The Lost Sheep + The Lost Coin + The Lost Son – Luke 15
Last week, I reminded you that our heavenly Father gave a great banquet and invited many. And when the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all began to make excuses for why they couldn’t come. The heavenly Father became angry and said, “None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” The heavenly Father then said, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And He said again, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”
I am joy:fully Lutheran, because, even though I am unworthy, I have been invited, I am an honored guest at my heavenly Father’s great banquet. It is my prayer that my heavenly Father would keep me from evil, from false belief, despair and other great shame and vice. I pray that I would never reject the heavenly Father’s invitation and that I would want to be where He wants me to be. Thanks be to the heavenly Father who is gracious and merciful to me, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love toward me. I give thanks that I have been invited to the Lord’s Supper, where I taste and see that the Lord has died for me and shed His blood for me, for the forgiveness of my sins. What is true for me is also true for you.
Today, I want to bring to your remembrance, those same people who were invited and made excuses and did not come to the banquet grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” The religious leaders of Jesus’ time did not believe that people like me are worthy to come to the great banquet. I am joy:fully Lutheran that my heavenly Father thinks otherwise. What is true for me is also true for you.
Jesus tells the parable, “What shepherd, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? A normal shepherd would not leave the ninety-nine sheep to find the one that is lost, for fear of losing the other ninety-nine. But in God’s kingdom, that is exactly what Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, does. The Good Shepherd goes out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, out to the highways and hedges until He finds the lost sheep, that His flock may me complete. And when the Good Shepherd has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And how does the Good Shepherd find His sheep, through the preaching of repentance and forgiveness. Through the preaching of repentance, the sheep realizes that he is lost and in need of lying down in the green pastures that the Good Shepherd has prepared for him. Through the preaching of forgiveness, the sheep realizes that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, that they would have the gifts of forgiveness, life and eternal salvation. Through the preaching of repentance, the sheep realizes that he is on the verge of being attacked and devoured by the wolf, death is at hand. Through the preaching of forgiveness, sin, death and the powers of the devil is defeated, they have no power over the sheep, he is not afraid. And when the Good Shepherd comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
I am joy:fully Lutheran because my heavenly Father loves me so much that He gave His only Son, the Good Shepherd, laying down His life for me, dying for me, that I and all the sheep would have forgiveness, life and eternal salvation in heaven. Jesus, the Good Shepherd has done everything that is necessary for His sheep. The banquet has been prepared. I am right where I belong. I have realized my sin and my need for a Savior to deliver me. I draw near to eat out of His loving and generous hand. Heaven and earth rejoice that the one hundred sheep are with the Good Shepherd. The house, the flock is full.
Jesus continues with His parable, “What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I am a baptized child of God, a prized possession of God. I have been purchased and won from sin, death and the devil, not with gold or silver, but with Jesus’ holy precious blood and with His innocent, bitter suffering and death, that I would be His own and live under Him in His kingdom. But more often than not, I fall out of faith, I depart from the love of Jesus and His bride the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church. At times I like my sin more than I like the holy will of God for me. At times I go astray, rejecting the Ten Commandments and what God knows is best for me. I think I can be a Christian apart from God and His Church, having no need for preaching and teaching, no need to hear the forgiveness of sins spoken to me by my pastor, no need to receive the Lord’s body and blood.
I am joyfully Lutheran, because Jesus and His church never stop looking for me, never stop calling out my name, that I would return to where I belong, to the place where Jesus has prepared for me to be here in His Church, where there is no more pain, no more tears, only rejoicing. God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost do not want me to be lost, they don’t want to share me or lose me to the devil and His wicked ways, and so God and HIs Church continually work, that where He is there I would be also.
We see the reality of these joyous truths about God and how He cares for and about us in the parable that Jesus taught about the father and his two sons. The younger son wanted the father to die and give him his inheritance. The younger son did not care about his father or his kingdom. The father, out of love for his son, willingly granted the request and gave him his share of the inheritance. The younger son left his father and squandered his property in sinful living. In poverty and great need, the younger son became a slave, feeding pigs. The younger son was so hungry he was willing to eat what was given to the pigs, but no one gave him anything to eat. The younger son had sinned against God and his father. And when he came to his father, but still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for his son. He ran and embraced him and kissed him. The father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
I am joy:fully Lutheran, because God the Father loves me so much that He made me His own through the waters of Holy Baptism. He has given me His white robe of righteousness. I have received the shoes that I might walk in the paths of righteousness, following Him in the path which He has prepared. I have received the ring and the crown of life, heaven is my home. I am the honored guest at the Lord’s Supper, to feast in the greatest food of all, my Lord’s body and blood, given and shed for me for the forgiveness of sins. Like the younger son, I am unworthy of any of these gifts. I have deserved punishment, but I received compassion. I have deserved hatred and judgment, but I have received love.
But unfortunately, like the older brother, I am angry and refuse to rejoice with God and His angels in heaven and His church on earth, because of that one sinner who repents, that one sheep that was restored to the flock, that one coin that was found. I refuse to realize the forgiveness that I have first received. I refuse to celebrate with them, the way others have first celebrated with me. Everything I have is a free gift from God. I don’t think that others deserve what they receive, nor have they earned it. I am like the religious leaders, at the time of Jesus, who rejected the great banquet invitation. I make excuses. I complain that Jesus gathers sinners into His presence and eats with them. I think that I know better than God. I think I am better than my neighbor. I judge, without first judging myself. I think that the church is full of hypocrites and sinners and those unworthy to be here.
I am joy:fully Lutheran, because I have realized by hearing preaching and teaching, holding it sacred and gladly hearing and learning it, that the reality is that I am a hypocrite and a sinner, I don’t deserve to be here. But thanks be to God, I who am unworthy to be here, am not only invited but the honored and celebrated guests. As Jesus said, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for the brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” As it was with the lost sheep, the coin, the younger son, so it is with me and you and all people. As your pastor, as one who was lost and is now found, God has granted me to share that same gift with you. What has been given to me, God desires that I give it to you. That we would rejoice. God grant this to us all. Amen.