Weekly Church Service – Pentecost 14: 15 September 2019

I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10

Undaunted you seek the lost, O God,
exultant you bring home the found:
touch our hearts with grateful wonder
at the tenderness of your forbearing love; grant us delight in the mercy that has found us; and bring all to rejoice at the feast of forgiven sinners. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
  • Psalm 14
  • 1 Tim 1
  • Luke 15:1-10

next week

  • Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
  • Psalm 79:1-9
  • 1 Tim 2:1-10
  • Luke 16:1-13

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

“Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep . . . because I have found the coin that I lost . . . because your brother was lost and has been found.”

The three “parables of the lost” in chapter 15 are unique to Luke’s Gospel. Luke wrote his Gospel at a time when the Christian community was embroiled in a great controversy: many Jewish Christians were indignant that Gentiles should be welcomed into the Church without first embracing the traditions and laws of Judaism.

In these three parables, we enter God’s world: God communicates the depth of his love in his unconditional and complete forgiveness; his mercy breaks through and demolishes all human restrictions. The Pharisees could not imagine a God who actually sought out men and women, a God who is more merciful in his judgments than we are, a God who never gives up hope for a sinner.

Today’s Gospel reading of chapter 15 includes three parables: 
The parable of the lost sheep: Shepherding demanded toughness and courage – it was not a job for the weak and fearful. Responsible for every sheep in his charge, a shepherd was expected to fight off everything from wild animals to armed poachers. Shepherds often had to negotiate the rugged terrain of the wilderness to rescue a lost sheep. Like the responsible shepherd, God does whatever is necessary to seek out and bring back to his loving providence every lost soul.
The parable of the lost coin: Finding a small silver coin in a dark, dusty, dirt- floored Judean house was nearly impossible, but so great was the value of any coin to the poor that a woman would turn her poor hovel inside out in search of such a lost treasure. So great is the value of every soul in the sight of God that he, too, goes to whatever lengths necessary to find and bring back the lost.
The parable of prodigal son: This is probably the most inaccurately titled story in all of literature. Jesus’ tale is really about the great love of the prodigal’s father, who forgives his son and joyfully welcomes him home even before the son can bring himself to ask. The father’s joy stands in sharp contrast to the prodigal son’s brother, who cannot even bring himself to call the prodigal his “brother” – in confronting his father, he angrily refers to the brother as “this son of yours.” But the father is a model of joyful reconciliation that Jesus calls his disciples to seek in all relationships.

What is striking in the three stories is the joy experienced by the shepherd who finds the lost lamb, the woman who recovers the missing coin, the father who welcomes home his wayward son.

The most extraordinary element of Jesus’ teaching is the revelation of a God who loves each and every one of us uniquely and individually, as a parent loves his/her most beloved child. God’s love for us is eternally forgiving, constantly inviting, never limited or conditional.

Our God is a God of inclusion – yet we sometimes make him a God of exclusion, excluding from our own presence those we deem as unworthy or unfaithful to be included among “God’s people.”

To forgive as Christ forgives is impossible to do on our own: It calls for a spirit of humility, a generosity, a spirit of compassion that is beyond most of us. But we are not called by Christ to create forgiveness on our own. God has already forgiven, we are being asked to participate in God’s gift of forgiveness that surrounds every one of us.

Grace is the experience of God’s complete and unconditional love in our lives. Sometimesweexperiencegraceinthesupportandloveofgenerousfamily and friends — and sometimes we are the agents of such grace, giving and doing whatever is necessary for the good of another, refusing to give up our search to find the lost and bring back those from whom we have been separated. © Connections/MediaWorks

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