Monday, September 16, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: Sheep Lost & Sheep Found and Those Who Seek Them

Scripture:  Luke 15.1-7 (the parable of the lost sheep)

It’s a story we know so well, this tale of the one lost sheep.  The unfairness of it all – even the downright foolishness – this risking a whole group in order to save just one, arises:  Who does that?  How unfair is that to the 99?  Really?  You’d endanger 99 for just one?

These questions are the questions of the Pharisees.  They’re not bad people; they’re the good people.

And Jesus is spending time with the dregs of society.  He talks to them.  He eats with them.  He takes them seriously.  He thinks they matter.  And everyone knows they don’t – everyone, that is, except Jesus.

Instead of just going to Jesus, instead of trying to understand what he’s doing and why, the good people talk among themselves, grumbling and complaining.  They’re jealous.

At its core, jealousy is giving space to the 2-year-old who once lived inside us all.  But we’re not 2 anymore!  The time for baby talk and humoring is over – when we’re 2, it’s all about us.  But we’re not 2 anymore and it isn’t and we know it.

The problem, or at least one of the problems, is in understanding what the love of God looks like and what it requires.  So it’s back to basics . . .

God’s love is risky   God holds nothing back of God’s self in order to love and care for us.  And God gets hurt in the process.  God risks and requires that we do the same.  Was it risky to leave the 99 to look for the one?  Of course it was.  But the greater risk was to simply let the one go.  

God’s love is extravagant When I have more than I need, I can either decide even that’s not enough and demand more (the 2-year-old response) or I can share (the grown up response).  To risk the whole herd for the one is extravagant.  To risk our life together here in this church in order to love and serve our neighbors not here today is extravagant.  God isn’t always calling us to do more, but God is always calling us to be more. . . to be more loving . . . more understanding . . . more willing to risk what we think of as our ‘all’ – so that – we can come to the place of understanding that the ‘all’ we think of as all was little indeed.  

God’s love is exorbitant – God seems to think there’s more than enough love to go around.  But maybe we’re right and there’s not.  Yet even if there is only so much to go around, maybe that’s what we’re here for – to offer it all.  I doubt any of us have ever truly gotten to the end of ourselves.  But even if we have, so what?  To spend ourselves on behalf of others is why we’re here.

God’s love is seeking - God is a seeking God who calls us to be a seeking people.  God is a seeking God, searching out the lost and the lonely, the sad and the haggard, the down and out as well as the up and coming.  God seeks.  So too must we.

God’s love is contagious.  Love, like laughter, is contagious.  It spreads.  It can’t help but spread.  It’s that little light we were taught to sing as children – it cannot be hidden – it must shine.  And in its shining is its attraction.

In Jesus’ parable story to the grumblers, perhaps we, like them, are the sheep, the 99.  The question that hangs waiting to be answered is: are we content to munch our own grass?  Or are we joining in the rescue party?  More daring, are we ready to read ourselves into the story as shepherds?  For what sheep would a good shepherd leave behind?

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