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Summary: God throws a party in heaven when a sinner repents.

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99 Sheep and a Pocket Full of Pennies

Luke 15:1-10

September 16, 2007

I love John Wayne movies. Last year Toni gave me a set of DVDs for Christmas that included “Flying Tigers,” “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” “The Fighting Kentuckian,” “In Old California,” and “North to Alaska.” I also have “The Undefeated” which starred Wayne and Rock Hudson.

I made what I consider a great purchase a couple of weeks ago. I was browsing the movie bin at Wal-Mart and found a four DVD set of John Wayne movies for five bucks. Twenty movies in all…and they only cost me five bucks. Never mind that they were all made back in the thirties and the acting back then really wasn’t very good. This was John Wayne. The set of DVDs did contain “McClintock” which was a pretty good movie and worth the money by itself. A week before that, I spent five bucks on one John Wayne movie – “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” That was a great show. It starred, in addition to Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, and Strother Martin.

One of the movies on my new DVD is “The Angel and the Bad Man.” John Wayne, the hero of course, get shot, falls off his horse, and is still able to hit a bad guy on a galloping horse with one shot from his pistol. That sort of fits our stereotyped picture of the old west, but reality was much different. Pistols back then, were not very accurate unless you were really close.

Now, I’ve never been shot, but I bet it hurts. If you are in pain, I doubt that you have much of a chance to hit the broad side of a barn with a pistol, let alone a man on a galloping horse at seventy-five yards.

But there is a whole lot of stuff in movies that doesn’t happen in real life. A few years ago, Stephen Segal starred in “Fire Down Under.” He had a showdown with the bad guys at a gas station. Of course, there was gasoline spilling out all over the ground until the villain was standing in it. He was smoking a cigarette which Segal shot out of his hand. It landed in the pool of gasoline and it exploded in a huge fireball. In reality, it doesn’t work that way.

An expert the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was engaged in some arson research. So many times, arson fires are explained as accidents. You know, a suspect will claim that his girlfriend was smoking a cigarette when he accidentally threw gas on her and she exploded. So, researchers at ATF started throwing lighted cigarettes into cans of gas. Guess what. They didn’t explode.

The researchers, in an article published in February of this year, speculate that perhaps the layer of ash on the cigarette prevents ignition, or possibly gasoline fumes quite naturally move away from the hottest part of the cigarette. They don’t really know. Of course, this is not something for you to try at home to see if you can find your own answers. If there are any children listening, this is still incredibly dangerous, so do not try it.

All sorts of things happen in movies that don’t happen in real life. For example, if you believed the movies, you would think that:

• It is always possible to find a parking space right in front of the building you want to visit.

• There is never a traffic jam in Manhattan and police can always reach crime scenes quickly and easily.

• When in Paris, it doesn’t matter where you are because you can see the Eiffel Tower from any window in the city.

• Not very good looking girls always become beautiful just by taking off their glasses and letting their hair down.

• It is possible for any of us to land a 747 as long as someone is in the control tower to talk us through it.

• CSI technicians are always able to get DNA matches in about an hour.

When Toni and I watch a movie together and see something incredible happen, one of us will usually say to the other, “How can they do that?” The answer is always, “Honey, it’s the movies.”

All of this brings us around to the gospel reading because sometimes, things happen in the Bible that seem to be fantastic. Some times, things happen in the Bible that strain our imagination. I think that the two parables in the lesson for today force us to think outside the box when it comes to the true focus of Jesus.

One of the charges that was leveled against Jesus was that he welcomed sinners and ate with them. Jesus told his accusers that people who are not sick have no need of a doctor. He came to the sick ones, the outcast ones, the misunderstood and misunderstanding ones, the ones on the outside, the ones who couldn’t get a fair shake, the ones who just didn’t get it, and the ones who had trouble with this whole God thing. He came to heal those who were ill and preach to those who were sick.

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