Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sermon Year C Pentecost 16 Proper 19

A note of pondering about this sermon post:
I think it's interesting how sometimes I write a sermon and I think it really works and then I preach it and it just doesn't seem to work. That's the way I felt with this past Sunday's sermon. Not sure how the congregation felt. I almost decided not to post it, but then I thought, well, why not? Maybe it reads better than it preaches.
But if it doesn't do much for you (or even if it does) then go to my friend Ben's blog (see link on this page to SEERSUCKER AND A COLLAR)--I read Ben's last night and thought, "That's it!" Ben's sermon is terrific. And the cool thing is how every preacher who preached this text on Sunday probably came up with a slightly different take on the gospel. That is the REALLY cool thing about the Bible!)


There are three words that stand out in our gospel reading today.
Grumbling. Lost. Rejoice.

Now the first word—GRUMBLING-- is one we all know.
No doubt it is an activity we participate in
a bit too frequently.

The dictionary gives us this definition:
To make low, unintelligible sounds in the throat; growl.
To mutter or mumble in discontent;
To complain in a surly or peevish manner

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus.
And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling….

Imagine that.
because they didn’t want certain people hanging around.
It wasn’t so much their love for Jesus—
love wasn’t number one on the list for Pharisees and scribes—
just as love usually isn’t number one on the list
for us modern day grumblers.

The truth is they saw these tax-collectors and sinners
as despicable, unworthy, disposable human beings.
These grumblers are mad at Jesus
because he welcomes everyone to the table.
Jesus is guilty of radical, reckless hospitality.
Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The first definition of this word is interesting:
Destroyed, or ruined physically or morally.
It’s why so many people love the hymn Amazing Grace:
I once was lost…was blind…
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come…

We have been there.
Many of us have been there more than once.
We understand what it is to be lost,
to feel destroyed or ruined--
physically, morally, financially,
emotionally, spiritually.

Then follow these definitions of the word LOST:
Not to be found; no longer held or possessed; parted with.
Bewildered or ill at ease.

Jesus understands how we all long
to be held,
to be found,
to be seen by others as God sees us,
as beloved and beautiful.

Jesus responds even to the grumblers without criticism or judgment.
Jesus doesn’t apologize for or get defensive about the company he keeps.

Jesus responds with a story, a parable.
He hopes the grumblers might still have ears to hear.

He tells the story of one sheep who has wandered off.
One out of 100.
He tells of a shepherd who goes to seek that one lost sheep.
The shepherd doesn’t give up
until that one lost sheep is found.

Jesus tells of the woman who has ten silver coins.
She loses one.
One out of 10.
He tells how the woman searches and searches for that one coin.

She doesn’t give up
until that lost coin has been found.

To be glad, happy, or delighted.
To be full of joy.

The shepherd finds the lost sheep and rejoices.
The woman finds the lost coin and rejoices.

Friends and neighbors are called together
when that which was lost is found.
Called together with an invitation:

This is our invitation each time we gather to worship.
Jesus calls us to REJOICE.
To rejoice in the goodness and the love
And the never-giving-up-on-us grace of God.

We as the church walk a dangerous line:
We can easily become a Body of Grumblers,
instead of the Body of Christ.
We can easily forget that we, too, are lost in many ways.
we can grumble and judge and criticize others
just like the Pharisees and scribes—
until we even believe we are doing it all in God’s name.

Jesus tells these parables to us.
Jesus says to us.
Guess what?
You are not the shepherd.
You are the lost sheep.

We are the ones who wander away.
There are a million forms of wandering away.
There are a million ways we can get lost.
There are a million ways we can lose
a part of ourselves…if not our whole self.
And grumbling often paves the path
that leads us away from the heart of God.

But still there is good news.
Still there is amazing grace.

Jesus says,
Never fear.
God will come looking for you.
God will keep after us
because God never gives up on us.
There is always hope in the mind of God.

No matter how destroyed or lost we feel,
God visions our possibility for wholeness.

No matter how the grumblers may try to push us away.
No matter how we try to push ourselves away
with our own grumbling.

God just opens those great arms of love wider and wider,
until we find ourselves embraced, lifted up,
and carried back home.

We stumble, we fumble, we grumble.
We lose our way.

God seeks us out no matter what.
For God is a reckless and radical shepherd.
God doesn’t work by ratios or percentages or profit margins.
The one is as important as the ninety-nine.

Not one person in God’s world
is insignificant or unimportant.
Every lost sheep is worth the search.

God loves each of us that much
and more.
Much, much more.


+ + +

Luke 15:1-10
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. 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."

No comments: