For the 4th Sunday in Lent I bring you a children’s sermon on Luke 15:11-31. (You can find my regular “Monday Meditation” on this text here.)
The lectionary reading is actually Luke 15:1-3, 11b-31, but I’m skipping the first three verses. They place the story in a larger scene, but I want to focus just on the parable. So really it’s a children’s sermon or Luke 15:11-31, “the prodigal son.”
It’s one of Jesus’ longer and more complex parables. Really it is three separate stories told together:
- The parable of the prodigal son
- It’s also the parable of the loving father
- And it’s the parable of the (grumpy) faithful son.
A children’s sermon needs to be short and simple. (I know, that’s a standard mine often miss!) At best it should make one clean, clear point from the text at hand. I won’t try to tell the stories of all three characters. Maybe I can come back and tell the kids the other two stories another time.
As I wrote this it became overly long. The request of the younger son is so audacious that I kind of took a long time to set it up in a way that would be believable. What you see here is the short version after editing.
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
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So here goes: a children’s sermon on Luke 15:11-31. I’ll tell one story, about one kid—the younger one, who made some very bad choices.
A Children’s Sermon on Luke 13:11-31
Good morning kids! I am so glad to see you this morning. It’s really great that you are here in worship today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent. In Lent we spend 40 days, plus six Sundays, getting ready for Easter. Jesus died on Good Friday, but on Easter Sunday he was alive again. When Jesus rose up on Easter he gave us the greatest gift ever–new life, real life, forever life with God.
On the Sundays of Lent our Gospel readings teach us different things about getting ready for the amazing gift of Easter. This morning we hear a story that Jesus told about the youngest child in a family. Here’s how the story went.
A Greedy Kid
Once upon a time there was a family. They had a farm and they all worked together to earn their living.
One night, after dinner, the youngest son said, “Dad, can we talk?”
“Sure son,” said the father. “What’s up?”
His older brother was in the room, so the younger brother said, “I was hoping we could talk privately. Just the two of us.”
So the two of them went outside, out by the barn, out of earshot.
“Okay, son,” said the father. “What’s on your mind?”
“Well, Dad, I’ve been thinking. About the future.”
“Okay,” said the dad.
“It’s like this,” said the son. “I’ve got big dreams about what I want to do with my life.”
“Oh?” said the dad.
“But here’s the thing, Dad,” said the son. “I’m just not into farming. I want to go to the city. I want to see the world! Anyway, I know that eventually half of the farm will come to me, and half to my brother. Right?”
“Well, yes,” said the dad. “But that’s alter your mom and I die.”
“Well I’ve got it all worked out. Instead of waiting till you die, you can sell off half the farm, and give me my money now. Then I can make a new start in the city!”
“But son,” said the dad sadly, “while we’re all alive, we all need to work the land together. That’s how we support the family.”
“Come on, Dad! Once I’m gone you’ll have one less mouth to feed. You won’t need so much land. Please?” he pleaded. “You’ll be fine!”
Living the High Life
Well, eventually the dad gave in. He gave half of all he had to his youngest son.
The young man moved away — far away, to a distant land.
- He rented a fancy apartment.
- He bought lots of fancy clothes.
- He started throwing fancy parties and inviting all the fancy people he met.
- He bought expensive food, and lots of wine, and everyone had a great time.
But pretty soon, all the money be brought with him was gone.
Pretty soon he couldn’t pay the rent.
And there he was, far from home, broke, homeless, and all alone.
Longing for Home
“What can I do?” he thought. “I’m so hungry. I need to earn some money so I can buy food.”
So he went to the nearest farmer, and asked for a job.
The farmer said, “You can take care of my pigs. Payday is next Friday.”
So, the young man fed the pigs. Then he sat on the fence and watched them eat.
You know, pig food isn’t the nicest food in the world. But the young man found his tummy was rumbling.
“I’m so hungry I could eat this pig slop!” he said to himself. “And I won’t get any money to buy food for myself for a whole week!”
His tummy rumbled some more, and he thought, “My father’s farm hands have enough to eat, with food left over. Hey! Maybe I could get a job working for my dad!”
But then he thought, “My dad will never take me back, He must be so mad at me for taking half the farm. He probably wishes I was dead!”
The young man was afraid, but he quit his job anyway, and set out for home.
All the way there, mile after mile, he practiced a little speech:
Father, I know I can’t be your son any more, but could you hire me as a servant?
When he was about a mile from home, he looked up. His family farm was on the next hillside.
As he got closer he saw someone standing in front of the house.
Then when he got a bit closer, the person by the house started moving—running toward him!
And when he was much closer still, he saw that the one running toward him was his father!
“Oh no!” he thought. “My dad’s coming! I better practice my speech!”
So he kept repeating,
Father, I know I can’t be your, son, but could you hire me as a servant?
Then his dad was only ten yards away.
“Father!” he called out, “I know I can’t be—“
But then his dad grabbed him in a big hug that picked him up and spun him around. He felt water on his cheeks and realized it was his father’s tears.
“Oh my son!” cried his father, “My son! You’re back! I thought you were dead, but you’re alive! I’m so glad to see you. Don’t ever leave us again. We are going to throw such a big party to welcome you home!”
- I wonder what it was that made the young man want to go off to a new place?
- I wonder how the son felt when his father welcomed him back in love?
- I wonder if it helps you be ready for Easter to know God has that kind of love for you?