Summary: Jesus would probably find it very difficult today to find a church willing to have him as their pastor.
Sermon for Luke 15:1-10
September 16, 2007
Jesus would probably find it very difficult today to find a church willing to have him as their pastor. You see, Jesus didn’t fit in the mold of what the church people (the Scribes and Pharisees) thought a religious leader should look like, or act like. Jesus didn’t wear all the priestly garb. He walked around in sandals with no collar. He didn’t sit in his ivory tower giving lectures praising them when they were right, or even scolding them when they were wrong.
Instead much of the time, Jesus made his home among the everyday people and simply told them parables—short stories that challenged their minds and made them think about their lives, their relationship with God and other human beings. Today Jesus challenges their/challenges our understanding of God’s unlimited love and forgiveness with two very simple stories—the lost sheep and a lost coin.
They are not stories about sheep herding and good housekeeping. These are two stories combined with our readings that teach about God’s amazing grace. Today’s lessons are about grace and grace only.
There is in them not one single note of earning or merit, not one breath about the rewarding the rewardable, correcting the correctable, or improving the improvable. There is only the gracious, saving determination of the shepherd, the woman—God to save the lost and raise the dead.
And while this should seem like extremely good news, we sometimes, really most of the times don’t buy it.
We like the Pharisees and Scribes feel there must be something we, more specifically there must be something others must do to gain God’s favor, and the readings, Jesus in particular tells us No! Not a single thing!
Let’s carry forward last week’s theme of not having God’s eyesight and not having all the answers by starting out today again asking what if. What if you died today and ended up at the pearly gates of heaven? There you are greeted by King David of the Old Testament. The author of Psalm 51 we just read. I think we might be very pleased with our reception—don’t you? At least we would think we are at the right place.
However, what if you died today and ended up at the pearly gates of heaven? There you are greeting by Adolph Hitler and Saddom Hussein? First you might wonder if your at the right place, and if you where, you might question the justice of God. How in the world did these evil scoundrels get to the same place as me—as David?
Yet if you think about it…wasn’t it David….author of Psalm 51…..that acted like an evil scoundrel in committing adultery and then having the husband killed? Didn’t I a few years back act like an evil scoundrel when I………well I won’t go into that?
Are there degrees of sinners? Like a scale or graph? Where here’s the lowest with Hitler and Sadam. Here’s the top of heap with maybe David or Mother Teresa? After all, David did write that beautiful prayer of repentance. And where is the cut off? Where do I fall in? Somewhere in the middle? Is that high enough? Or is it too low?
Yet what we see in today’s readings is God’s Amazing Grace is not limited to our understanding of forgiveness.
Sure we want to believe that God forgives me, and maybe even you, cause I know you a little, but to forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it, well that’s just not right—say the Pharisees and Scribes.
In the Exodus story we hear God refer to his people as “stiff-necked” or stubborn. It says, “God wrath burns hot,” or simple put God is quite angry. So much so, that God actually refers to them as Moses’ people for a good reason.
God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery and is leading them to a better life, but they begin to worship other things—this golden calf—forgetting everything the Lord has done for them and promises to do. In my opinion they should be punished.
Moses begs the Lord and reminds God these are your people. Did you set them free to destroy them? And text says, God changed his mind.
What is interesting, if you read on in Exodus you would learn that even though God changed his mind, when Moses came down from the mountain he did not have that same understanding of forgiveness. Moses slams the commandments on the rocks, breaking them into little pieces, and then ordered the troops to kill brother, friends, and neighbors—3000 were killed that day. I guess Moses too felt they had it coming.
Sort of the same view the Pharisees and Scribes, sort of the same view I sometimes entertain. Sure God can forgive me, I am a Christian, I confess my sins, I’m trying, these people, those people are still living in sin—they deserve God’s wrath.