9-15-13, Luke 15:1-10
Today’s readings speak of being lost in sin and being found in mercy. Exodus and I Timothy relate historical/theological accounts of actual persons in our faith history who once turned against God’s will but who were folded back into grace. The Timothy and Luke passages also address the issue of how God is the one seeks the lost and who joyfully exercises the power to save. Both look to Jesus as the Savior of the lost. The parables in Luke teach us about God’s relentless pursuit to find us when we are lost.
Being lost can be a terrible thing especially for young people, when they stray away from their family and friends. Being alone, lost, and afraid are emotions that would stress even the bravest of people. Being lost is something that we all try our best to keep from happening, because of what may occur in the process.
We know that wherever Jesus traveled crowds followed him, because of his teachings and miracles. I would venture to say that these crowds also felt a genuine love and concern that were not felt from any other of the so-called prophets or religious leaders of the time. Jesus was different from anyone else they had seen before. Thus, the crowds wanted to be around him.
The reading begins with the tax collectors and sinners coming near to him. Additionally the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling that Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners. According to the customs then to eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners was especially offensive in Israel, where food laws separated the religiously proper from sinners. Tax collectors were suspect not only for collaborating with foreign powers but also for dishonesty.
Those designated as “sinners” by the Pharisees would have included not only persons who broke the moral laws, but also those who did not maintain the ritual purity practiced by the Pharisees. Those two groups of people would have considered themselves lost from the established church at that time, and the established church would have thought the same way as well. Thus the religious leaders were upset that these “people” would be welcomed by and eating with Jesus.
In the Luke reading we are confronted by two parables about something being lost and the efforts to find them. The two parables were about a shepherd and a woman both of whom were held in low esteem in Jesus’ day. First, Jesus’ religious brothers disapprove of his companions and then Jesus uses two offensive images, shepherds and women to describe God’s action in regards to the lost. God is like the shepherd and the woman, the Lord God finds the lost and then rejoices in that finding.
Jesus goes on to tell them about things that were lost and then were found and how a celebration was held when that happened. I would like to briefly discuss a couple of points about this passage that I hadn’t thought about before. #1: What was lost was once part of the entire group. #2: For me the most important part of this passage was about the REJOICING that went on when things that were lost were found.
#1: The two items in these parables that were lost were a sheep and a coin. What we may often miss is that these things were once part of the shepherd’s flock and the woman’s ten coins, a part of the larger body before being lost. They weren’t just some stray-orphan type object floating out there all alone in the world. They were once part of something, they had an identity, they had roots so to speak. In both cases the owner expends great effort to recover the once lost possessions.
Relating this point to us today, those who are disconnected from the relationship that God would want them to have through Jesus Christ aren’t just some stray-orphan type people either. Those who may consider themselves lost were once in a relationship with God. Like the sheep and the coin that were being looked for, God is seeking us, wanting us to return to a loving relationship with God-self. When we look at our situation in this way, it makes it easier to return.
#2: As I mentioned before, the most important part of this passage for me was the part of REJOICING that went on when the things that had been lost, were found. Listen to some of the verses from this passage and how the theme “Rejoice with me” occurs often.
When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” (Jesus) Just so, I tell, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance . . . When she (the woman) has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” (Jesus) Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
The shepherd and the woman first call their friends and neighbors. They want their friends and neighbors to REJOICE WITH THEM! When something good happens in life you want to share the good news with someone else. You don’t want to keep it to your self; you want the world to know. The shepherd and woman said “Rejoice with me.”
In both parables Jesus takes this rejoicing to a higher plane by his concluding comments. He said that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Joy-----in heaven and in the presence God’s angels over one sinner who repents!
Thus there is rejoicing in heaven when the lost are found or come back into a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Joy and rejoicing over one sinner who repents. Do we sometimes miss the importance of the mission and ministry that we and others have been called to do? Do we sometimes think that living a life that is open to the “so-called sinners and tax collector types” that are in our midst is not worth our effort, because who cares about one lowly sinner?
God cares about one lowly sinner, and God and God’s angels rejoice when they repent, and there is in joy in heaven when that happens. God cared so much about one lowly sinner that God gave Jesus as a sacrifice so that those believe can have all of their sins forgiven and have the gift of eternal life. Those who repent will once again be in a loving relationship with God. When this happens the lost are found, and come back to where God intended them to all along. Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension made all of this possible. Because of Jesus’ actions God’s grace and mercy are available to all who repent.
May we be open to being a witness of God’s grace, love, and mercy to those who are lost. We are witnesses by how we think, live, and act on a daily basis whether as an individual, a family, or a community. When this happens, we can call our friends and neighbors and ask them to rejoice with us. Just one sinner who repents is a cause for celebration, and then there is joy in heaven. Amen!
Copyright © 2013 Vernon T. Jones Alpena, MI All Rights Reserved