2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (TNIV)
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin [a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Luke 15 (Today's New International Version)
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins [a] and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. 13 "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' 20 So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
25 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
28 "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
31 " 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
· This morning’s Gospel message contains one of the most well known stories, not just in the Bible but in the entire world.
· Sometimes with the familiar we are so used to the story, we somehow have managed to stop hearing it.
o We listen to the beginning of the message and skip to the end without really processing any of the story that we have heard and are so familiar with.
· I think this is often the case with us and the story of the prodigal or ‘lost son’
· For me the key to really being able to ‘hear’ or understand any portion of scripture is context.
o And the context for this story is incredibly important
· The story of the prodigal or lost son comes immediately after two other stories of things that have been lost:
o a sheep in the first parable and a coin in the second
o The story of the lost sheep two other stories that follow it are Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and the religious leaders complaints about who Jesus was hanging out with
· So with that in mind it is good to look at what is going on in the other two ‘lost’ parables
o In the first parable from Luke 15 we have the story of the lost sheep, a fairly familiar story for many its own right.
· The short version is that Jesus says that the a shepherd with 100 sheep, loses one and in response Jesus says that the common and sensible thing – what any Good Shepherd would do – is to leave the 99 sheep to go and find the 1 lost sheep
o The story of the ‘lost coin’ runs a similar course
· In that parable a woman with 10 silver coins, loses one and searches the house up and down looking for it.
o When she finally finds it, she essentially throws a party to celebrate, inviting all of her friends to join in the celebration
· Now, before we move on to talk about the ‘lost son’, there are two things of importance to note:
o First, and I know this isn’t common knowledge for any of us (even here at Good Shepherd), but a good shepherd would never endanger the entire flock for just one sheep.
§ A shepherd would certainly go after the lost sheep, and would go to great lengths to recover it, but only after ensuring the other sheep were safely back in the pen.
o Second, the story of the lost coin always struck me as at least a little strange.
§ Obviously, no one wants to lose money – even one coin, and we would all look hard for the money we lost.
§ But the woman’s celebration always seemed more than a little bit over the top to me.
· (I always imagined the woman’s friends on the other end of the telephone car . . . ‘really? You found your coin . . . great. Oh, and your having a party to celebrate? Ok?)
· I also always thought that the celebration for the found coin would have cost much more than the coin itself.
· Basically, the response given in both of these parables doesn’t make sense:
o The shepherd shouldn’t have left the other sheep
o The woman went way overboard in here celebration
· And then we have the story of the lost son.
· When we look at all of the stories together the point becomes quite clear – God has a deep, unflinching and unending love and concern for each and every one of us.
o God will stop at nothing – spare no expense or personal risk. Even to the point of personal sacrifice and loss to repair and restore his relationship with us.
· That love is shown in the reckless abandon that the shepherd shows – going to foolish lengths to find the one lost sheep
· That love is shown in the exorbitant, over-the-top celebration that the woman has when she finds her lost coin
· And of course, the love is shown in the many gracious and loving acts of the father in the parable of the lost son.
· The stories, while we title them ‘lost sheep, coin & son’ are really about the restoration of something that was lost to where it belongs – sheep with shepherd, coin with its owner and son with father & family
o The joy surrounding all of these reunions is the joy of a completed and fulfilled mission - a mission and ministry of reconciliation
· This mission and ministry of reconciliation what Easter is all about – Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life of service and sacrifice, even to the point of death on a cross – so that we might have the opportunity at a reconciled relationship with our creator and our God –
o This reconciled relationship not only brings with it eternal live with God, but has the power to fundamentally transform the lives we are currently living.
§ One of the clearest ways our lives our transformed after our reconciliation with God is that it becomes our privilege to respond by joining with God – through the power of the Holy Spirit – in this mission and ministry of reconciliation!
· But back to the ‘lost son’, there is another side to this story.
o That story could just as easily be called the story of a man with two sons.
o Because the ‘lost or prodigal’ son was only one half of that generation of the family. There was as well, the son who never left.
· And for us, I think it naturally raises the question . . . ‘Which son are you?’
o Are you the younger son . . . trying to live life all on your own
§ Seeking fulfillment in power or money or success or the accumulation of things or in lustful relationships
§ Running (either consciously or subconsciously) from who you really are, where you really belong and the people who love and accept you
· Or are you the older son . . . the one that refers to his own brother (who was lost, but now is found) as ‘this son of yours!.
o Fulfilling your duty, but with an empty or even resentful heart
o Devoid of compassion and missing the relationship and connection to those around you in need
o And missing the point – the point that the great joy of life spend in the house of our father and as an heir of the master is that you to have already received your inheritance. Because our father and master is loving, gracious and generous –
o all that is the fathers is already yours when you are in a reconciled relationship with our father, our master and our God.
· Maybe the question really should be, ‘which child are you today?’ because I think we all spend time on both sides of that equation.
· And the Good News for all of us is that Jesus came for both types of children
o To save the one by lifting him out of the pit of sin and death – a fractured relationship with God and to restore them to their rightful place as an heir of God’s kingdom in a reconciled relationship with God.
o And to save the other by allowing them the grace to participate in the ministry of reconciliation and the celebration that comes with each repaired relationship
· A few things to think about as we close:
· First, as the good shepherd and the loving, grace-filled and forgiving father show us – God will stop at nothing to find us and restore a relationship with us
· Second, (a question), if the church is not celebrating the changed life and fate of sinners that have newly reconciled relationships with God and welcoming them into its midst, then what is the church doing?
· Finally, as this story is a reminder that God runs to us, embraces us, restores us and forgives us from our sin.
· The story is also an invitation to join with Jesus in welcoming sinners/outsiders, the left behind and the left out into the kingdom and family of God.
· This ministry of reconciliation is the starting place for all of us in our relationship with God. It is why Jesus came to be among us, it is precisely what the Holy Spirit equips us for. And it is what we are preparing to remember and celebrate at Easter.
· God, through Christ has already reconciled himself to you and God is asking for us to join in spreading the reconciliation to the entire world.
· The story of the lost son doesn’t have a Hollywood ending, instead it ends with the father asking the elder son to join in the celebration and come inside.
o The offer to join in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ has been made to each of us as well.
· The only question that remains is how will you respond?