Summary: A sermon about Jesus' love for sinners.
"Look Who Jesus Hangs Out With"
Have you ever felt lost?
All of us, some days feel more lost than found, more wrong than right.
Perhaps we have acted like unthinking sheep and wandered off.
Maybe we have felt like a person who doesn't understand the questions on a math test, when everyone else seems to have figured them out.
So many things make us feel lost:
*The sudden loss of a job
* Debts we wonder if we will ever be able to pay
* A broken marriage
* The loss of someone we love
Sometimes we feel lost when we lose our patience, our sense of humor, our integrity, our purpose.
And it's been suggested-- and I believe it--that this lost feeling is the longing we have for God's grace--it's ingrained in every human--whether we know it or not.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus tells two parables.
And the context for these parables or the reason Jesus tells them is because "All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him."
And the Pharisees and legal experts were disgusted by this.
They grumbled to one another: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
It's interesting how, in the Gospels, Jesus spends so much time eating, drinking, talking, teaching, walking, fishing, and hanging out with folks who the Pharisees and legal experts call: "sinners."
We might ask ourselves, "What is a Pharisee?"
Pharisees were the leading Jewish religious sect of Jesus' time.
They believed in following the letter of the Law.
The word "Pharisee" itself comes from the Hebrew verb for "separate."
And so the Pharisees sought to separate themselves from the social outcasts.
And in their minds, Jesus must do the same if He is going to "get" to hang out with them.
But Jesus is the friend of whoever will have Him.
It just so happens this turns out to be the social outcasts, the marginalized, the lost, the lonely.
These are the folks who become Jesus' disciples.
These are the folks who flock to Jesus.
These are the "tax collectors and sinners" that Jesus welcomes and eats with.
These are the people that the Pharisees are grumbling about.
What if, we, good church-going folks of today were to see Jesus hosting a dinner party where He invites drug dealers, pimps, pornographers, muggers, thieves, sex traffickers, gang leaders, terrorists, unfaithful spouses, cheating tax payers, child abusers, computer hackers, con artists, crooked politicians, white supremists and greedy, reckless Wall Street Bankers?
Would we mumble and grumble?
Is this a guy we would want to hang out with as well?
Now to be sure, the Pharisees and other religious leaders were invited to Jesus' parties as well.
The only problem was that they wouldn't stay or even go in if these other "low life's" were there.
They kept themselves out.
What would we do?
In verse two, when the grumblers say: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them"...
...the word used for "welcomes" literally means "hosts."
In other words Jesus is the host of sinners.
Which means Jesus chooses these folks to be His friends.
Jesus seeks them out.
Jesus invites them to be with Him.
Jesus chooses to hang out with the misfits, the cast-aways.
In Luke 19:10 Jesus declares: "The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost."
So, in the first parable, Jesus likens Himself to a shepherd who goes searching for a lost sheep until He finds it.
And even though Israel's history is full of references to God as a "shepherd", by the time of the 1st Century--when Jesus was telling this parable--shepherds were not very highly thought of.
They had gotten a bad reputation as being thieves and trespassers.
Most of them were very poor and their occupation as shepherds was dirty, backbreaking work.
So an unspoken message in this parable is that Jesus is one of the outcastes Himself.
God came to earth as a homeless outcast, a person living on the margins--a reject of society.
Have you ever felt like an outcaste?
I have many times.
Ever been bullied?
Ever been left out of a conversation?
Ever been the only one of your friends that wasn't invited to a party?
And as an adult, have you ever felt like you weren't as successful as you should be or thought you would be?
Ever compare yourself to someone else and found yourself wanting?
Have you ever tried to make friends with someone who won't give you the time of day?
Jesus stands in solidarity with the lost of the world--which, even if the Pharisees don't realize it--includes them!!!
So Jesus compares Himself to a lowly shepherd who searches for a lost sheep until it is found and then is so full of joy that He throws a party to celebrate the one He found.