In this week’s Gospel, Jesus is challenged for welcoming and eating with sinners. The setting helps us to understand that Jesus may have told the story about the lost sheep to defend his acts of reaching out to share the invitation of the reign of God with those often regarded as beyond God’s concern. It may seem foolish to leave many sheep to go after one stray, but the parable emphasizes the lengths to which both Jesus and God will go to bring back one who is missing. The second parable (the lost coin), illustrates a related theme: there is great joy when the lost if found.
Today’s Epistle also states this mission: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul speaks out of his own experience, as he offers thanks for the mercy and grace of Christ who has appointed him to his service – despite the fact that he has been a “blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence” (v. 13). He had no valid claim on God’s forgiveness because he was the worst of sinners, thus confirming that anyone could come to Christ through repentance. The mission of Jesus remains: to love sinners into repentance – to relentlessly seek us out and never give up until the lost is found.
Evangelism’s purpose is not merely to draw new members into the church, but to reach out to those burdened with their own sense of sin and alienation, welcoming them in to the Kingdom of God.
- What does the sequence of loss, search, and joy in these parables tell us about life in the Kingdom?
- What do these stories reveal to us about the mission of Jesus, and by extension, the task of the Church today?
- Reading Paul’s experience that he shared with Timothy, when you have felt God’s grace and forgiveness in your own life?
God of the dirtied hands, the wandering feet; you seek out the lost before ever they turn to you: take us with you into abandoned places to find a new community outside our fortress walls; through Jesus Christ, the Searching One. Amen. (Proper 19 Collect by Steven Shakespeare in “Prayers for an Inclusive Church” 2009: Church Publishing).