in a letter from a son to a father, the author is unknown: 'Dear Dad, I found your letter to me here on the desk..... Perhaps you didn't want me to read it now, now that I have come back home. But I'm glad I did. I thank you for your patience, your understanding and love...")

Other Resources from 2019 to 2021

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Other Resources from 2010 to 2012

Other Resources from 2007 to 2009

Other Resources from 2004 to 2006

Other Resources from 1998 to 2003

Other Resources from the Archives

Resources from the Bookstore

  • Mother and Father

    by Kenneth Bailey, from Poet and Peasant
  • Masculine and Feminine God

    by Henri Nouwen
    "The longer I look at 'the patriarch', the clearer it becomes to me that Rembrandt has done something quite different from letting God pose as the wise old head of a family. It all began with the hands. The two are quite different..."

Children's Resources and Dramas

The Classics

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