Several months after I moved to China, a friend invited me to her cousin’s wedding in a remote village. When we arrived at the bride’s home, the family surrounded me and began a debate I couldn’t understand. Eventually my smiling friend turned to me and said, “As a foreigner, you are the most honored guest. You must be the maid of honor.” With that, the next several hours became a blur, as I was thrown into a celebration of food, music, dancing, and, yes, toasts. (“Say anything in English,” my friend instructed. “I will make you sound good when I translate.”)
But perhaps my favorite part of the day was when we traveled from the bride’s home to the ceremony site. Cars and buses and people on foot paraded across the village, honking and calling to neighbors. The whole community was welcomed—even compelled—to come join the celebration, from the poorest neighbor to this confused, awkward foreigner.
Jesus tells of a God who doesn’t just seek, sweep, track, and venture out to find the lost one; when the lost one is found and retrieved, God celebrates extravagantly. God throws parties, the kind where everyone is invited.
The question is this: Will we will accept the invitation? For some of us, we must let go of the pride that keeps us from dancing in the street. Others of us, like the Pharisees, must overcome our sense that we (and others) must earn the right to be celebrated. We may have to let go of our biases that keep us from associating with the sinner/wanderer/lost one who has been found. But God is there, in the middle of the party, dancing with the sinners and the wanderers, inviting us to join the celebration, and compelling us to extend the party to our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our nation, our world.
Friends, we have serious work to do. Let’s get to it. Let’s party.
Jeremiah’s warning of coming judgment continues. The children of Israel have become foolish, have ignored God, and have become good mainly at doing evil. God is going to respond to this situation. The psalmist describes the state of all who are foolish: They deny God and follow their own corrupt desires, including oppressing the poor. The author of First Timothy, traditionally Paul, says that this was also his former way of life. He has been foolish and ignorant, a persecutor of the followers of Christ. In fact, he had been the worst of all sinners; yet Christ has shown him mercy, not judgment. Jesus tells two parables to reveal God’s heart. Rather than neglecting the ignorant, the foolish, and the lost, God searches to find each one of us.
Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. How do your actions show others that you know God?
Read Psalm 14. When have you, like the psalmist, felt that no one knows God? How did you have faith that God would restore God’s people?
Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Recall a time when you felt unworthy of Christ’s full acceptance. How has that experience made you more grateful for Christ’s mercy?
Read Luke 15:1-10. In a world full of death and violence, how do you rejoice when God finds one lost person?
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