Scripture - Luke 15:4 - Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.
Quote – Jean Vanier - I do not believe we can truly enter into our own inner pain and wounds and open our hearts to others unless we have had an experience of God, unless we have been touched by God. We must be touched by the Father in order to experience, as the prodigal son did, that no matter how wounded we may be, we are loved. And not only are we loved, but we too are called to heal and to liberate. This healing power in us will not come from our capacities and our riches, but in and through our poverty. We are called to discover that God can bring peace, compassion and love through our wounds.
Thought - Although it is easy to miss because it happens so quickly, but the point of this weeks series of parables is to address the resistance that the Pharisees and religious officials show to Jesus's ministry of reconciling the lost and ignored to relationship with God. And as tempting as it may be to begin to think others who exhibit the same resistance, the character of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, is written to force us to confront the ways in which WE are the ones who resist the example and call of Christ to be reconcilers. Jesus tells these parables in such a way as to draw us in to be able to both confront our own resistance and then accept with joy our role on his behalf, as those who heal, nurture and encourage whole and healthy relationships both with others and with God.
Jesus begins with a couple of simple parables about a lost lamb and a lost coin. These parables do a couple of things. First they invite us to recall a time when we felt lost. Not physically or geographically, but emotionally and spiritually. These parables are meant to remind us of our own experience of being incomplete. Perhaps we are lost because circumstance or choices freely made have lead us to a place in our lives that we neither like nor know exactly how to extract ourselves from. Perhaps we are lost because we are for one reason or another we are ignored, dismissed or treated as unimportant. Notice that the two characters of the opening parables are people who would be either easily ignored or dismissed as dishonorable, a woman and a shepherd. Jean Vanier's quote for today makes the point explicitly, 'This healing power in us will not come from our capacities and our riches, but in and through our poverty.' We do grow either to realize, accept or accel at being reconcilers from our strengths, but from our weaknesses. It is only when we recall those moments when we felt lost spiritual and emotionally that we develop the spiritual urge to seek the lost and have compassion for those who wander far from path of God.
The second thing that these parables do is remind us of the joy of finding something of value that we thought we had lost. We will look to this more closely later this week. But notice how the phrase 'rejoice,' is repeated. So Jesus is inviting those who resist being reconcilers to remember their own painful experience of feeling lost and also, the joy of finding something of value that we thought we had lost. This is not necessarily an object, like a coin. It could be a relationship that we thought was broken. So Jesus roots our ministry of reconciling in our experiences of the pain of feeling lost and the joy of finding or being found.
Study – 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Prayer – When we feel lost comfort us with the promise that you are never far and always searching. When we have strayed, encourage us with the knowledge that you always welcome us home. If we sink into feeling not worth the finding remind us the joy you experience in gathering us into your embrace. We ask that you not only heal us with this good news but inspire us to be hospitable and merciful people so that all might know the joy of being found.