Pastor’s Post: Fourth Sunday in Lent

Dear members and friends:

This week we have come to the Fourth Sunday in Lent, and are just two weeks from Palm Sunday, March 20, and the beginning of Holy Week. The Gospel reading for this Sunday is arguably the most important, and certainly one of the most well-known of all Jesus’ parables.

Often called the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:1-3a, 11-32) this is probably a misnomer. It is certainly not what Jesus would have called it. For one thing, a lot of people aren’t even sure what the word “prodigal” means. What in the world is a “prodigal son?” As it turns out the word “prodigal” actually means extravagantly wasteful. In the parable the word prodigal refers to the way the younger son squandered the inheritance he had received from his father.

But is that the element of the parable that really demands our attention? Is this really Jesus’ lesson on personal finance and budgeting? Well surely some of us could use some lessons. We are too often prodigal (wasteful) people in a prodigal society, squandering scarce resources God has provided. Consider this. Where would you think most people spend more money, on specialty coffee drinks from Starbucks and the like, or on donations to help the work of agencies who serve the poor and homeless? If I were a betting man (which I am not) my money would be on the specialty coffees!

Credit and debit cards certainly haven’t helped our nation to curb its prodigality. Somewhere I read that people who regularly use credit or debit cards to pay for their day to day expenses spend a lot more than those who use cash. It’s harder to part with a ten spot than to swipe a piece of plastic! And so before we point fingers as the prodigality of the younger son, we might ask how we are being “prodigal?”

But again I ask, is that the element of this parable the really demands our attention? In his outstanding commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Joseph Fitzmyer argues convincingly that the parable is really all about the father and should be called “The Parable of a Father’s Love,” captured so simply and so well in this print by Japanese artist Soichi Watanabe:

In fact the whole of Luke 15 is about the response of God to his beloved lost. In the Parable of the Lost Sheep (15:3-7), God is like the Good Shepherd who goes out to seek the one lost sheep. And Jesus concludes “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who think they need no repentance.” In the Parable of the Lost Coin (15:8-10) God is like the woman who scours the floor of her home seeking the lost coin, and rejoices when it is found, and Jesus concludes “There is more joy among God’s angels over just one sinner who repents,” that is realizes they were lost!
This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 15:11-32) reading is the third parable in this triptych of parables in Luke 15. In the message we will explore this parable and ask how we see ourselves as “Children of the Heavenly Father?”

I hope you will join in the conversation around the parable this Sunday and invite someone to church with you. We all need to know that we are welcome in the Father’s house, and no matter how we have failed and fallen into sin, we always have a place at God’s table of Grace.

God’s blessings on your Lenten journey!
Pastor Joe Hughes



March 20, Psalm Sunday, 9:00 AM

The liturgy begins in the fellowship hall with the blessing of the Palms. We will process into the worship center together for the service of Holy Communion which will include the reading of the Passion according to St. Luke and conclude with the stripping of the altar (usually done on Maundy Thursday).

March 24, Maundy Thursday, 6:00 PM

“In the Night He Was Betrayed” is a special “Agape Meal” Holy Communion written by Pastor Joe for Shepherd of the Valley. The service will be a potluck “Agape Meal” communion service. Worshippers will be asked to bring a dish to share. Everything will be in the fellowship hall, recalling both the Last Supper, the Jewish Passover, and restoring the Lord’s Supper to the dining table as practiced originally by the early church. The entire offering that evening will be giving to a local mission agency that assists the poor, following the example of the early church. Note the special time.

March 25, Good Friday, 7:00 PM

The “Service of Shadows” (Tenebrae) will be in the worship center at 7:00 PM. We gather in silence in the glow of candle light. The Passion according to John is read. After prayers the service concludes in silence.

March 27, Easter Sunday, 9:00 AM — Holy Communion

The festival service of Holy Communion welcomes back the “Alleluia,” the shout of God’s people praising God for the victory over sin and death won through the resurrection of our Lord. Easter Brunch follows the service at 10:30 AM.

April 17, 50th Anniversary Celebration

  • 9:00 AM — Holy Communion
  • 10:30 AM — Catered Brunch

RSVPs now being accepted, contact the church office.

WRITTEN BY: cullylarson