“Rejoice in God’s Presence”
Gospel Luke 15:1-10
God hears us when we speak; God hears us when we think; God hears us when we pray. There is nothing that God doesn’t know about us; there is nothing that God isn’t a part of. God is the constant that is the world. Sometimes that is a cloudy reality as we go through the days trying to figure out maybe why things happen; or the greatest question at any Sunday school class, why bad things happen to good people or vice versa. We try to grasp things that may be out of our control like a family member that is suffering with an addiction or a friend that won’t go the doctors or someone that just won’t do it our way. LOL A friend who I attended Discipleship classes with here by the name of Lou Jacobs; who recently passed away; once told me a story about a hat. She said, I was looking for this hat one day to cover my head to go outside and I couldn’t find it in my house. She continued, I looked all over for it; In every room I looked for this hat everywhere, but to no avail I couldn’t find it. I looked again; I got frustrated; I looked in the closets where I thought it was; and then in the closets where I didn’t think it was; I looked all over for this hat and it was nowhere to be found. She said you know, I finally stopped looking for the hat as I just decided to chalk it up to a loss. As I was walking through the house a little later, I walked into the bedroom and there it was; on the edge of the bed; there was the hat; sitting there waiting to be found. Do we get in our own way sometimes? Do we get in our way thinking too much into something rather than letting God help us and guide us; trying to do things our way; not God’s, as God is the reason, we are alive; as God is the reason we are; The last time I checked I am not the one that makes my heart beat. Thomas Merton, the great theologian and writer wrote “A Sacrifice is an action which is objectively sacred and primarily of a social character, and what is important is not so much the pain or difficulty attached to it as the meaning, the sacred significance which not only conveys an idea but effects a divine and religious transformation in the worshipper, thus consecrating and uniting them more closely to God.” The action of the Holy Spirit.
I fight this a lot; me getting in my own way. I am always trying to think of new ways to write, or not write a sermon; I over think the sermon whether to write part of it down or all of it down; I hear all the clichés of sermon writing; better to have a script in front of you; The worst thing to happen to someone is for them to go blank and then silence; not to know what to say in a situation; not to know how to live out their lives; not to know were to turn who to turn to. Silence. By the time I get done thinking this all out, I’m either writing the sermon the night before, or I am telling it cold with no script so to speak. Of course, times have and will come when I speak a sermon without a script; that is not written down; not knowing what to say; not knowing the answer. Much like life; living on faith; Predestined maybe; as I steal a quote from Francis of Assisi, using words when necessary; that our decisions in life are just simple sermons to live out. That as much as we think we are alone we are not; that everything is and was written down for us to live out easily; for us just to walk through life living out our sermons preaching the Gospel in all our actions. The living action in the life of the Christ. The reality of the Holy Spirit.
Recently I visited the beautiful town of Dubuque Iowa. I have the honor of going there once a year for Seminary as I am an online student at the university of Dubuque, a Presbyterian Seminary, in their Master of Divinity program. Classes start there for the two weeks at eight o’clock in the morning and end at five; hence the word intensive; there is usually a retreat of sorts depending on the class your enrolled in and the year you are attending. For me the class I was enrolled in this year was “The Gospel in Context,” where we studied a community; their likes, dislikes; their practices; what they ate how they ate; what they did for fun; their culture and how scripture lives out in that culture. As Jesus did when he preached and taught, he used the cultural practices of the people for the people to better relate to what he was trying to say to them; much like the scripture today or As when Jesus used the Samaritan as “the Good Samaritan when the Samaritans were actually a hated people. When he preached of the Sheep and the Good shepherd; when he used Manna and other realities of the Jewish faith as these were all well-known parts of these people’s cultures. He used who they were and what they were all about; to show them who they truly were; men and women of God. So, on a Thursday morning at about seven thirty the Gospel in Context class took off on what the Professors called an immersion trip. This was to immerse the students in the cultures of a small town and a growing suburban area which if you read the structure of a suburban area; growth is a subjective word as growth is actually based on movement which has to do with declining numbers in the community as well as increasing; as this was what was happening in the city we visited. We went to Wisconsin and what a beautiful place it was. As it seemed such a faraway place much like in the Bible; it really was much the same life as ours here, much the same people; going through the same problems; fighting the same life changes. As was in our first reading.
What was used as a congregational reading of God’s wrath shifts to a prayer of God’s grace. The purported author of the Psalm 51, David; actually wrote the psalm to repent of sins he had committed at one time in his life; much like the people of Wisconsin; maybe much like us. As the prayer is not repeated for the same reasons as David used it; as we all say the same prayers to be of different meanings in our lives when we pray; to repent or intercede; to ask for or to give away different things; things of the heart; either what we need or don’t need, this prayer; this reading; this reality of life becomes a universal call for all of us to say to God together in one voice as it was meant to be. To be used in our daily lives as Martin Luther calls us to do as his voice wrings out from the depths of the protestant reformation; “We cannot attain to the understanding of Scripture either by study or by the intellect. Your first duty is to begin by prayer. Entreat the Lord to grant you, of His great mercy, the true understanding of His Word. There is no other interpreter of the Word of God than the Author of this Word, as He Himself has said, “They shall be all taught of God” (John 6:45). Hope for nothing from your own labors, from your own understanding: trust solely in God, and in the influence of His Spirit. Believe this on the word of a man who has experience.” (Martin Luther) As much as the Bible is a living word; the living word of God this prayer; this first reading is spoken to us and for us as much as it is spoken by us and through us that we may pray along with all the rest of history; all the rest of time in a prayer that means what it means in our lives; in the lives of the people of Wisconsin; in the lives of the people everywhere. The living word of God; the; living word of prayer; that as we pray with those in the Bahamas; as we pray with those across the sea as we pray with the Church; that we say this scripture together; not at the same time but with the same meaning; with the same reverence to God; for each other; for God; of God.
One of my other Seminary classes this semester is Early and Medieval Church History. As we walk through the thoughts and minds of theologians from Tertullian to Irenaeus to Clement, we walk through the history of the Church and all that it was at the time. This of course is based on the reality of The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and how the one and three and the three in one works and lives and how our lives play apart in the Church of God. I read a great quote that brings to light a reality of history, “That history is crucial for understanding not only the life of Jesus, but also the entire Biblical message.” (Gonzales) In the same manner the Church thrives through the Church knowing and living what the Church was and is now. Learning the past that we may see the present that we may thrive in the future. That we may live the Christian life in a wholeness that is of God. Divine love. As I love to quote Martin Luther; he states “ God is not a God of sadness, death, etc.,Christ is a God of joy, and so the Scriptures often say that we should rejoice … A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. (Martin Luther) To learn to live to love as Jesus shows us as the Christ lives through us; we are called to live; to rejoice; to smile; to love; to be Christian. To know our pasts that we can change our futures. This is for everyone as we all live a theology; as we are all called to bask in the loving grace that is God.
Jesus lives this for us as we walk through the scripture reading of the Gospel of Luke; called by some as “the heart of the Gospel,” As William Barclay portrays it as being called the Gospel in the Gospel, as if it contains the very distilled essence of the Good news which Jesus came to tell.” (William Barclay) When the lost are recovered from Jesus’s call for repentance and conversion a strong note of joy is struck; As this Gospel shows God’s love and mercy for the sinful person. Let us look a little deeper into the scripture. First is the Shephard, someone, weathered, tired leaning on a staff looking out to a flock across a barren landscape of treacherous pitfalls and small fields of joy. Looking out to the flock; all of them the shepherd knows; every hair on their head; Every one of the flock on his heart; concerned for all of them. He knows them all. He lives for them; he goes over hill over valley to save just one of them; just one of the flock, to save them; to bring them home. To save them all. As the women that is looking through her house to find the lost coins; to find the lost that cannot be found; to seek what might not ever come back; looking for the lost that they may be found again.
But as the Shephard sees one of his flock going a stray as he counts and there is one gone from view lost from his heart he strives to save them; he seeks to find the lost one; he lives to bring back the one that has gone astray. In the same manner the women in her house searches with the consistency of a loving God to find the lost coins that have left that have gone away. As the Pharisees attacked Jesus for everything he is, trying to discredit him for the love that he is; as they were standing there watching this man Jesus they said to each other,” This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them,” Why do people resist God’s searching love? The Pharisees and scribes despised the tax collectors and sinners that came to Jesus. Tax collectors worked for the roman government and were considered traitors who sold themselves to the Romans. The sinners might have committed a serious crime, but the term was also applied to those who had broken ritual purity laws and to women who husbands divorced them. Tax collectors and sinners were considered part of the unacceptable because they did not believe and behave properly or look like them or act like them or dress like them. The scribes and Pharisees were quick to condemn but slow to recognize the hollowness of their own righteous behavior; the log in their own eye.
Jesus comes again from the upside-down reality that is God. That we are to seek the lost; that we are to leave no one behind; that the love of God is endless, and we are to live that love in all that we are.
But how do we do it when we don’t have a script; how do we know the answer in the silence of our everyday; well the script is there as it has been all along; The Bible. It’s written out tested by so many; to show us as it has shown the history of the Church in the same way; the way to live; the way to live out our scripts in our predestined paths in the living Christ. To live out that sermon we have been given; not to over think it or maybe even write it down but to live it faithfully predestined in God; That we see not so much the indifference of others but the sameness in all of us. That in looking at our own gospels in context that we are all fighting the same fight; that we all come from the same place; from the same history; from the same day to day silence. And as Jesus springs to action in this silence to bring us all in from the fields; to bring the lost lambs back to the fold he calls the church to rejoice. As God is the active participant in seeking to save the lost; this gives the parables their urgency and power as expressions of the nature of God enacted in the midst of everyday human life. 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.
This is our calling not to be the one to whom repentance is made but to be the ones who rejoice in the vastness of his glory. That when one of the lost comes home that we rejoice as with the angels in heaven; that we rejoice with God as he says rejoice with me for, I have found my sheep that was lost. That we live happy lives as Martin Luther spoke of; That as our scripts play out; as we live out our sermons for God and others; that our faith grows; that our simplicity of action becomes the simplicity of a Child; that we let go of over thinking; doing it our way and that we seek the companionship of the living God to show us how to live; that as we pray those prayers of history; of our history; those prayers of many that they are answered as they always have been. That we celebrate life with God; as God celebrates life through us. that we don’t try to figure out why; that we don’t try figure out who; but just celebrate with God; life as it is right here right now. Our lives in God’s living loving world.
As John puts it, “He will show the world how wrong it was about sin, about who was really in the right, and about true judgment” (16:8). This is what Jesus exposed and defeated on the cross. He did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change our minds about God—and about ourselves—and about where goodness and evil really lie. God’s way of work is to seek and save through merciful love. John Knox wrote: I sought neither preeminence, glory, nor riches; my honor was that Jesus Christ should reign; let us join together in that reign; let us celebrate in the history of the Church; that we may live out today; that we may rely on God with the faith and simplicity of Children; Let us bask in that glory and beauty; in the celebration of life our lives in God’s. God’s life in ours.
sought neither preeminence, glory, nor riches; my honor was that Jesus Christ should reign.”
— John Knox
“I sought neither preeminence, glory, nor riches; my Gospel Luke 15:1-10
1Now 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.”