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09.15.13 The Nature of God Luke 15.1-10 Sermon Summary

by on September 16, 2013

We often rejoice at these parables because we figure God has found us. In reality, these are parables about still being lost.

Summary Points

  • Five quick conclusions from these parables
  • The danger in grumbling
  • The nature of God
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

Parables often lead to quick conclusions and actionable lessons, which is why Jesus loved to teach through them most of all. Here are five observations from these two parables.

1. God is more a seeker than we are. Many churches try to be “seeker sensitive” with the assumption that people are seeking God. To whatever degree that’s the case, it is more true that God is more a seeker than we are. And this is a good thing, because we are more lost than we know. When sheep get separated, they get scared, and they don’t bleat, and they can’t walk. So they are totally dependent upon the shepherd to find them and carry them home. Likewise, lost coins don’t shine brightly to be found, nor can they shimmy up between the cushions. They are dependent on the one seeking them.

2. Jesus uses imaginative metaphors for God. On one hand you have God as a shepherd. God is a strong, protective male, working outside the home. On the other hand, God is a woman, concerned about economic and domestic issues. (The etymology of our word “economics” is the Greek word for household.)

3. From Jesus’ perspective, sinners and sin have less to do with sinful acts as they do with a sense of lostness. Jesus is criticized by the religious elite for hanging out with sinners; he sees himself as out looking for the lost.

4. Jesus does more than just “welcome” the lost. We hope our church is a welcoming church. By this we primarily mean it looks attractive from the outside and is accessible to newcomers on the inside. These are relatively passive attitudes. The Greek word translated “welcomes” is much more active. It means more than just being open with the lights on and the temperature pleasant. It means going to where the people are and engaging them. Jesus’ example of welcoming sinners begs the question of us, “How welcoming of a congregation, in this active sense, are we?”

5. These parables are not really about the one lost sheep and coin, but about the ninety-nine sheep and the nine coins. Jesus says heaven rejoices over the repentant one versus the ninety-nine who do not need repentance. But those ninety-nine who don’t need to repent do need to be more welcoming. That’s the context of these parables in Luke. The Pharisees and Scribes are not welcoming. Their attitude reflects the one that too often characterizes the church’s practice of “fencing the Lord’s Table”—restricting access to the very place God ordained to welcome sinners. So in fact, they do need to repent, and imagine how heaven would rejoice if they did!

Jesus reveals the nature of God as a seeker, as a deliverer, as a savior. This isn’t really a new revelation. The Pharisees and Scribes were “grumbling” or “muttering” like the ancient Israelites in the desert. As it did then, so today such an attitude leads away from God and towards idolatry. It evokes God’s “burning anger,” best understood as a sad regret and God’s desire to start over. Fortunately for the Israelites there was a Moses to intercede for them.

Moses reminds God of God’s nature. He reminds God that God is a deliverer, of God’s steadfast love. Moses reminds God that he is different than the gods of the Egyptians. Most importantly, Moses reminds God of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that God by nature is a faithful God—faithful to these promises.

The author of Psalm 51:1 also relies upon this nature of God, beginning this most famous confession with the words, “Remember me according to your steadfast love and mercy.” One of the fellow political insurgents crucified with Jesus also saw this divine nature in Christ, saying to him, “Remember me.”

The author of 1 Timothy recognized this divine nature at work in Christ and in his own life also. He praises the grace, faith, love, and patience that God has shown in Christ Jesus. He lauds God for being the “eternal king, immortal, and invisible”—that is, that God’s patience is powerful, undying, and seen best only by faith. And like Moses, 1 Timothy recognizes that these attributes make this God unique.

In Jesus Christ, God is the shepherd who calls us by name. God is the woman who cleans house looking for us. In Jesus Christ, God is the one who has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies, and even when those enemies are members of the household of faith, God is the one who welcomes us to his table in Christ. May we welcome others as God has welcomed us.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • In what ways have you been the lost sheep and the lost coin?
  • In what ways have you been like the Pharisees and Scribes?
  • How welcoming is your church in the passive sense—that is, hospitable to visitors?
  • How welcoming is your church in the active sense—that is, going out to engage others?
  • How can you use Moses’ prayer technique, namely, reminding God of God’s nature to address the concerns you have?

 

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