Sermon for Sunday September 11th, 2016, the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
Lessons: Psalm 14; Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
Text: Luke 15:1-10
If someone offered you a twenty-dollar bill, would you take it? What if that person wadded up the bill and threw it on the ground — would you still want it? What if he stepped on it, kicked it, and even spit on it? Could you still go to the store and spend it?
The answer is yes. That bill has value because of what it is, not because of how it looks, where it’s been, or what it has been used for. A crisp, clean twenty-dollar bill is worth the same amount as an ugly, old, abused one.
You may feel like you’ve been stepped on, beat up, or kicked around. You may feel dirty, unworthy, or useless. But be encouraged by the twenty-dollar bill — no matter what you’ve been through, you still have value to God!
— Mike Silva, Would You Like
Fries with That? (Word, 2005)
The third of the Lord’s parables in this fifteenth chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, often enjoys more attention in the preaching cycle of the Church than do the two preceding parables. Why is this? The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin are shorter and possibly seen as less important than the Parable of the Prodigal Son, because they concern the finding of a sheep and a coin, rather than a human being.
Whereas the Parable of the prodigal Son emphasizes the role and responsibility of the son in returning to his father as well as the father’s love of his son and forgiveness, the spotlight here is turned fully on God’s love for one sinner and his search for him.
THE PARABLES OF THE LOST SHEEP AND THE LOST COIN
Jesus told these parables as a rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees’ murmuring at his welcoming of tax collectors and sinners as well as eating with them. The Pharisees believed that holy and righteous men would only contaminate themselves by associating with people whose professions they viewed as unclean or unrighteous. By contrast, Jesus justified his own behavior of welcoming sinners and tax collectors by showing that it was in tune with the love of God and the rejoicing of the angels over one repentant sinner.
Two examples from life in ancient Judaea are used to demonstrate God’s love in searching for the lost person and His joy at finding him. In these two parables both the shepherd and the woman search thoroughly for what they have lost until they have found it. Then they call together neighbors and friends to rejoice with them at finding it.
The ninety-nine sheep left in the wilderness (Luke 15:4) are not left alone, but in the care of shepherds hired by the owner, who himself goes looking for his lost sheep. So important is that one sheep to him that he must find it and bring it home. He celebrates with all his friends and neighbors once he has found it and brought it home. The lesson this parable teaches is twofold: both the initiative and diligence of God in searching for the lost soul, and the joy of heaven when that lost soul is brought to repentance and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Parable of the Lost Coin is not about how some Greeks today want to return to using the drachma in place of the euro.
The drachma in the first century A.D. was a silver coin the equivalent of a Roman denarius, which was a day’s wage for a laborer. A woman having ten silver coins and losing one of them, would very much want to find it. Her diligence in searching for it is shown by her lighting a lamp (since there would be no windows in her small house) and sweeping her floor to find it. Again, when she has found it, she does not engage in solitary celebration, but invites her neighbors and friends to come over and rejoice with her. The moral of this parable is the same as that of the first: the intensity of God’s love for the sinner, his search for the sinner and his joy with the angels when he repents.
LESSONS FOR OUR TIME
Applying the teaching of these two parables to the Church today, we must remember these salutary lessons:
Just as the Pharisees and scribes thought they were the best judges of who righteous people ought to associate with, so it is easy for church leaders and church members to fall into the same error today;
Jesus sets before us the immense contrast between earthly religious leaders judging sinners and the angels of heaven rejoicing before God at one repentant sinner. This means we have a responsibility to view a repentant person’s life as God and the angels see it – cause for joy;
Christ loves the lost sinner so much that he searches for him. The Lord will find everyone who wants to be found by Him;
As representatives of the Church and of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth, each Christian must be a faithful witness to Christ, and willingly offer himself to be used by Christ to reach out to the lost.
Finally, we must all realize that if we persevere in faithful obedience to the Lord, we shall share in the angels’ joy in heaven over all who have turned away from a futile, selfish way of life and received Jesus Christ as Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ calls us to abandon self-righteous prejudice in favor of the love of God which searches for all who do not know Him, so that they may come to Him and receive eternal life and fellowship with Him.