Hymnologists say the first hymn in a hymnal tells a lot about the rest of the book. Our last hymnal began with "Holy, Holy, Holy," a marvelous hymn we have retained, but it is a relic of the time when we thought we were going to be a high church.
We are not. We're just not comfortable with big city church ways. The hymnal that rests in the pews of our small country church has this for an opener:
What is this place where we are meeting? Only a house, the earth its floor, walls and a roof sheltering people, windows for light, an open door.
I am so happy to see you this morning. How are you? (children may respond)
Let's play a game I call “Lost and Found.” Okay? (children respond)
(presenter role plays) Uh, oh, I lost something for today's message. Hmm, I wonder where it could be. It's a box like this. (shows approximate dimensions) (instruct the children to look around the immediate area) (then presenter or child finds it)
Since the Fourth Sunday in Lent has been historically identified as Laetare (Rejoicing Sunday), it is most appropriate that the lessons collectively testify to a theme for which we can rejoice — God saves us by his grace!
In this familiar and well-loved story of the Prodigal Son, I often wonder what happened to the mother of the family. She's totally ignored. So are any daughters. It seems like a completely male stronghold. So much so that I wonder whether perhaps the mother had died some years previously, and that was the cause of much of the unhappiness displayed by both the father and the sons. Or whether the father was such a domineering character that his wife played no real part in family life, but simply bowed her head in compliance with all his wishes, no matter how extreme they were.