The gospel lesson on Sunday was the 15th chapter of Luke, which actually contains three stories about the once lost being found. In the first story it is a sheep that is lost. While 99 are safe, the reckless, relentless Shepherd goes in search of the missing one. This is a great story because, well, we have gone missing a time or two, and the fact that we are sitting here today is proof that this story is true. God refuses to abandon any of us.
In the second story Jesus reminds us of God’s feminine nature. God the Woman turns everything upside down looking for one coin that is lost. God will do whatever it takes to find us and bring us home.
There is a third story in the 15th chapter of Luke that we didn’t read because it is so well known. We know it as “The Prodigal Son.”
In the story Jesus makes it clear that God’s nature is not affected by our behavior. We may deprive ourselves of the experience of God’s graceful provision, but our choices cannot counteract God’s relentless grace.
Jesus’ story about God’s stubborn love for straying children is the best known and most-loved story of all time. This third story is much longer than the other two. Jesus even describes the reaction of the older brother who was very unhappy about his father’s graceful nature.
This senior sibling resents the father taking his brother back. It is as if he fears that, by loving his younger brother, the father takes something away from him. The older brother so missed the nature of his own father that he missed the most beautiful line in the whole story. After the older brother’s tirade, the father looks at him and with relentless grace says, “My son, you are with me always, and all that I have is yours.”
Unfortunately, the boy was too busy being a self-righteous victim to hear the words of grace extended to him. When bitterness or envy or resentment infects our hearts we miss the blessings that are ours. It is like drinking poison and expecting our enemy to get sick.
Rev. Michael Piazza
The Center for Progressive Renewal