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Joy of the Angels - Pr19c

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class=MsoNormal>May the words of my mouth and the Meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in you sight, Our Strength, our comforter and our redeemer. Amen 

Don’t waste it! …       We are told

From an early age, this was a message that we kids heard in our family – particularly around the dinner table

We kids were always told that we needed to clean our plates – eat everything that was in front of us

Not only because it was good manners and polite to my Mom, who had made dinner

But also we were told to “think of the starving kids in Africa”

How they would be only too thankful to have the food that we were turning our noses up at

Our reaction, like many of you, I am sure, was to respond back with “well send it to them… they can have my brussel sprouts”

We had missed the point, of course – it was about being appreciative and thankful for what we had not figuring out a way to get rid of what we didn’t enjoy

I, imagine that this experience is common to many of you. – It is still the same for my kids and I expect will be the same for theirs

In our family’s case, both my parents were born during the Second World War – both grew up having to do without

My mom used to tell stories of how, in England, all the rations were stamped with the word “utility” on them to identify domestic goods from goods for the troops

And since my Mom was the only one of her siblings that was born during the war, her brothers sisters used to joke with her and say that her birthmark was a “utility” stamp

As time rolls on and prosperity in the west abounds, our sense of waste changes

We might have move beyond saving ‘left-overs’ to coming to the very pragmatic decision that we won’t ever ‘eat it later’ and we will only find it a month later in the back of fridge looking like some science project

When the essentials for living - water and food are scarce, the need to save and not waste is urgent and so the work of being frugal is easily done.

But when we have a lot, we quickly forget our frugal ways

And we increase our standards for everything – no longer is not only no left-overs, but no more kraft dinner

When we have a lot, we do not work so hard at saving. 

When we have a lot, we use it.  We spend it.  We eat a lot of it. 

That is just how we are. 

When we have lots of time we are glad to help, even if takes all day.[1] 

Our abundance has detached us from our primitive needs

This is not a bad thing of course, but it does disconnect us from the joy we would otherwise experience

I think that it is fair to say that, in this land of great abundance – Joy is not an emotion that is common in day to day life

When I was a teenager, in the winter when we had good snow coverage

I would come home right away after school and borrow my parent’s car and drive 30 minutes away to get a couple of quick hours of cross country skiing in before it got dark

I generally went to the same place, as there were good trails, with an easy access ‘back entrance’. I also brought the dog along as it gave her a good run and she was always good company

            This one time, I brought my friend up with me.

The weather was great and the snow was ideal, because we wanted to make the most of our time, we pushed our luck a little bit and did a little more than I would normally

As we were on the loop back to the car the sun was very low in the sky, in fact we were mostly skiing in the twilight

Because of this, it got colder and so to combat the cold I skied harder to warm up

My friend however, didn’t go skiing everyday after school and although I didn’t realize it at first, he got farther and farther behind

            I returned to the car with just my dog

After being back at the car for some time without any sign of him, I started to get pretty worried – so I set back out to find him

Had he fallen and hurt himself… had he made a wrong turn… it was dark now, what if I didn’t find him tonight, would he know what to do in the winter… We were out for a ‘work-out ski’, we had clothes for being active, not being still and making it through a winter’s night… What was going to happen to him?

            As these worries increased so too did my pace in the, now, moon lite evening

I was calling out his name every few seconds, waiting only long enough in between to strain to hear any reply.

After waiting in the car for about 10 minutes and then skiing frantically for another 15 minutes – we finally joined up

It was an incredible relief and joyous moment – we bear hugged each other and each excitedly told our tale to the other

He had missed the turn off to the parking lot and had continue along the loop – doubling back once it got too dark and felt like he had been out too long

            I can’t explain to you what a joy it was to see him

Jesus says that there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner that repents.

Jesus, God in the flesh, wants us to understand God’s heart for His people

            God wants us to understand how important each lost one is to Him

Our gospel reading today is two thirds of a response by Jesus to the grumbling of the Pharisees and the scribes

They were grumbling because “all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.” [And they said] "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:1&2)

To their grumbling, Jesus responds with three parables; The Lost sheep, the Lost coin and the Lost Son – which we commonly called The Prodigal Son

This week we have the first two, as we had the parable of the Prodigal Son by itself, earlier this year

Each parable is important and each tells us God’s heart for His people and each is a defence by Jesus of his treatment of the ‘tax collectors and sinners’

and the audience of these parables is the religious elite

each one shares a basic structure.

(a) One is lost from a much larger group,

(b) the protagonist goes to great lengths to seek out the lost item,

(c) the finder invites friends for a celebration, and

(d) Jesus offers the moral of the story.

The moral of the story is something that deeply reveals the heart of our Lord

Many biblical scholars have called it the gospel inside the gospel

Here we see that despite all that might have done that goes against God’s desire for us, us sinners – despite all that… God seeks out the lost…

and then rejoices…, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents(Luke 15:10)

Let’s for a moment consider that in our setting here in church…

Surely if the angels of God are rejoicing over people who have confessed their separation from God and its consequences,

then when we see others who have confessed their separation from God and recognize that without the love of Jesus they would be lost,

shouldn’t the whole focus of the congregation be hooting and hollering in joy.

If angels before God can rejoice, couldn't we?

     Now rejoicing in our culture means singing, shouting, dancing and a big party.

I don't know how angels do it, but I suspect that they can hardly make it from one party to the next because of all the sinners who repent each week, in every church, every village, town, and city… as you and I do.

Our service at the time of confession each week is a somber time – imagine if we thought of it like the angels

Wouldn't you think some of that celebration could be part of our worship service when we hear each other repent and receive the forgiveness from the only One who saves, Jesus Christ?

He came to seek and save us. He says that each of us are so important to him that he'll leave all the others and go after the 1% who are lost.

That's what Jesus is all about.

He is "about" looking for the lost one, finding the lost one, bringing the lost one back into the fold and rejoicing with the community.[2]

….Jesus is telling those grumbling Pharisees and scribes - a dramatic message

Not only should you seek out the sinners

And when we hear the term sinners, in this story, we need to not think of it with our modern reformation minds and say ‘we are all sinners’

Because the sinners in this story were the worst of the worst – people where there was no hiding their lifestyle – no hiding who they were in Jewish culture

Not only are the religious elite called to seek out these sinners but they were to be in their company to be near them – to teach them, to draw them together… and to eat with them

The highest form of hospitality in ancient near east culture was to eat with another

            When you eat with another you are showing them the respect of an equal

Jesus, a Rabbi of increasing fame and popularity, was reaching out to the marginalized – marginalized because of who they were and what they had done – and treating them as equals

But it doesn’t just end there… Jesus is telling the grumbers

            That this is a moment of great joy – worthy of angelic joy

When I read this scripture early in this week, a song kept coming into my head

            It is from the reggae band UB40 and is called “I am the one in ten”

                        Here are some of the lyrics:

I`m a middle aged businessman
With chronic heart disease
I`m another teenaged suicide
In a street that has no trees

I am the one in ten .... I am the one in ten…

I`m a starving third world mother
A refugee without a home
I`m a house wife hooked on Valium
I`m a Pensioner alone
I`m a cancer ridden spectre
Discovering the earth
I`m another hungry baby
I`m an accident of birth.

I am the one in ten .... I am the one in ten…

What came to mind to me was that each of us has something that makes us ‘the one in ten”

Whether that be our health – our upbringing – our family – an accident or tragedy …whatever… we all have something that makes us feel like the marginalized

            The lost

 To this our Lord tells an incredible message…

            He is the Good Shepherd – that goes to incredible risks to save us

                        Defining all worldly economics

We can try to do the math and argue the reasonableness of the shepherd's leaving the rest of the sheep or wonder about the expense of a party over one coin,

But we'd be missing the point and the call: 

"God's unrelenting search provides the true measure of a lost sinner's worth. 

Percentages are not factored into the intensity of the search (one of 100, one of ten);

To God there is no acceptable margin of loss.

…That is a God I want to know

The next time that someone asks you why you have faith and come to church – tell them about God’s economics

And for us Christians, thankful for God finding us in our lost state – we too can join in the searching

We can be part of making the family whole again.

This has led me to consider that one of the reasons we need to join Christ in searching for the 'lost' is because we are incomplete without them ...

the searching is so that we, too, can be whole.

I would like to suggest that the church needs more rituals of finding,

in which the joy of return can be celebrated.

Here is a story that I came across this week

A person is telling of a ceremony of reconciliation and acceptance for people who had been marginally Catholic that was celebrated in the cathedral in Oakland, California,

Celebrated during Holy Week on the Thursday, known as Maundy Thursday. This the night before Good Friday, where communion was first taught to us by our Lord

and where Jesus in John’s gospel teaches us a new commandment in word and deed – “to love one another as He has loved us” and then models this by washing the disciples’ feet

The returning Catholics processed up the aisle with looks of expectant joy;

The bishop went through the rite of reconciliation and after the homily washed their feet.

In front of this person was an older couple, who wept with joy as they celebrated that their daughter or son was lost but now was found.

This Holy Thursday Eucharist was truly a celebration, as the joy in heaven spilled over on the earth.

In our worship this morning we practice God's economics. Especially in our communion service

We gather, acknowledging that all we are and all we have comes from God… belongs to God… is loved by God… can be given and offered and spent for God.

We offer our time, our talents, our money, and the produce of our hands and our minds in God's service here in this place… out in the neighborhood… and in the world.

     Our ministries are varied, but each one is valuable,

Each one is important to God,

Because even just one enables us to continue God's work of seeking and finding and celebrating.

Even just one.                         Even just you.                         Even just me.              Precious to God.

And precious here, in God's house, in God's family.             The joy of the angels         Am

[1] Few sentences barrowed from

[2] Few sentences barrowed from

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