In the Gospel today once again the scene is set between the Scribes and Pharisees and the tax collectors and the sinners. This is between the good and the evil-between those in power and the not in power. Jesus has always been accused of welcoming sinners and dining with them. So Jesus asks them the question: WHICH ONE OF YOU?---or in the second parable WHAT WOMAN? I have always found it interesting in reading the parable of the Good Shepherd that Jesus does not say if the lost sheep had an illness, was hurt, a new born, or was old and at the end of their life. It is simply that one of the sheep is lost and the Good Shepherd will do anything---leaving the other 99 to seek out the lost sheep. He will not rest until the lost sheep is found and reunited with the other 99. Once reunited the Good Shepherd throws a party in celebration. In the second parable Jesus asks, "What woman, having ten coins and losing one does not light a lamp, sweep the house until it is found." Once found a party begins for her life is now whole once again. Of course we all know the results of the prodigal son coming home. The fatted calf is prepared for a feast where all are invited.
In my life I have been on both sides of this situation. At times I have felt lost and abandoned. I have felt there is not much purpose left. My life had been radically changed to the point I did not recognize even myself and my interests. Sometimes we tend to get so involved in little things that they take over our life-we tend to get lost and perhaps do not even know it. We can not see and appreciate the major things in life as the trivial takes over.
I have also been on the side of searching out the lost person; trying to do anything possible to find the right words to say; trying to do anything to bring back a person who seems to have strayed from the straight and narrow.
Have there been times in your life when you have seemed separated from God or family? How did that get resolved?
Do we get caught in the "who will blink first syndrome"?
One of the messages we hear today is that no one is ever excluded from the assembly of believers and all are welcome. There is even a song we use entitled, "All are welcome in the place". That was our opening song this morning.
When I have felt lost and once again am found it always seems like I have been the one who has strayed from the realization of the love God has for me rather than God leaving me.
We see demonstrated today the radical concept of total forgiveness in the searching out of the lost sheep, the searching until the lost coin is found and the return of the prodigal son.
This takes on real meaning when we ask the question:
"Who can be forgiven?"
Can Adolph Hitler be forgiven?
Is there forgiveness for the butchering that took place between the Tutsi and the Hutu in Rwanda a few years ago?
Is there forgiveness for the pair who killed students and teachers at Columbine?
Is there forgiveness for those who pollute our rivers and forests?
Is there forgiveness for those who abort children?
Is there forgiveness for the injustice of 1.2 billion who are malnourished in the world and the 16,000 children who die every day from hunger-related causes?
Is there forgiveness for Pearl Harbor; Hiroshima; and Nagasaki?
Jesus challenges us to radical change; to really change our lives; to search out those we need to forgive and bring them back into the community. If we are lost Jesus the Good Shepherd is coming after us and he will search us out until we are found. Jesus will bring us home.
We also need to work like Jesus taught us to work. We need to search out those whom in our families and communities are the lost; search for them and be the one person to facilitate reconciliation.
Everyone needs to know they are welcomed under the tent for our tent is very large with room for all. There is always room for another plate at the banquet of life. We can always add some water to make the soup last longer. Everyone is invited to the banquet of life; everyone is invited to the banquet of the Eucharist. Let Jesus put us on his shoulder when we are too weary to walk and bring us home. As a community we have chosen that model of life and ministry-Jesus Our Shepherd