Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Welcomes Sinners” based on Luke 15:1-10 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, October 27, 2019
Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel account has been deemed by some as the “lost” chapter of the bible. There, you can find inside three parables about loss piled on top of each other, including one of Jesus’ most famous parables, the Lost…or the Prodigal…Son.
Today you do not have that parable of the prodigal printed in your bulletin, but there is, indeed, quite a bit of ink poured out about things lost and found again. And, as you take a closer look at these items lost and found again over the next few minutes, please pay close attention, as with all of Jesus’ parables, to whom or to what you are being compared.
The tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.
Those people, those tax collectors and sinners, the very dregs of society, they were coming to hear Jesus. Why? Because, up until that point, no one cared about them! Then this man welcomed them. He didn’t simply tolerate them. He didn’t just hashtag no judgment and let them be them. He invested and inserted himself into their lives and let them know that he did care for them and, to describe his care and concern, he told that first parable about the lost sheep. His devotion to them was like that of a shepherd to his sheep.
But, Jesus wasn’t only speaking to those tax collectors and “sinners” when he told these two parables. They were also meant to mean something to his muttering enemies, the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
To these two groups of people, Jesus told these two “lost” parables and, arching over both of them, you will find the theme of joy in heaven when repentance happens on earth. Which, of course, unfortunately, means that repentance needs to happen on earth.
Why? Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them…does he not go after the lost sheep…and when he finds it…says Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.
Sheep are not known for their intelligence. There are times, even when they are cared for, well-fed, and led to streams of clean, cool water, they will still try to go off on their own.
But, with Jesus’ selection of words, and their order in these sentences, the emphasis for this parable lies not on how they became lost, but simply that they are lost. They are not in the fold. They come into the story lost and they end the story found.
And, with these words, friends, Jesus encompasses his entire audience in his description of those sheep. The tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees and teachers of the law, and even you and I, all come into this story called life as lost sheep.
With the sinfulness that resides inside, you, too, were, by nature, the dregs of spiritual society, opposed even to the idea of being in the flock, and unable to be a member of it. You were, in every sense of the word, lost.
But, thankfully, you, along with everyone else who has ever lived, have a Shepherd who wasn’t satisfied with your situation. Though it is entirely what you deserved for all of eternity, he would not let you remain missing or strayed away from the flock. He went searching for you.
And, more importantly, later, in this same Gospel, Jesus said that he did not simply come to seek out the lost, but to seek and to save them. And, with his perfect life, lived in your place and his sacrificial death, substituted for your own, your Jesus did just that. He changed your spiritual status from lost to found by carrying you on his own shoulders. He did the work that you did not have the ability to do. He forgave your sins. He wiped your slate clean. He saved you.
And, if Jesus only told that first parable to his audience so long ago, or if the lectionary reading in the bulletin today stopped at verse seven, then you could hear Amen, move on to being fed and nourished by your Savior in his Supper, and go about your day reflecting on your saved status as a found sheep. But, Jesus didn’t stop there and neither does the story recorded before you.
Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not…search carefully…and when she finds it…says Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.
With his choice of words and their order in these sentences, again, Jesus makes an emphasis. But, this time, the emphasis is not entirely on the fact that the one coin of ten was lost. Rather, in order to address a specific sin, Jesus shined the light, this time, more brightly on how the coin came into its lost condition. The translation recorded for you doesn’t bring it out as clearly as it could, but, when the woman in the parable called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her, the reason for her joy was because it was her action that caused the coin to be lost.
Sheep have a tendency to stray. Coins, though? They have a tendency, and a responsibility to the laws of nature, to stay right where you last placed them.
Are you one of those coins that was misplaced or are you, in this parable, the woman who is responsible for losing that treasure that was left in your possession? Is there a spot in your pew next to you that should be filled by a treasured child of God that has been neglected?
Like the apology Pastor Waldschmidt offered last weekend, I, too, have to admit that my own negligence has caused me to lose track of God’s treasure that he has left in my possession. I have excused myself with busyness, life events, and I have hidden behind so many “good” reasons why I have not loved, cared for, and fed that person who should be sitting there.
Have you committed the same ignorance and inattention? Is it your brother; your mother; your daughter who is missing? Your friend; your co-worker; your former neighbor who you lost track of? Are they lost because they strayed away like a simple-minded sheep or because you and I, who are supposed to be their family members in their church home, did not treat them as the valuable coin that they are?
Brothers and sisters, start sweeping up, not to clean house or clean up the books, but to show the proper care and attention for the treasure God has placed in your home. Because, in all honesty, they are so much more valuable than a smelted and stamped piece of silver. Those lost in our home here at Peace are so precious, to us and to our Father and to our Brother, that when we finally find them and restore them to their place of prominence in our lives, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Notice that the rejoicing is not on the part of the angels, but in the presence of the angels. It is God’s joy that his people are welcomed back home. It is his joy that is your goal and your motivation. Working through you, with the powerful working of his Word, you get to be a part of what brings your God joy!
Jesus welcomes sinners. Remembering the change in your condition and status from being lost to found, in view of that great mercy that your God has bestowed upon you, a sinner, search diligently until you find the lost. And, when you do, call us all together, your friends, neighbors, and family members here at home, so we can rejoice with you! Amen.