Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
September 15, 2019
“Weeping and Rejoicing”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
There is no place for sinners here!! There is no place for those who struggle with life here!! There is no place for those who struggle with doubts at this place!!
But winners are welcome here. This is the place for those who have life all figured out. This is the place for true believers. Here is where you will find the strong and confident, the holy and the pure, the handsome and the beautiful.
But all the others – they don’t belong here!!
Before you up and leave during this sermon let me tell you that that is not true. Before you get really angry and close your ears to this sermon let me tell you that the church, this church, is for sinners. In fact, this church is only for sinners. If you are not a sinner you don’t belong here.
When Jesus began the 3 parables of Luke 15, The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin and The Parable of the Lost Son, it all begins with His words that His church, His kingdom, is only for the broken, the lost, the sinners. “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” (Luke 15:1-2)
Isn’t it something that the same phrase that someone speaks can bring anger to one person and joy to another? Here’s the phrase, “He welcomes sinners and eats with them.” If you are part of that group that always wins, always gets things right, never has anyone who disputes how perfect you are, that phrase angers you. You mutter and mumble and grumble and complain. You shake your head and live in disgust. Jesus welcomes sinners and he eats with them.
But if you are one of them (the sinners – “them”) that phrase, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” is a great word. Now you found a place. Now you have been received. Now you found a home.
Jesus had a couple of tax collectors on His list of friends. Tax collectors were regarded as thieves and were despised by the religious folks of that day. One of his friends was Matthew, chosen by Jesus to be an apostle. When some folks were up in arms about His selection, Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) When Jesus came into Jericho a man who also was a tax collector wanted to see Him. But he was a short guy and couldn’t catch a look because of all the tall folks in front of him. He climbed a tree to see Jesus and then was invited to come eat with Jesus. Again the murmuring and grumbling and complaining of the holier-than-thou’s began, to which Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Jesus came for sinners. In fact, He came only for sinners. That is what His teaching in Luke 15 is about. Today our lessons are about the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.
Lost Sheep. Just one got lost. There was a flock of 100 sheep – probably 2-3 shepherds caring for them, usually a shepherd could care for about 40 by themselves. But one got away. So the shepherd found him, put him on his shoulders, and goes back. The rejoicing begins. The party starts. “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:6b) I’ve titled the sermon, “Weeping and Rejoicing”. Before they have the party there is a bunch of anxiety. Jesus talks of it like this, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)
Before there is rejoicing there is weeping. Repentance comes first. In our lives and in the lives of anyone who needs grace, repentance is first. Repenting – the “I’m sorry”; “I screwed up”; “I was wrong”; “I’m to blame.” It is when we turn from evil and turn to God. It is when we are broken and in pieces. There is rejoicing when one sinner repents. You want to make God happy? Repent. You want to make angels happy? Repent. You want to make your wife or husband, your friend or co-worker happy? Repent. You want to be happy? Repent. We turn from ourselves and we seek the cleansing from God. When we read the word, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”, we have a sense of peace that we have found the place of safety and life.
Do you get it? There is weeping and then there is rejoicing. God rejoices, angels rejoice and we rejoice. I received the best compliment in the world this past week. As some of you know my e-mail was hacked and a number of you got e-mails supposedly from me asking for gift cards for a person in need. Well, I didn’t send it. Someone was trying to steal money from your generous heart and used my name to do it. That scam didn’t only happen here but throughout the Denver area. Channel 4 News came and interviewed me about this on Wednesday afternoon, September 4 – about 10 days ago – and then aired it on their 10 o’clock news. (This was my first step into being a TV preacher!!) One of our preschool kids was watching the news when I came on and said to his dad, “Look, dad, that is the man who tells me I have to love Jesus.” That kid gets it. Do you get it? Weeping and rejoicing.
Jesus then tells the second parable is response to the accusation, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”, it is “The Parable of the Lost Coin.” (Luke 15:8-10). A woman has 10 coins and loses one of them. She is greatly bothered by the loss of that coin and searches the house until she finds it. “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” Jesus, telling this story says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
One coin. Big deal, right? Commentators tell us a few things about the possibility of that coin – it may have been part of her dowry – the gift she was given when she was married. It may have been part of a jewelry band around her head. One writer said that ten drachmas was the life savings of a family. She may have lost one-tenth of it. That is a bunch of money!! You bet you’re going to search for it!! But I think the point that Jesus is making is how important each individual is. One sheep out of 100 gets lost. Better find them. One coin out of 10 is lost. You’d better find it. One son out of two gets lost. You’d better find him. It is not enough that you still have 99 out of the 100 sheep. It is not enough that you have 9 out of 10 coins. It isn’t enough that you have one son out of two that didn’t leave home. God is concerned about the one. He has a heart for you. He has a heart for them. He has a heart for all. Remember, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Weeping and rejoicing – over us. “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” Most of you here are believers in Jesus. You’ve been chosen by Him in Baptism, you confess His saving name. You are believers. But many in this world are not. This teaching, in fact the whole life of Jesus, is about the desire that God has for those who don’t know the truth of Jesus. “God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:4) Weeping and rejoicing over all. Our heart must care about the one. Our heart must desire that all would turn from sin and all that would destroy them and turn to life – turn to Jesus.
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” How wonderful. I’m glad He sits at my table and I get to sit at His. I rejoice. Angels rejoice. God rejoices. May all the world find Him at their table and we at His. Amen!!