Sermon – Mar. 3, 2013

Posted on March 9, 2013


NOTE – The scripture reading (Luke 15:1-32) uses the translation of “The Message” by Eugene Peterson.
ALSO – The sermon is mingled into the reading of scripture.
ALSO – I have notes only (not a complete sermon text.)

The Story of the Lost Sheep

1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently.

Doubtful reputation /// Listening intently (purpose – to accuse and trap)

Who are the problems?  The religiously intensive

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.

Jesus is accused of drastically inappropriate conduct – God welcomes sinners

Three stories – all could serve as a basis for sermons

First two have similarity – God searches for and finds, this is cause for celebration

Third is more unique – longer – more allegorical – applicable – family complexity

4-7 “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 neighbors, 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.”

Subject of paintings (lamb in arms) (the one I grew up with depicts Jesus as a Scandinavian)

Declares something about God’s ways – nature of God’s kingdom in the world

God’s ways differ from usual expectations and conventional wisdom

God’s ways make sense as well to life experience and deep realities

God searches – each of us is like the one

Daughter – Kmart experience (seemed to feel rather special being “found”)

Remember the problem:

They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.”


The Story of the Lost Coin

8-10 “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 neighbors: ‘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.”

Searching – looking for… gives me a headache

But ALL of us know what this is and could supply examples

For me – shopping with Joan is to spend a couple moments looking at something,

then a bunch of time “searching” for her

Phone call – set down my hearing aid – obscure place, hours spent searching, but found it

My son lost his wallet at home – great need – we came home (found in 30 seconds)

A kind of celebration

Share one with another a searching/celebration story

“Count on it” – there is celebration in the successful finds

I sometimes drop change in a parking lot – I tend to leave it there for someone to discover

Or a quarter in the cart at Aldi’s – just for my own “fun”

This story is about the joy of restoration and being made whole – shalom, God’s kind of peace

3rd Story – Remember again what the stories are addressing

è Prodigal Son (definition: profuse, wasteful expenditure)

è Father – doesn’t do well with closest relationships – good heart, perhaps not always effective

è Older son – dependant? cut off? rigid? (yes, connection to the ones being addressed)

The Story of the Lost Son

11-12 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.’

Obnoxious, outrageous, audacious, he is out of reason, out of himself

(same idea Jesus’ family expresses in Mark – Jesus has lost himself, “beside” himself)

We have a dysfunctional family system – we can all play each part from time to time: “Cut off

12-16 “So the father divided the property between them.

What!!? You are giving in to this request? (a form of “cutting off”) (close/separate – extreme)

“It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country.

“There, undisciplined and dissipated (overindulging in sensual pleasures), 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.

Gentile/pigs – some of those “disdained” by the ones to whom the story is addressed

But also well depicting his self-made plight – he has hit rock bottom (not unusual for people)

17-20 “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.

He has his “speech prepared” – one of the those “I’m in serious trouble” things

Would he really do this?  Is this real contrition?  Is this manipulative?

Tries to escape from dependency and only finds himself returning to dependency

One can be cynical here – but then again, in doing so, is this doing something like the Pharisee?

20-21 “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.’

Father has no idea of why he sees his son; the father runs out to him, welcomes him

Dysfunction rearing its head?  A bit too much of an embracing action?

A dignified man (of ancient times) does not run

I recall this in my childhood… a kind of immaturity in running…

But God’s ways can be different too from what is expected

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening (to his son’s speech).

“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.

Celebration again – restoration and wholeness are always worth celebrating

Relationally speaking – father appears to be ripe for exploitation

Another extreme – fusion (opposite and concurrent with cut-off, not helpful if “stuck”)

One writer states:

“There is a deeply scandalous flavor in the father’s exuberant response to his returned son.  The father welcomes home a loser, as a loser, and restores him to his standing as a son.  Coming home at rock bottom was all he had to do.”

Yes, that is something about what God’s grace and God’s kingdom is like

It is an expression of the grace we proclaim in baptism

Now – the older, “responsible” son makes an appearance – expresses our nature to “cut off”


25-27 “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.’


28-30 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in.

A sulking, immature style

“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!’


31-32 “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!’”

Bowen Theory on relationships – simply and complex, easy to see and hard to do, requires

maturity and capacity for brave hearts and resiliency, NORMAL in life – drives life

Hope to organize some retreats (based on Healthy Congregations Workshops) to wonder how

these dynamics occur or play out in the life of the congregation

Current circumstances (transition) are not the story we just heard, but the dynamics ring similar

Restoration, new relational strength, resilience toward future wholeness, identity, and mission

Wondrous love of God in our own lives and communities – What wondrous love is this?

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