Third Sunday After Trinity
“A Feast With Sinners”
St. Luke 15.1-10; Micah 7.18-20; 1 Peter 5.6-11
07 July 2019
Seminarian Simeon Cornwell, Vicar
+ In the Name of Jesus +
We are all born with a sense of what is fair and what is not fair. A young child who receives one ice cream scoop, when they see their brother or sister receive two scoops will quickly grumble and exclaim, “That’s not fair!”
It is a perceived unfairness which causes the Pharisees in our Gospel reading to grumble against Jesus.
Now this whole act may seem insignificant to us, but it is important because to eat with someone in Jesus’ time meant fellowship with them. And so by eating with the tax collectors and sinners, Jesus is uniting Himself to them. These unclean who any self-respecting Jew would do anything he could to avoid coming into contact with.
It is for this reason that the scribes and Pharisees grumble against Jesus. These sinners and tax collectors have no right to eat with a Jew. If Jesus truly was the Son of God, He would not have fellowship with such people. For they have abandoned God’s Law and deserve nothing but His wrath.
In response, Jesus proceeds to lay before them three parables. The parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son. Two of which we heard in our Gospel reading.
In the first, Jesus give the example of a shepherd who has a hundred sheep. One of them has wandered from the fold and instead of cutting his losses, he goes out to find it. Now if you know anything about sheep, which I’m sure many of you know far more than I do, then you know they are very dumb animals.
Having wandered from its community or fold, and finding itself lost, a sheep will freeze. It will become stubborn and refuse to move from the position it has gotten itself into. If no one comes looking for it, it will either be devoured by a wolf or starve to death.
Knowing this, the shepherd goes out to look for his sheep. And once he has found it, since he knows it will not budge, he takes its burden upon his own shoulders and carries it back to the community.
And instead of punishing the sheep which got itself lost, the shepherd calls together the whole community and has a feast to celebrate it being reunited with him once again. He does not care that he had to go through suffering and trouble to find it. His only concern is that it is now safe and sound with him again.
So too in our Lord’s second parable we hear of a lost coin. Being an inanimate object, it can do nothing to contribute to being found. In those times houses had few windows, so even during the day very little natural light would come in. And so the woman looking for it must pay the price of using precious and costly oil to light a lamp.
Nevertheless, both the shepherd and woman gladly suffer these things in order to find these lost possessions.
Now the fact that these objects were unable to contribute to their return demonstrates a view of repentance foreign to that of the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees believed that true repentance meant meeting God halfway.
So they grumble because these sinners and tax collectors had gotten themselves lost and stubbornly refused to “meet God halfway” in repentance. In contrast to their righteous acts, the tax collectors were taking out extra interest in order to pocket the rest for themselves. And those sinners had probably done worse.
Instead of confessing their helplessness, the Pharisees choose to stubbornly resist Jesus and His invitation to eat with Him and these sinners. It was the scribes and Pharisees perceived sense of fairness, which caused them to harden their hearts against Jesus. Which led them to grumble and complain just as their fathers had done in their wilderness wandering, after coming out of Egypt.
Just before our Gospel reading, Jesus proclaimed, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Lk. 14:35) And then immediately afterwards we are told that “the sinners and tax collectors were drawing near to hear Him” (Luke 15:1).
These sinners and tax collectors knew that they are lost. That they in their current state were completely helpless, just as that sheep and coin. They knew they could make no progress towards God. All they could do was hear the words of the Good Shepherd. And in hearing, Jesus tells them of His relentless love to bring them back into communion with Him.
They hear how He has cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. And now, having been cleansed of these, how they are invited to join in a feast with Him.
But the Pharisees and scribes do not have ears to hear since they refuse to confess their helplessness and need for Jesus. And as a result, they do not join in the feast of joy with Jesus and the sinners. They are the ninety-nine who Jesus says pejoratively, have no need of repentance.
This lost sheep and coin describe our state before Baptism. We were not found through our efforts and labors but were found by the relentless love of God the Father when He sent His Son in our flesh to bear the burden of our sins upon His shoulders. To carry us back into communion, into fellowship with the Father.
Before our Baptism we were dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked. But in the waters of Baptism the Triune God has found us and once again brought us into full communion with Him.
But these parables also call to repentance those who may have fallen away from the Faith. For Jesus speaks this parable not just to call the sinners and tax collectors to repentance, but also the Pharisees and scribes. Those who in their pride refused to rejoice in His mercy.
So too any who in pride may have rejected Jesus for a time, whether long or short, are all called to repent this day. For the Shepherd always seeks the lost. He always desires the return of His sheep. He does not delight in the destruction of any sinner, no matter who they may be.
Rather He wants those who have been humbled and brought low by His words to come once again to the feast and rejoice. The feast in which there is full communion with Him.
So come this day to the feast and rejoice in the love of the Shepherd. The love which will relentlessly pursue us until we enter into His joy which will have no end.
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.