Monday, June 3, 2013

Lost and Found

Luke 15:1-10  Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."  So he told them this parable:  "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.   "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'  Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

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.

Rescue 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.

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