Luke 15: 1-32
The Story of the Lost Sheep
By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.
The Story of the Lost Coin
“Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbours: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”
The Story of the Lost Son
Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
“So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
“That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
“But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
“All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’
“The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
“His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”
We all know Jesus was someone who is known to shake things up and get people talking; this piece of scripture from Luke is no different! We begin by being told that men and women of ‘doubtful reputation’ were spending time with Jesus. Has the definition of doubtful reputation changed from over 2000 years ago? We still live in a world where people are shunned because their actions or choices they’ve made in the past haunt them throughout their life - especially in this modern age of technology and media coverage on everything it just takes a Google search and a click on a webpage to learn all about someone’s history and the life they’ve lived.
For these people in this time, anyone who had done something deemed ‘sinful’ were complete outcasts and pariahs which is why Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness and love appealed so much to them. For people who have spent so much time on their own or with people in a similar situation to themselves, meeting someone who told them they were loved unconditionally would have given them some peace in their heart and a sense of belonging. Is that not what everyone wants? To feel as though they belong? Yet they were still being pegged as unfit to belong to any sort of community.
We would like to think that in today’s society people would not be made to feel this way but I believe everyone in their lives at some time is all too familiar with this feeling. If this is the case then why are so few people unable or unwilling to open their hearts to Jesus’ message?
Luke 15 tells us that God rejoices in finding us when we have done wrong, that as people we will make mistakes and get things wrong but He will always be looking for us, to put us across his shoulders and celebrate when we are found! Isn’t that just the most wonderful idea? To know that no matter how far we may wander, Jesus is always looking for us, ready to welcome us back with open arms and hearts, just like the father whose prodigal son finally comes home.
The same message is given to us in the parable of the lost coin; the woman lights a lamp, turns her house completely upside down, and searched everywhere until it is found then once again, celebrates in it. To imagine the joy Jesus must have had when these people who had been left outside by society came to him and wanted to listen to his message and spend time with him.
Though it's easier said than done, surely we could celebrate those whom we wouldn’t usually come across, yet who want to listen to God's message? Whether that’s the young people we meet who may never had their hearts opened to God, but are eager to listen and learn, or us as Christians being open and forgiving in our outspokenness of God’s message.
There is one thing however we can always take away with us: if you don’t feel as though you belong for any reason – rejoice in your differences, they make you unique and no matter who you are or what you’ve done, God is looking for you and will celebrate when he finds you!
Salesian Lay Chaplain
Keep us safe in the knowledge that you are always looking for us no matter how far we might wander away from you.
Look after those who feel as though no one is there for them and hope they can open their hearts to your love.
Let us rejoice in our differences, as they are what make us unique and may we strive to spread your message of acceptance and love.