This is a story about spiritual exclusivity. The Pharisees and scribes observed a religious code that demanded ritual cleansing if they associated with people who were deemed to be unclean. So they adopted a policy of avoidance, and for this reason they criticized Jesus for socializing with sinners. Jesus responded to this by means of traditional rabbinical storytelling. A shepherd spends time and energy in searching for a lost sheep, and a woman diligently searches for a lost coin. Both of these make the point that “sinners” are to be found, and not discarded. In a culture where the religious people worked hard at punishing and excluding those who did not conform to social norms, Jesus urges the religious leaders to go in search of those who are lost to them.
This story is just as challenging to us today: the challenge is to find ways of including those who do not conform to our cultural and religious norms. Sometimes this asks us to confront unjust and abusive views and actions with Godly values. Other times this demands a robust engagement where we all learn from one another. The one thing we cannot do is to abandon people we deem to be ‘lost’.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
RefrainRescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Words: Fanny Crosby, 1869; appeared in Songs of Devotion (New York: Biglow & Main, 1870).
Second Sunday after Trinity
32 God’s Gracious Love
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983).
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.