All three parables in Luke 15 (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son) end the same way: with a big, lavish, over-the-top party! In verses 1-10, the elation of the shepherd who finds the sheep and the woman who finds the coin is so great that they invite friends and neighbors over for a celebration! The joy of the occasion calls for lavishness and revelry. For those who seek the face of God primarily as stern judge or demanding taskmaster, this image of an exuberant host comes as a surprise.
The first two parables mention the joy of celebrating the return of the penitent sinner. Jesus’ critics tied repentance to an adoption of their standards of purity and law observance. Jesus means something different. When people turn toward God and follow Jesus’ way of compassion, they express true repentance.
Jesus’ declaration that heaven is throwing a big, noisy party every time a single sinner sees the light challenges us to honor on earth the positive changes in our lives and the lives of others.On the smaller scale of daily existence, I believe that God (and the heavenly host) delights in every step of our growth in love and compassion. Celestial joy overflows each time we inch forward on the spiritual path, each time we reach a little deeper toward intimate relationship with the Divine, each time we include the outcast, each time we minister to the least of these, each time we become more deeply aware that God created us in love and for love, and each time we bear that love to others.
The next time we sing “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” let us remember the God who seeks us, finds us, and brings us home to celebrate.
Imagine God throwing a party out of love for you. Let your heart fill with gratitude for such lavish, holy joy.
The apparent message of Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 is total despair, but verse 27 offers a soft note of grace. God’s redemptive purposes for the people will not ultimately be thwarted. Psalm 14 suggests that foolishness and perversity characterize all humanity, but God can gather from among sinful humankind a community of people who will nd their refuge in God. In First Timothy, the writer points to his own life as an example of God’s ability to reclaim and redeem persons. Luke 15 suggests how far God is willing to go to reclaim the lost. The par- ables of the lost sheep and the lost coin portray God as remark- ably and even recklessly active in pursuit of wayward persons.
• Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. When have you made a mess of things and suffered the consequences? What invitation surfaced from that situation?
• Read Psalm 14. How do you feel when you are out of touch with God’s call? What practices or disciplines do you employ to recognize God’s faithfulness?
• Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. What can you do today that will show mercy and compassion to another?
• Read Luke 15:1-10. When have you felt God pursuing you? How did this feel like a gracious invitation rather than con- demnation?
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