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Adventure in Living Through the Spirit
Session 4: Estrangement and Forgiveness
Interactive Response Version

Welcome to Friends in Christ's interactive course, Adventure in Living through the Spirit. This course is presently being held at Greenbelt Middle School. If you can attend these classes, you will benefit from the interaction among those who attend. If you are unable to attend in person, then this interactive web site will hopefully give you a sense of the course and the spiritual potential it can open for you.

If you have not already done so, please review the Introduction and Mind and Heart sections of the curriculum, and also read our piece on Using the Bible.

Often when we focus too much on our own agenda, we become separated from the love of God and other people. Being self-centered is ultimately lonely. God is always joyfully welcoming us back into fellowship and love.

The parable of the prodigal son and his brother is probably the most beloved of all of Jesus' parables. For many, this story expresses most completely Jesus' teachings about how human conduct isolates us from God and each other, and how God continually invites us to return into loving fellowship. The heart of the Gospel's Good News is that God is constantly coming to us, urging us to turn from separation and to embrace love and compassion. Jesus captures this message poignantly in this story, by drawing the characters (the younger brother, the older brother and the father) in an exaggerated form to clarify the point.

There is always a difficulty in listening or reading a story we know well. Often, we are not as attentive and open as we could be. We know how the story goes, so we may relax a bit. In this course, we are attempting to hear God speak directly and personally to each of us through reading Scripture. This requires us to be as awake as possible to the moving of mind and heart which the Scripture provokes. So, let us try to hear (read) this story with new ears, as if we have never heard it before. Be open to its power.

Read Luke 15:11-32

Now that you have looked at this story with new eyes and ears, what thoughts, memories and feelings are evoked in you? Write your thoughts below.

As you think about each character, what reactions do you have? For the younger son? For the father? For the older son? Write your reactions below.

In this parable, we often tend to focus on the younger son's story. His actions and their consequences are dramatic. But the parable is really about both sons. Although each son manifests his spiritual problem in a different manner, both sons actually have the same problem. That problem is self centeredness. In his own way, each desires to be free to control his own destiny. Each puts his self will before others. The younger son's desires are obvious. He seeks money and a far away place to live a free life of pleasure. His actions clearly remove him from the fellowship with his father. The disastrous consequences provoked by his self centered course causes him to repent and return home. The spiritual problem of the older son is not quite as clear. He has good qualities; he is responsible, industrious and apparently obedient. However, if we look more carefully, we see that he too desires to be free and in control of his destiny. The older son's method to this control is to earn it through hard work. He then expects his father to reward him. The self centered courses of both sons has a price: separation from the father. The younger son is separated by miles. The older son, while physically close, is emotionally as distant from the father. Due to the tragic turn of events, the younger son repents. We do not know if the older son repents. The father's actions are also significant. He allows each son to follow his desired course. Yet his constant desire is for his sons to return to fellowship with him and the family. He welcomes the younger son back without recriminations. He actively pleads for the older son to return to the family' restored unity. His love and concern never ceases. Jesus is teaching us about this essential nature of God: unceasing love and forgiveness.

Describe a time when you, like the younger son, pursued a self-centered course of action which separated you from others who cared for you.

Describe a time when you, like the older son, pursued a judgmental course of action which separated you from others and from a community of love.

Describe an experience of forgiveness. How did this experience bring you closer to others?

Let us try again a form of the Jesus Prayer we introduced last session. Sit comfortably and in a relaxed manner. Repeat aloud or silently the phrase: @quot;Lord have mercy.@quot; Slowly let these words flow slowly over your consciousness. Continue this for ten minutes.

If you would like Bill Samuel and/or John Smallwood of the Friends in Christ Core Ministry Team to respond to the thoughts you have written above, please give us your name and email address (and what further information you choose) and submit it using the Submit button below. If not, we suggest you print it for your own use using the print function of your browser. (Our tests indicate you should not try to email it to yourself using the Send Page function of your browser, as you will get only the preprinted information, not what you've written.) If you choose not to send us what you've written, but would still like to be in touch with us, please communicate with us using our Feedback form.

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Document last modified on Saturday, 27-Dec-2003 09:34:23 EST