Just as a note: We had our annual picnic at Bill's house yesterday and it was a wonderful event. I am so blessed to have such a caring church family. The conversations were great (no politics were mentioned) and the food was a culinary delight!
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse-- a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.
"For my people are foolish,
they do not know me;
they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good."
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
Because of this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above grow black;
for I have spoken, I have purposed;
I have not relented nor will I turn back.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
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."
What keeps going through my head after reading the scripture readings for today is the lyrics from Amazing Grace. “I once was lost but now am found. Was blind and now I see.” Each of these three readings, Jeremiah, Timothy and Luke are about people who are lost and are found or at least are in the process of being found. In Jeremiah, the people of Judah have lost their way and through the prophet Jeremiah, God is searching for them. In Paul's letter to Timothy, Paul recounts his evil ways and he tells us that “Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” and to bestow on us his mercy.
In Luke, Jesus is once again breaking the rules and he is eating with tax collectors and other sinners. In the first century Jewish culture this is simply something that was not done. Tax collectors were particularly unliked by people of the first century and here is why. The Roman Empire had a fairly unusual system, by our standards, of collecting taxes. A person who had the job of tax collector was told how much tax he was to collect for the empire. Any money he raised above and beyond that he could keep for himself. The assumption among those who were taxed was that they were being unnecessarily gouged by these collectors and because of this they were held in very low esteem.
In Jesus's analogy of the lost sheep and the lost coin he brings home the essence of his mission on earth. Yes, Jesus is grateful for the righteous but his mission is to find and bring home the lost sheep. After all there is great joy in heaven when those who are lost find their way and are brought home.
When I reflect on this from my own point of view, I am one of those sheep who strays with some frequency. I have to assume that I bring great joy in heaven with some frequency. Some of you are probably thinking the same thing.
If Jesus's mission was to search out and bring home lost sheep, did the searching end when his time on this earth was over. I don't think so. The mission continues and it continues with you and me. We are all expected to share our faith in ways that fit who we are.
You all know what you do best and now think of how those skills can be used to reach out to others and bring the joy of the Good News to the people whose lives you touch. Live your faith by doing his work.