Who Are WE Really?
Sunday night at Holly Hill is one of my favorite times of the week. Bryan Dill, our preaching minister, brings a message from the parables of Jesus. This past Sunday, and next Sunday evening as well, our focus turns to Luke 15. Here, Luke records:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his 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 coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And 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 before the angels of God over one
sinner who repents.” (Luk 15:1-10)
How many times have you read this parable? How often have you listened, taught, or participated in lessons on it? I know I have taught it at least twice and I cannot remember how many times I’ve heard it taught. Needless to say, Luke 15 is a foundational text to NT theology and the Way of Jesus and His apostles. So if I’ve forgotten where I heard the following thoughts, or what built them, please forgive me for my poor pupildom.
While Bryan was teaching the important points from the perspective of the one lost sheep, a switch flipped in my head. I realized that Luke really does have a tremendously good reason for offering his prologue to Jesus’ three-level sermon. If I don’t intentionally focus on Luke’s short prologue, it is perilously easy for me to skip over the original meaning of the text and see myself as the poor, pitiful sheep who wandered off through no fault of his own (he’s a sheep, after all), who is in terrible peril that he cannot escape on his own? That’s a nice story, but like Jules Winfield preaches the parable of the shepherd in his version of Ezekiel 25:17, the nice story ain’t true. It might have been true back when I was a Mormon, but it ain’t true today.
The truth is: I’m not the lost sheep. I’m not the shepherd. I’m not the 99 left behind (under the watch of the undershepherds). I’m not ANYONE in the parable itself. Jesus is the preacher, and I am the listener, just another of the complaining scribes and Pharisees in the audience Luke describes. The 99 are the nation of Israel, the lost sheep are the untouchables of verse 2, and Jesus tells a pointed story about how God’s people value those who the community of God’s people cuts off.
The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine Majority
Obtrude no more.
Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I’ve known her from an ample nation
Then close the valves of her attention
Can you rejoice when you hear God’s name on their lips? Do you look forward to a day when the angels rejoice over them? Love HOPES ALL things, Paul says. Do you?
Or does the church “close the valves of her attention like stone”?
This story is not about US. This story is about JESUS. We are called to imitate him.
Father, help us!
in HIS love,