Monday, September 10, 2007

Joy in Heaven Luke 15:1-10

A wise man once told to a group of Lutheran seminarians that if you really want to squirm when you read the Gospels substitute the word Lutherans in place of the word Pharisees in the Gospels.

The suggestion is good advice for any Christian, regardless of denominational label. Just substitute your beloved group in place of Pharisees and scribes and see just how real and personal Jesus challenge in Luke 15 was and still is for believers.

The religious structure in Jesus day was a clear and he challenged it head on as he moved toward the cross. He'd have no trouble challenging us today to look beyond our definitions of in and out. The Pharisees believed they were in good with God. So do Christians today. The Pharisees had no trouble finding people they believed were out of the kingdom of God. The same goes for us in our denominations and affiliations. We believe, deep down in the hidden parts of our hearts, that we know who is in and out of God's Kingdom. Liberals and conservatives both make judgments about who is in and who is out.

The antidote to our judgments, spoken and unspoken, is Jesus. He met a very diverse crowd in Jerusalem. Luke 14:1 says the tax-collectors and the sinners were coming to sit with him. The scribes and the Pharisees grumbled watching him eat with them (Luke 14:2). Jesus responded to their grumbling, not with anger, but by telling stories about joy in heaven and among the angels.

Jesus stories in Luke 15 are bold. The shepherd who would risk 99 to search for 1 made decisions based not on simple profit and loss but on concern for the one who was lost. Sarah Dylan explores this reach of God for the lost 1 at the sake of the 99 beautifully. But Jesus wasn't done yet. He spoke of the woman who celebrated finding one coin illustrating the reality of God's care for the lost who are found even more.

Walk daily with Jesus and you'll see the expanding reach of God. You'll see the boundaries of God's mercy open beyond your imagination's limits. You might even witness the return of a lost one and know the joy that exist among the angels.

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