Text of the Week: “… let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:24-25
Welcome to today’s services and a special welcome to any who are worshipping with us for the first time!
Today it’s Sunday Special: that means that our children and young people are enjoying a late breakfast and some activities around today’s theme before joining the rest of us for the last part of our service. In our whistle-stop tour of Luke and Acts, today we almost get back to where we started! We join Jesus and the women as well as the men who accompanied him wherever he went. They’re on a journey that’s taking them to Jerusalem. And on that journey they do what so many people down through the ages have done on a journey: they share stories. It’s here in Luke’s Gospel on the journey to Jerusalem that begins at chapter 9 verse 51 and ends when he first sees the city at chapter 19 verse 41 that most of the ‘story-like’ parables of Jesus are to be found. Right in the middle of the journey come three of the most wonderful stories of Jesus and they go to the heart of the Gospel. As we hear of the sheep that was lost and found, the coin that was sought and saved and the son that was hugged and held we marvel at God’s grace and see the world in a completely different way. Luke chapter 15 is nothing less than the Gospel inside the Gospel.
Welcome and Call to Worship
153 Great is thy faithfulness
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
The Journey begins
In our whistle-stop tour of Luke and Acts, today we almost get back to where we started! We join Jesus and the women as well as the men who accompanied him wherever he went. They’re on a journey that’s taking them to Jerusalem. And on that journey they do what so many people down through the ages have done on a journey: they share stories. It’s here in Luke’s Gospel on the journey to Jerusalem that begins at chapter 9 verse 51 and ends when he first sees the city at chapter 19 verse 41 that most of the ‘story-like’ parables of Jesus are to be found. It’s here, more than anywhere else, that we catch a glimpse of the way Luke worked when he set out to write ‘an orderly account’ for a friend of God, Theophilus. He is quite open in declaring that he made use of things other people had written – lots of Mark’s gospel appears almost word for word in Luke’s Gospel. But interestingly, Luke keeps close to the original Mark and includes that Gospel in chunks. In all these 10 chapters there’s virtually nothing from Mark’s Gospel. It’s all material Luke has researched himself. It includes sayings of Jesus that appear in quite different contexts in Matthew’s Gospel, giving rise to the view that Matthew and Luke both drew on an earlier collection of the sayings of Jesus.
The journey begins … and straightaway they run into conflict – conflict in part of the disciples’ making as they enter a Samaritan village that refuses to receive Jesus –
When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Some manuscripts add in Jesus’ response: You don’t know what kind of a Spirit you belong to: for the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them.” 9:51-55
Then it’s on to another village and reflections on what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Jesus – would-be followers of Jesus.
It’s almost as if they fan out – the twelve had already gone out and come back and reported on their mission to preach the kingdom and to bring healing into all levels of people’s lives. They went out in pairs – maybe each of those pairs took on another 12 – making a cascade of 72 going out – to preach the kingdom and bring healing to people’s lives.
Not all receive the message as there are unbelieving towns. They come back and report.
A Rhythm of action and reflection that leads to more reflection.
Luke notices how much Jesus prays – here he records a wonderful prayer of praise Jesus makes to his Father.
Then comes the Parable of the Good Samaritan , the visit Jesus makes to the home of Mary and Martha – there’s action here that is called for in the Parable of the Good Samaritan and reflection in the visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary as he commends the quiet reflection of Mary.
Then Jesus teaches on prayer – this is an example of the way Matthew and Luke seem to draw on sayings that had been compiled of Jesus – this teaching appears in Matthew in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 6. Here there is a focus on prayer – on the journey to keep going the disciples recognize that Jesus keeps going by prayer … and they want to know how to pray.
There’s a tussle going on – a spiritual battle if you like – Jesus and Beelzebul and the return of the evil spirit.
True happiness is hearing the word of God and doing it – a recurring theme. Reflection on the word leads to action which in turn leads to more reflection.
There’s discussion and debate as people demand a miracle and Jesus speaks of the need for an inner light to light up the body – and debates with the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law –
As Jesus sits down and eats with he Pharisee – who is critical that Jesus had not adequately washed.
Jesus has gone in to eat with Mary and Martha. Here we see him eating at the home of the pharisee.
He warns against hypocrisy – fear those who kill the spirit k- how important to confess Christ and the fear of rejection
Then another gredat story parable – the parable of the great fool – who puts I, me at the centre and gets his come-uppance.
How important to trust in God and seek riches in heaven. Be watchful – the watchful servants at the feast – the call for action
The call for decision – can lead to division – are you for Jesus and his way or not
Settle with your opponent, turn from your sins or die, the parable of the unfruitful figtree.
As the journey presses on there is a need to decide for or against, are you with Jesus or not?
Heals a crippled woman on the sabbath – and then more stories – the parable of the mustard seed, of the yeast, of the narrow door.
The tension mounts in 13:31ff
At that same time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “You must get out of here and go somewhere else, because Herod wants to kill you.”
There’s the determination of Jesus …
32Jesus answered them, “Go and tell that fox: ‘I am driving out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I shall finish my work.’33Yet I must be on my way today, tomorrow, and the next day; it is not right for a prophet to be killed anywhere except in Jerusalem.
And his lament over the Jerusalem he knows he is going to and what lies in store
34“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets, you stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times have I wanted to put my arms round all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!35 And so your Temple will be abandoned. I assure you that you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
Jesus heals the sick man and again there’s reflection on what happens at a feast as some guests seek the place of highest honour and Jesus speaks of humility and hospitality.
Then comes the parable of the Great feast – Jesus reflects on the cost of being a disciple and of the dangers of worthless salt.
The Journey is pressing forward –
It’s one of those jaunty modern songs from school and church days … though actually it is one we are growing older with. At our dementia friendly service one of Joan’s friends chose the next hymn – a great choice in all sorts of ways, especially when you remember that Sydney Carter who wrote this and Lord of the dance and many others himself lived with an increasingly serious dementia. And it was a struggle.
530 One more step 1,2,3
Right in the middle of the journey come three of the most wonderful stories of Jesus and they go to the heart of the Gospel. As we hear of the sheep that was lost and found, the coin that was sought and saved and the son that was hugged and held we marvel at God’s grace and see the world in a completely different way. Luke chapter 15 is nothing less than the Gospel inside the Gospel.
And it’s all about who you eat with – this gets to the heart of some big issues. It goes to the heart of the Gospel. Religion is all about keeping the right company, eating the right things in the right way with the right people. For Jesus it wasn’t like that – he had a whole different way of thinking of things and of seeing the world.
It is the complaint of the ultra religious that leads into these three wonderful parables:
Lost and Found - Luke 15:1-7
One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, 2the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, “This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!” 3So Jesus told them this parable:
The immediate point at issue is – who you eat with
4“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them — what do you do? You leave the other 99 sheep in the pasture and go looking for the one that got lost until you find it.5When you find it, you are so happy that you put it on your shoulders6and carry it back home. Then you call your friends and neighbours together and say to them, ‘I am so happy I found my lost sheep. Let us celebrate!’7In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 respectable people who do not need to repent.
And it finishes with great feasting.
You could think of these three parables as parables about our plight and our salvation - the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost coin, the parable;e of the Lost Son or the Prodigal son
And they are wonderful in what they say about that love of God that reaches out to us and brings us to a safe place, sets us in the right place welcomes us home.
HTC 212 I will sing the wondrous story
You can think of them as Parables about us, our plight and our salvation: the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, the Parable of the lost or prodigal son.
Or you can think of them as parables about the nature of God: the parable of the Good Shepherd, the Seeking Woman, the Waiting Father
Sought and Saved
8“Or suppose a woman who has ten silver coins loses one of them — what does she do? She lights a lamp, sweeps her house, and looks carefully everywhere until she finds it.9When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together, and says to them, ‘I am so happy I found the coin I lost. Let us celebrate!’10In the same way, I tell you, the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus speaks of God as the mother hen who takes us under her wing – this is a wonderful image – and it invites us into that safe place that is special.
678 Here is the place
There is a recurring phrase in each of those first two parable – as they come to the end
7In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 respectable people who do not need to repent.
0In the same way, I tell you, the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents.”
Repentance goes to the heart of the gospel – it’s what it is all about.
But what is repentance? – in a sense the third parable is a parable that is all about repentance. What it means.
Hugged and Held
Jesus went on to say, “There was once a man who had two sons.12The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the property now.’ So the man divided his property between his two sons.13After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living.14He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing.15So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs.16He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat.17At last he came to his senses and said, ‘All my father's hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve!18I will get up and go to my father and say, Father, I have sinned against God and against you.19I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.’20So he got up and started back to his father.
“He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms round his son, and kissed him.21‘Father,’ the son said, ‘I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’22But the father called his servants. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet.23Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast!24For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ And so the feasting began.
The key moment is when he comes to his senses.
He came to himself
That’s what repentance amounts to – a whole new way of thinking – a whole new way of acting – a whole new way of being …
And it draws us home – hugged and held.
How easy it is to begrudge those who are brought home – but we’ve been there all along … the elder brother
28“The elder brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in.29But he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends!30But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’31‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours.32But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ ”
Takes us back to where we began – and that sense that these are parables of feasting – and the feast is for all – let’s not stay outside!
724 Christ’s is the world
The Journey goes on
Look at the story parables that are coming up –
The Shrewd manager – 16:1-13 about the scale of forgiveness
The rich man and Lazarus – 16:19-32
The servant who ploughs – 17:7-10
The widow and the judge – 18:1-8
The pharisee and the tax collector – 18:9-14
The parable of the gold coins
And the things Jesus does
Heals ten men suffering from leprosy 17:11-19
Blesses little children 18:15-17
Heals a blind beggar – 18:35-43
Jesus and Zaccaheus – 19|:1-10
And then he’s almost there … and when he sees the city he weeps over it
Triumphant approach to Jerusalem 19:28-40
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
41He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, 42saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it!43
530 One more step 1,4,5
Prayers of Concern
555 Amazing Grace
A time to share
Words of Blessing