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Summary: A sermon that explains what to expect in the members of a congregation and what to expect from the Shepherd.

September 26, 2004 Luke 15:1-10

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

A Sheep is a Sheep. A Shepherd is a Shepherd.

Dear faithful friends in Christ,

One of the more difficult aspects of Christianity is to remain a member of the same congregation for five, ten, or even twenty five years. Why? Because you get to know the people that you are worshiping with - you get to know them very well - almost too well. For instance, the organist knows when to get up and get ready to play approximately two minutes before I say “amen.” My sermons that maybe were new and refreshing to you may be more predictable to you now that you’ve heard them for over four years. You know what my mannerisms and style are - and it becomes old hat. When you look in the crowd - you might look at someone a few rows away and think, “I remember when he was verbally abusive to his wife.” Or if you veer off to your right, you might see a lady whom you know became pregnant before she was married. Your mind might think back to a statement that was made to you in a voter’s meeting which forever makes you think of someone as a hothead or a just plain jerk. You realize that these people you are worshiping with are not as spiritual as you would picture Christians should be. So you start to think to yourself, “I wonder if this church is really for me. I need to find a stronger congregation - a different approach to God’s Word - a congregation of people that are more spiritual - that can help me to grow more.”

This kind of attitude reminds me of how the Pharisees and the Sadducees approached Jesus. God’s Word for today says, Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” When the Pharisees saw Jesus continually eating (present verb indicates ongoing and continued action) with tax collectors and sinners - this was offensive to them. Tax collectors were known to extract more money than they were supposed to from the Jews - it was in fact a legalized form of extortion. Most of them were crooked. Knowing the background of these “sinners”, it caused the Pharisees and teachers of the law to “mutter” about this “congregation” that Jesus had joined around Himself. What I wonder is what these tax collectors and Pharisees were doing there in the first place? They didn’t come to be a part of the congregation. They only came to judge and find things wrong with Jesus - basing their judgments on the PAST of Jesus’ followers. Do you see the basic difference between the tax collectors and the Pharisees? One group came to hear, the other came to judge.

It’s easy to come to worship with the attitude of the Pharisee. It’s easy to find fault with people in the crowd and wonder to yourself - “what are these people doing here?” I know some people have left services disgruntled because a child was crying or the music wasn’t quite to their liking or they didn’t get what they were expecting out of it. If the message isn’t emotional enough or the people aren’t more enthusiastic - they leave disappointed. They may even think to themselves, “that congregation was dead.” Think about it though. What kind of a world are you living in - if you expect to come into a worship service and expect everyone to gaze at the pastor with undivided attention - the children all prim and proper and never crying - and all singing energetically in tune?

As Christians, we realize that we are not a perfect congregation - most of us don’t expect that. Yet the problem we even have as Christians - is when we do get to know each other - we see the ugly side. It never ceases to amaze me that people who worship together and get to know each other - Christians - allow Satan to grab hold of their tongues and their attitudes and start looking down on and despising the very people that they are supposed to be praying for and supporting. Instead of realizing that we all come here as sinners needing the grace of God - we despise each other because of our weaknesses. We hold grudges and look down on each other because a fellow member has a problem with his temper, her tongue, or her choice of clothing.

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