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Tuesday, September 11, 2007
OF GREAT VALUE The God we follow showers us with blessing each day. Through a lost sheep and a lost coin, Jesus teaches about God, who can be trusted to seek us always, pursuing us with steadfast love. God’s intention is to save. God’s people are called to live within this treasure and gift, rejoicing as the faith community grows. Luke 15:1–10 In chapter 14 of Luke, we learn that large crowds were following Jesus to hear him teach. Among them were tax collectors, Pharisees, and scribes. As chapter 15 opens, we hear grumbling among the Pharisees and the scribes: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus responds to their complaint with parables. Imagine the response of the crowd who listens to these stories: Who puts 99 sheep in jeopardy to risk that one might be found? No one who is trying to run a livestock business! Who turns the whole house upside down – lighting a lamp and using precious oil – to search for a small amount of money and then, when it is found, throws a party? No one! But we might hear in these parables how God acts. God can be trusted to seek us and love us. Through these parables, we sense that the flock of sheep and the set of coins were not complete until the lost members were found. The Pharisees and the scribes perhaps understood, in keeping with many in first-century Middle Eastern cultures, that wealth and good fortune were signs of God’s blessing and that poverty was a sign of a person’s sin. Not only does Jesus upset this understanding, in the parables God first is cast in the role of a shepherd, a class of labourers held in low esteem within first-century Jewish culture. Then, even more shockingly, God is cast as a woman, the least powerful group in their culture. No wonder the gospel that Jesus proclaimed was seen as good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). In these parables we can glimpse God’s way, God’s searching love. The Pharisees and the scribes have been shocked by how Jesus seeks out those whom they perceive to be of little value. God, however, is persistent in love for all. The reign of God that Jesus proclaims is an upside-down world where one sheep is worth spending the energy normally reserved for 100, where one coin is worth domestic disruption and expenditure, and where one repentant sinner is cause for rejoicing. Jesus’ parables challenge all who listen to grow in understanding of what it means to be foolish, to be wise, to be lost, and to be found. Who will join in the celebration of God’s mercy? Even when hope is dim, God can be trusted. In the barren land described in Jeremiah 4:11–12, 22–28, a wasteland of the people’s own making, there is little hope. But even in such a place of desolation and among those who have sinned greatly, God – who seeks all who are lost – will be present and will not give up. The psalmist, in Psalm 14, trusts that God will restore God’s people. God will not forget those who are poor and who have been mistreated by those in power. Sin will not have the final word in God’s reign. Paul knows that he has received undeserved mercy, and gives thanks for this blessing in 1 Timothy 1:12–17. The good news for all is that, like a shepherd searching for a lost sheep and a woman a lost coin, God can be trusted to seek, to save, and to love. From Jesus’ teaching, we learn that God’s determination to seek us and to love us is beyond what humankind would consider wise or even rational. Jesus risked all to reach those in need of God’s saving grace. When have you felt most “lost” and most “found”? In what ways might you and your church be as relentlessly loving as God?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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