Summary: Ministry to the Church
Life has taught us to look for the superstars. When we go to the movies, we look for the stars: Denzel Washingtons, the Tom Hanks, the Haley Berrys, the Danny Glovers, and the Samuel Jacksons. We do not look for the lighting director of the movie Forest Gump or the costume director of the movie Soul Food; because the lighting director and the costume director are unimportant. We know and we look for the stars. In sports, we watch the David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tiger Woods, Emmitt Smith, Randy Moss, Cynthia Cooper, Ken Griffey, Jr., Greg Maddux, and Tim Duncan. When we want to learn gardening and cooking we watch Martha Stewart. When we want friendly advise we ask Opra. We do not even pay attention to those on the sideline, the benchwarmers, the second teamers or even the support staff because for us they are extras.
This tendency to look for the superstars even affects the way we read Scripture. We see Abraham, Moses, and David of the Old Testament and Peter, John, James, and Paul of the New Testament because they are the superstars of Scriptures. The name of the disciple who brought that little boy's lunch to Jesus escapes us because we do not focus on the forgotten nine disciples. For their names fill trivial books rather than the books of our memory. We need to begin seeing the extras, the certain men in our neighborhoods, the certain women in our communities, those who will never see their names in lights, those in the shadows of life, those behind the scene because as Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Our treatment of the extras matters with Jesus. Furthermore, no matter how we strive to be numbered with the superstars, most of us will be numbered with the extras, the ordinary, the common, the average, and the regular. Thank God, that Jesus is accessible to the Extras. Thank God, that Jesus is concern about the Extras. Thank God, that Jesus can and will use those we consider supporting cast members for the glory of His Kingdom. There have been and will always be more Extras than Superstars. In our churches today there are more Extras in the pews than Superstars in the pulpit.
This text has a word for those of us who are Extras. I know the main point of this parable of Jesus found in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke is to explain why Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. To teach us that the one that is lost is just as important as the ones that are found. However, we find a description of the Church in these modern times which is most helpful. We find the answer to the question, "What should the Church look like today?" We can find the answer in the ninety and nine in the wilderness. For a moment look past the Robinsons and see the Roses, look past the Woods and see the caddie, look past the kings and see the servants, look past the president, the chairpersons, and the directors and see the dutiful, the faithful, the reliable. Look past the one and see the ninety and nine.
First, we see them in the wilderness. A wilderness is a dangerous place, unlike a fenced pasture. There are so many uncertainties in the wilderness. There is no sense of security, only danger, no peace, only chaos. The Church today finds itself in a wilderness. A wilderness containing large trees of tradition that is casting long shadows of doubt over authority. A wilderness containing strange sounds of confusion over authority, glimmers of hope flickering light in the darkness, vines of secular influences interwoven into the sacred. A wilderness containing creepy crawling iniquities all around and wild animalistic behaviors threatening to destroy our sanity. The Master has left the Church in this context. Furthermore, the return of the Master is uncertain and the time seems far spent.
The ninety and nine feels the pressure of existing in the wilderness, to remain in the world but not of the world. In addition, the wilderness is a desolate place. Families are not close physically or spiritually. Many churches do not fellowship with other churches. The old folks sung a song with great meaning and power, time has made a change. One particular line in the song is, people don't love like they used to love. One clear indication that the Church is in a wilderness is overwhelming feeling of fear that have surpassed the feeling of love that flows from heart to heart and from breast to breast. As the Church tabernacles in this wilderness, we must be careful not to become divided among ourselves and become too self-reliant, being ever mindful that we are one body with many members. The ninety and nine were in the wilderness left alone by the Shepherd, the one who provided their every need who has now left in order to seek the one that was lost. Yet, they stayed together until his return.