Focus on the Father: A four-week series on the prodigal son

This series of services based on the parable of the prodigal son was developed by Rolf Bouma when he was copastor of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was influenced by Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son and Robert Farrar Capon's The Parables of Grace. Bouma also acknowledges contributions by others in churches where he preached this series, including copastors Leonard Vander Zee and Roy Berkenbosch at Eastern Avenue and Paul Brink and Charlotte Larsen of the Ann Arbor (Michigan) Christian Reformed Church.

The sermon excerpts here are meant to give a general direction. Note that the series comes to its most crucial moment in the third week, when the focus is upon the Father. It works very well to divide the sermon into two parts, the first illuminating the gracious character of God, which goes against our intuitions, and the second using Nouwen's insight that our strongest identification with the parable needs to be with the Father, not either of the sons.

The painting The Return of the Prodigal Son is by Rembrandt, and can be found in most collections of Rembrandt's works. Henri Nouwen's book provides an excellent commentary on the painting (see sidebar on p 29).


For additional material from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, click here.

Rolf Bouma ( is a pastor at Campus Chapel Ministries, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Reformed Worship 43 © March 1997 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.