Can be listened to here.

Gate Pa – Year C  Pentecost 17, 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time,


Psalm                         Psalm 14
First Reading:                         Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28        
Second Reading:         1 Timothy 1:12-17                 
Gospel:                         Luke 15:1-10                          

What I want to say:
These are stories of the importance of celebrating together rather than stories about the need to repent.
What I want to happen:
Bring that sense of joy to the Eucharistic table and their lives.

The Sermon

    1.     Introduction:

3 years ago I was in South Africa.
staying out at Simonstown near Capetown
as walking back from train on second last night
started rain
cleverly whipped coat out back pack and kept walking quickly back up to town
forgetting beanie sitting on top coat
really liked beanie
looked good
gift from great event that played significant part in planning and running
memories of event – really good event
            my role in all that – pretty proud of
            from group part of about 7-8 years
so good memories attached
next day – cold
when couldn’t find it
remember stopping and thinking about where I had had it and where it might be
realisation what I had done
hope that I would find it
going back and looking everywhere
growing sense that it was gone
never found it.
still feel the loss
both of that beanie and memories it represented
my hope is that found one homeless people slept in doorways
kept them warm,

better story
sons 21st
he went into town
as you do
with wallet stuffed with all money he had been given
wasn’t thinking too clearly
much later got call go pick him up by harbour bridge
tried walking home
when got to him
pretty sad – lost wallet
vaguely knew where might be
so in moon light i walked through grass to bridge and back again
bending low
but feeling the despair
not confident
there it was
I had found it
such relief
such joy from him
if it hadn’t been 4 in the morning we might have had a party to celebrate.
You will have your own stories.
the loss
the search
euphoria and relief of success
pain of failure
want you to hang onto that for a moment

     2.     Pharisees and scribes

Despite what we heard last week
Jesus is pretty popular
all kinds of people are coming to hear him and see what the fuss is all about
lots poor people
            seemed to really get what he was on about
a lot of leadership at various levels
            keeping an eye on him
some of religious leaders as well – scribes and Pharisees
and a number of people rabbis just didn’t spend a lot of time with
            tax collectors – made money of poverty inflicted on population
                        collaborators with Romans – not so popular
            sinners – probably means prostitutes and such
                        enough said
Jesus is not only letting them hang around
            eating with them
            and inviting them to eat with him
which as I have said
bestowed on them both honour and blessing
something people were not happy about
you do not honour collaborators and prostitutes
I think many of us would have a problem with this.
And so the religious leaders start to murmur
pretty seroius murmuring and grumbling
same word used in Greek Old Testament for murmuring against Moses.
What Jesus is doing is beyond the pale
beyond what is accepted as safe and life giving
wonder what it is that we are murmuring about?
what is it we think is beyond the pale?

     3.     Stories of Loss

Jesus is pretty switched on guy
hear the murmuring in their tone of voice
      body language
      dark looks
tackles it head on,
Jesus does what he often does
not lecture them
not give lengthy sermons
tells three stories
            or which we heard 2 this morning
stories lost sheep
            lost coin
            lost sons – which I have already spoken about.
three work together make his point
first two are introduction
third drives point home
pity we do not hear them together
Jesus does what he often does
hooks them all in
which of you having a hundred sheep
I am pretty sure he paused here.
because woah
100 sheep
that is pretty rich.
for those poor people having 100 sheep is beyond a dream
even for many Scribes and Pharisees that is a lot sheep
            a lot of wealth
but Jesus carries on
“and loosing one of them”
so not owning the sheep them
so, just a shepherd then
down the other end of the social scale
 then Jesus tells familiar tale of shepherd finding that lost sheep
and then because everyone in village would have been able to see and hear search if it had been close enough to town
they all gather and celebrate.
So far we have story about something lost
exactly same story each of us can tell
our loss
our feelings of loss
our searching
when we find it
our desire to celebrate
Now in telling the story Jesus adds this really interesting bit
“ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.”
that line immediately changes our focus
forget about our loss
the searching
finding and celebration
we immediately focus on need to repent
which begs the question
who repented?
the sheep? sheep don’t repent really.
the shepherd? of his carelessness? maybe?
the tax collectors and sinners- maybe
but in the introduction to the story there is no repentance
just says came near to listen
Elsewhere there is with Zacchaeus and the women washing Jesus feet
            but not here.
why does Jesus say this
or did Luke just add it?
whatever – don’t let that line distract you.

      4.     The Lost Dowry

Jesus tells another story.
About woman who losses coin
            been suggested that Jesus original hearers understood this to be part of her dowry
            relatively big sum of money being talked about
so this is more than just story about lost money
story of lost family honour
            lost prospects for husband
life changing loss
so she pulls out all stops looking for it
using even precious candles in hunt
when she finds it
            prudent thing would be give little “woohoo”
            put it back with others
            carry on like nothing has happened
risks shaming herself and telling everyone of her folly
so that they might share in her joy
again, story about a really really big loss
angst of search
joy and euphoria of finding coin
restoring honour, hope, future.
time to party.
and then Jesus talks about repentance and we forget all that and moralise about the importance of repentance
but again – who repents?

     5.     Lost sons

then Jesus tells story of lost sons
both sons failing in their obligations
both lost in own self importance
Jesus finishes with
 “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!’” (msg)
Now it is fair to say that only one of the sons repents in this story
and only after his father finds him first
            restores him to his place as son.

6.     Conclusion

I began with my own stories of loss.
invite you place your stories alongside the three Jesus tells.
in the midst of these stories of loss and searching
            invited hear of God seeking us in our loss
same commitment shown by shepherd
same dedication and care shown by woman
with same patience, recklessness and love exhibited by father in third story

Our stories of finding and rejoicing invite us to join in celebration in heaven and on earth for all who are found
even when they are beyond the pale
These are stories of importance of celebrating
            not the importance of repentance
soon we will gather around the Eucharistic table
in that moment we will be invited to remember the times Jesus sat and ate with those beyond the pale
welcomed all no matter who they were to join with him
in doing so he showed the Reign of God.
when we receive the bread and the wine
again we are invite to join in celebration in heaven and earth
celebration that is at the heart of reign of God
we are invited join together in a full blown party in which in which we celebrate
that we are sought – pursued and found
I hope you bring that same sense of joy and euphoria at finding what was lost to this table
and everytime we join in eucharist


Popular posts from this blog

What about us? Who is Jesus - really?