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.

Emily Dickenson pierces our souls this way:

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
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone

Who are the untouchables of our religious world? Who is beyond hope? Let’s not have lip service here: look at your real actions and find who is, in your understanding, beyond the pale. Whose society has your soul chosen?

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,


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 24 July, 2007, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Nick,This is a beautiful post! Loving the unloveables and rejoicing at the recovery of lost sheep is a subject near and dear to my heart. Growing up in the church, I was impacted by a youth minister who once chastised me for the “kind” of kid I brought to church with me. It angered me even then and my parents were forced to give me some stern lessons on respecting my elders. Today, at 47 years old, I still struggle when I hear brothers and sisters speak of “selective seeking” lost sheep. Rejoicing for the lost–no matter who they are or where they came from should be what we do. IMOAgain, great post,PeaceNeva

  2. Well thought out post as usual.

  3. hello nick!…i find this post most intersting in a number of ways…in once sense your view of who you are in the parable(the lost sheep) is the most immediate thought when someone first reads it..yet the last thought that you may be one of the pharisees being critical is too far the other way in the sense that its so self critical..i have never known you to be that person..and i know that at different times in our lives we are at different places and thus our roles might seem to go thru a transitianal phasing..you might see the practice going on but i cannot see you as only reaching out to one sort or another due to social casting…if anything almost the other way..more likely to reach out to the undertrodden than the pharisee who has stumbled and needs help getting back on track..i did enjoy a number of your posts.. as always..your brother Rick

  4. Well, look which of my favorite fellow Fumblers Towards Eternity finally showed up on my blog. Welcome, Rick!I meant the “community” first-person when I wrote this. I believe that our first responsibility as hearers and interpreters of Scripture is to strive to hear the voice of Christ just as his initial intended audience would have heard it. When Bryan was preaching, it struck me that I’d never really honored the fact that Luke clearly says that this parable was addressed to the scribes and Pharisees who were blatantly NOT rejoicing because of Jesus’ ministry among sinners. There is an added responsibility that you’ve implicitly pointed out: the responsibility to discern whether one is truly guilty of what Scripture says. I believe that a consistent striving to hear Scripture speak in a convicting way rather than merely a self-affirming way will help us see the weaknesses that otherwise we might overlook.Do I rejoice when I hear a Baptist or a Methodist or a Presbyterian or an Anglican or a Catholic praise God? Do I (does my congregation) rejoice when those who can offer no worldy benefit to the congregation are saved? The poor need Christ, but what is seriously overlooked is how much congregations NEED the poor to help keep them grounded in reality.Thanks for stopping by, and know that I miss you and that we love you.in HIS love,Nick

  5. Excellent post. I hope we all love as God does.

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple

    Nick I enjoyed reading your comments on Luke 15. I had no idea that Bryan Dill was the preacher where you attend. We are not really friends (we are brothers though!!) but I believe he has dropped by my blog a few times in the past, though I have no clue if he reads it at all now. I now know where you are …. :-)Get him to go to the Mid-West Preacher’s Retreat at Fall Hall Glenn.Shalom,Bobby Valentine

  7. That is a powerful post.thanks for sharing it.

  8. Powerful stuff.

  9. Nick, sometimes it takes a second or third look to see that you are not the one being talked about..instead, someone is trying to teach you something from someone elses actions. I, myself, am always looking to see what part I play when someone is teaching…Thanks for being a support in a struggling world…Karen Willams

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