O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit,
that we with all creation
may rejoice to sing your praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises,
and tell of all his marvellous works.
Rejoice in the praise of his holy name;
let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his face continually.
Remember the marvels he has done,
his wonders and the judgements of his mouth,
O seed of Abraham his servant,
O children of Jacob his chosen.
He is the Lord our God;
his judgements are in all the earth.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 15.1-10
All the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near Jesus to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, 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 people who need no repentance.
‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
I used to know someone who spent much of their time being judgemental of the motives and actions of other people. That person was someone who worked very hard at being ‘seen’ to do the ‘right thing’. They tried not to offend or displease. They tried to live a quiet and respectable life without drawing too much attention to themselves. But … they were never slow in criticizing others who did not conform to their view of wholesome living. That person would definitely have been in the company of the Pharisees and scribes who were grumbling about the company Jesus was keeping at the beginning of today’s reading. My old acquaintance had many sterling qualities but tolerance and empathy did not feature among them.
In response to the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes Jesus tells two parables that speak of loss, finding and rejoicing. Both the shepherd and the woman were not without substance. The shepherd owned a flock of one hundred sheep and the woman owned ten silver coins (a not insubstantial amount in Jesus’ time). Both the shepherd and the woman lost a comparatively tiny part of their wealth, one sheep and one coin. But … despite the comparatively small loss, they both searched for that which was lost. The shepherd journeyed into the wilderness to find his one lost sheep and the woman cleaned her house from top to bottom to find her lost coin. Having expended all that energy they both experienced feelings of great elation. They both felt the need to share their good news with others. They both wanted to celebrate and rejoice.
At the heart of this reading is the love God has for each and every one of us. It is a fundamental facet of human nature that we get lost. We say things and we do things that distance us from God. We say and do these things on a daily basis. But … God does not wait for us to realize the error of our ways and go crawling back to him. Instead, God comes out in search of us. God does not leave us lost in the wilderness or wallowing in the grime of our everyday lives. Instead, God comes down into the darkest recesses of human life and takes us home, where there is celebration and rejoicing.
Jesus’ whole ministry can be seen in these two parables. God saw that humanity had lost its way, that it was wandering in the wilderness. God saw that his prophets and other messengers had not been able to make the lasting impact that he knew was in our best interests. So … God came to earth himself to search us out, to bring us home and to rejoice with us.
Are we ready for God to lift us out of our judgemental negativity, or are we so entrenched in our own opinions that we now have no real place for God in our lives?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God, by whose love all people are sustained and restored.
May Jesus the great Shepherd protect his flock the Church and lead back those who go astray. Grant to your people true repentance and the joy of knowing forgiveness for their sins.
As the people of the world wander like sheep that are lost, guide them into the way of peace. Grant the vision of your holiness to those who defame and seek to destroy the faith.
Give us grace to sympathise with our friends and neighbours in their sorrow and to rejoice with them in their joy. Make us quick to discern troubles in our community and ready to relieve them.
Comfort those who are sad because one they love is far away from them. Bless all who are lonely and away from home. Keep them safe and bring them happy reunion with those they love.
Grant rest and peace to the dead, through the mercy of Christ who came into the world to save sinners. Gather them into their true and eternal home.
As lost sheep brought back to the true fold, we pray through Christ our Shepherd.
Prayer for the week
we praise and bless your holy name
for your saints of every time and place
who have served you faithfully in their generation
and have enriched the world by their lives,
their witness and their example.
Help us, by your grace, to follow them
as they followed Christ,
that with them we may be partakers of your everlasting joy;
through the merits of Jesus our Saviour and our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
the sun forbear to shine;
but God, who called me here below,
will be forever mine.
John Newton (1725–1807)