RCL C Proper 19 Complementary
Exodus 32:7-14, Psalm 51:1-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Saint Luke 15:1-10
Just picture the scene. Jesus is teaching and preaching the kingdom of God. He teaches in an open place. People are free to vote with their feet. Some draw near to him. And some follow him at something of a distance. They listen, but they look for something to criticize, something that they can say that maintains their position in the face of his teaching and preaching the kingdom of God.
We have two groups of people, then, in the Gospel today. We have the tax collectors and sinners in one group. By their profession and by their known refusal to obey the religious law of the day, they are outcast. But they vote with their feet, and they draw near to Jesus. They know that to him they are not outcast. They know that to him they are valuable and loved. They know that to him their lives have meaning.
And then there is a second group of followers, the Pharisees and the scribes. They are the ones who follow at a distance looking for any error Jesus might make. The Pharisees are the ones who made a demonstration of following the religious law. The scribes are the lawyers and judges who interpreted the religious law. They are at a distance, because Jesus welcomes the tax collectors and the sinners.
And, the Gospel tells us, Jesus addresses his parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin to them, the Pharisees and the scribes. They think they are not lost. They think they uphold and maintain their religion. They think Jesus has nothing of value to say to them.
I hope you see in their rejection of the tax collectors and the sinners, and in their rejection of Jesus himself, they themselves are the lost sheep and the lost coin. They are the very things that the shepherd and the woman have discovered to be missing. Jesus parables are told over the heads of the tax collectors and the sinners directly to the Pharisees and the scribes. They are the very ones that the Lord tries to find and that God in heaven seeks to restore.
But I want to impress upon you that nothing could be further from the truth than their self-perception. The Pharisees and the scribes have no conscious need of Jesus. He simply undermines their religion. He brings to their consciousness what to them is unthinkable.
By his parables, the tells them that in their particular religious observance they are unclean and that they need to be clean. They cannot tolerate the message. They react with a stern self-protection and self-defense. Jesus simply wants to bring them over, to find them, and to restore them to greater health.
The conflict, in time, will put Jesus to death. But his tomb fails to hold him. He lives now as then, seeking the lost and giving to every human being value, worth, and meaning. We all need those things. If you hear his voice, draw a little closer to him. Choose to live, and be his for time and for eternity.