We are going to do something different this morning. You are going to read a story. You will explore it on your own. You will then discuss what you have explored with your group.
Read the story. Don’t rush it. Take your time. Try immersing yourself in the world of the story.
The Parable of the Lost Son
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”
As yourself these questions (and reflect on them):
- Why do you think the younger son wanted to leave home? Do you think he was truly sorry when he came back?
- Did the older son have the right to be upset and angry?
- What do you think of the father’s action toward his younger son? What would you have done?
- Who do you identify with the most in the story? The least?
Let’s reflect on what you just did. You read a random story. You encountered three characters whom you didn’t know anything about. You didn’t even know their names. You didn’t only read the story, but you also tried putting yourself in the shoes of each character.
Now, how were you able to put yourself in their shoes? What allowed you to think more deeply about their actions and who they were as people?
You used your IMAGINATION. You tried understanding these people with your imagination. I’m sure you did it wonderfully.
Last night, we reflected on how we can build our empathy. How we can learn to care again. We learned it begins with developing our CURIOSITY. When we are curious about others, we become interested. When we are interested, we can move past our indifference. But it doesn’t stop there.
You interest will lead you to another person who is different than you. You may have similar interests. But chances are, you are more likely to gravitate towards someone who is different from you. They will think, talk, dress, and act different than you. They may do things that you don’t quite get at times. What do you do then? You use your imagination. You enter into their world.
Imagination is a powerful tool when it comes to building empathy. Curiosity and imagination make great partners. Imagination takes us beyond ourselves to places we never though possible. Imagination reveals to us possibilities that we never thought of before.
Like curiosity, imagination is something that we need to practice. We often suffer from a lack of imagination. We don’t know how to ask ourselves, “What IF…” We tend to simply stop at “What IS”. Just what we see in front of us. We stop with ourselves. No wonder our life often feels so dull. Our imagination has to be activated (and developed).
One of the best ways to do that is through FICTION. By engaging with stories and characters. It can be through books, movies, artworks, plays—you name it. Some of you like reading manga. That’s good too. Indulging in fiction actively works your imagination. Fiction presents worlds, characters, and scenarios that are so different from what we know, and challenges us to come to a deeper understanding of them.
The story you read today isn’t a random story. It is the parable of the prodigal son, in Luke. Jesus told this parable.
When Jesus taught, he didn’t talk about theories. He didn’t give you concepts and equations to memorize. He often told stories. Totally fictional, but still based in the real world.
Why did he do that? Jesus wanted to engage people’s imagination. He wanted them to step into the shoes of those who were different from them. Jesus wanted them to move past the surface and come to their own understanding. Stories are usually the best way to do that. They stick with you forever.
You were able to understand all three characters in the parable. You may not have agreed with what they did, but you still were able to understand why they might have done that. They lived in a different world and context than you. Yet you were able to related to them in some way. Why is that?
Beneath the differences we see on the surface, we are all human. Imagination helps us see what it is that connects us together. The real, human experience that we all share. Desire to be our own person. Joy. Loneliness. Anger; Jealousy. How do you think I prepare my messages each week? I enter into your experience that I can also identify with.
The parable that Jesus told is very much about having empathy. It challenges you to understand everyone in the story. Even those who may seem unforgivable to us. Who was the most empathetic person in the story? The father. The person who seemed most foolish in their actions. Both the younger son and the older son couldn’t see beyond themselves and their needs. But their father understood them. He understood how they felt. Because he understood them, he was able to say and do what he did. Jesus conveys this to us through a simple story.
Differences you see are never an indication that you can’t connect with the other person. Don’t get stuck on the surface. Go deeper and find the common ground on which you can stand together.
We have students from both KSM and ESM Hi-C here. Some of us are of different backgrounds.
You see that we are all different. But don’t let that lead you to dismiss the other person. Let your imagination help you enter into that person’s world. You will be able to connect on a deeper level. Someone once said: “It doesn’t matter who you are or who I am, if your tooth aches or mine, it’s still the same pain.” Feelings are what links us together. We are more similar than we think.
Exercise your curiosity. But more importantly, let your imagination come alive. You will be preparing your skits after this. Work together and understand each other. Never stop wondering. Be a lifelong learner of people.
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