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September 8, 2013 - Luke 15.1-10

“More God Than We Want”

Luke 15.1-10

September 8, 2013

 

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4“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? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And 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.’ 7Just 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. 8“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? 9When 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.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

 

Andy Moore is an old friend of mine.  I have been thinking about him a lot this week since he lost his Mom.  We grew up in the same neighborhood and we used to play Hide and Seek.  He was really good at it.  Sometimes when playing in the woods behind my house, he would hide so well, we couldn’t find him.  We would call out “we give up.”  Andy would get angry at us and come out of his hiding place and say “It’s called Hide and Seek, not hide and give up.”

 

Jesus tells some stories about people looking for things.  The titles are the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.  But these are the titles we gave them, not Jesus.  In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus is criticized for not only “receiving” sinners but also going and seeking out sinners to eat and drink with.  In response Jesus tells three of the most beloved of his parables – the story of the shepherd who searches and finds the one lost sheep, the woman who searches and finds the one lost coin, the father who throws a homecoming party for the one lost boy. Get it? God is just like that. The love of God is the sort of love that never calls off the search for the lost. God seeks, searches, and saves until God finds.  No place we wander is beyond the loving reach of God.

 

Sometimes we have a hard time understanding these parables.

 

Look at what Modernity has done to us.  God becomes this “vapor”…

 

Bette Midler’s “From a Distance.”  It’s a nice sentiment, except that it’s wrong.

 

God doesn’t watch us from a distance.  God is right here.  That is what omnipresence means.

 

The titles of the parables are even wrong.  It is not about coins or sheep – they can’t repent.

 

Heaven rejoices when a lost “sheep” or “coin” is found.  Illogical.  Logic is a human invention after all – God is far beyond logic.

 

     I think it is important to note that in each of these parables people go to extraordinary lengths to retrieve that which was lost.  It isn’t that the shepherd went out and searched for the one lost sheep – the shepherd abandoned the 99 sheep and searched for the lost sheep until he found it. The parable does not say that the shepherd took reasonable steps to search for the sheep and then, when he failed to find the sheep, called off the search. The parable says the shepherd searched until he found the sheep. The same is said about the woman who turns her home upside down in search of just one lost coin. The father does not simply receive his wayward, wastrel son back home. Most of us would have done that.  No, the father throws a huge, extravagant party to welcome home the prodigal.

 

Jesus prefaces each of these parables with a question, “Which of you . . . ?” Of course the answer is clearly none of us would comport ourselves in this fashion.  Risk a whole flock of sheep in order to retrieve just one wayward sheep? It’s preposterous that a farmer would go to such lengths.  That’s when we are reminded that these are not stories about how we act but rather about how God in Christ acts. God not only loves us, but seeks, searches, and saves us with a love that goes to great lengths for the lost.
 

Parties are more expensive then sheep or coins.

 

“Throw Momma from the Train.”  Coin Collection.  Owen and Larry are at Owen’s house and Owen shows Larry his coin collection.  He shows him just some ordinary coins, like a nickel, a few dimes and a couple of quarters.  The collection seems unimpressive.  They are not really special….until Owen explains.  “This nickel, I got in change when my Dad bought me a hot dog at my first Yankees game.  And this quarter I got in change at the subway when my Dad took me to the museum for the first time…”  Owen did not see the coins at their face value, like the world does.  God does not see us at “face value” like the world does.  Each of us is priceless and irreplaceable.

 

God loves us more than we realize, much more than our worth.

 

It is important to note the reason these parables were told.  Criticism:  He receives/eats w/sinners.

 

There are lots of lost people outside of the church, but there are lots of lost ones inside, too.

 

In Iowa, I scared some cows.  This has probably happened to all of you at one time or another.  The cows were lost.  They had wandered out of the gate and as I was driving down this rock road I came over the hill and they were right there in front of me  I slammed on the brakes, slammed on the horn, they yelled “MOO!” and I yelled “MOO!” and they ran away.  They just got lost.  Cows become lost, bit by bit.  They just meander out the gate.  It is never intentional.  They just wander.  Where is it that we wander?  We find some gate open somewhere in our world and we wander over because we see some green grass over here and the next thing we know we are lost – in an addiction, with the wrong kind of people, away from God.

 

And that is when God comes after us.  God loves us too much not to.

 

How can God love like this?  He can and does.  Basically, there are 2 kinds of questions:  “How can God love me?” and “How can God love him/her/them?”

 

We have these kind of worship services in churches these days called “Seeker services”.   They are designed for people who are seeking to find God.  We kind of have that upside down.  God is the seeker.  God is not playing a game of hide and seek with you.

 

Every religion wants to reach up to God, to grasp and understand God.  But that is not how God works.  Every other religion is an attempt to reach up to God, but Christianity is totally different, because it is God reaching down to us.  Look at what Jesus says about God.  God is coming down to us – that is the heart of Christianity.

 

God is the main character!  When you think of it, we are too self-centered.  “I gave my heart to Jesus.”  We have more God than we were expecting, and perhaps more God than we want.  We like to say, “I gave, or decided, or repented, or whatever.”  We have a God that does not wait for the lost to come home – We have a God that comes and gets us.

 

Playing hide and seek at church.  Sandra Nicholson.  “She’ll never find me here.”  We all want to be found by God.  If you are that lost sheep or lost coin, you know what you want.   You want to be found.  What will happen to you alone out in the world?  God is seeking you and God is not going to give up.