Sunday 11 September 2022

Bible Book:

'Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.' (v. 10)

Luke 15:1-10 Sunday 11 September 2022

Psalm 51:1-10


This is the narrative of scandal. In the previous chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was invited to eat with the leaders of the Pharisees. Now the same people are grumbling because Jesus is welcoming and eating with sinners. Those designated as ‘sinners’ would be not only those who broke the moral laws, but also those who did not maintain the ritual purity practised by the Pharisees. The scandal was that Jesus received such outcasts, shared fellowship at their table, and even played host to them. The scandal is of a God who shows mercy to all people and rejoices over the salvation of every lost person, like a shepherd who rejoices over the recovery of a lost sheep, or a woman who rejoices at finding a lost coin. The question posed by the parable is whether we will join in the celebration. To join in such a celebration requires us to also to join in expressing God’s mercy – even when to do so is seen by others as scandalous.

Maybe you saw the movie 'The Godfather, Part II'. In the film, the Mafia godfather, Don Corleone, goes to Rome to negotiate a business deal with the Vatican. He is not interested simply in business; he wants to gain respectability. He meets Cardinal Lamberto, who asks if he would like to make his confession. At first Corleone refuses. He makes a little joke about how it would take too long. However, he wants the cardinal's help, and senses something redemptive in his presence. So Corleone begins his confession. First, he tells of his marital infidelities. Then he admits ordering the murder of his own brother. Overwhelmed by the burden of his guilt, he breaks down and starts to sob. Cardinal Lamberto pronounces the words of absolution, then says, "I know you don't believe this, but you have been redeemed."

Some may find this story scandalous. Here we have a career criminal, an adulterer, cold-blooded enough to plot the killing of his own brother, and yet he's said to be forgiven, redeemed. Some may say what's called for here is not mercy, but retribution, revenge, a settling of scores. Let the Mafia man taste some of his own medicine! Yet if there's a scandal here, it's the scandal of Christianity. Behind Cardinal Lamberto's words is the blood of Jesus, God's Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world. And the Holy Spirit is hard at work in this encounter with Don Corleone. The Holy Spirit cracks open the hard heart of the Mafia man and gives him tears of repentance for the horrors he has committed. The scene of confession becomes a resurrection morning. Don Corleone is raised from the death brought by his sins into the new life Christ offers him.

Some may still call this a scandal. But I would suggest to you, something of a scandal always happens when God's grace is at work.

To Ponder:

  • How hard would you find it to rejoice over the salvation of someone who had done you significant harm?
  • How does the Church balance the demands of justice and mercy in making a place within its fellowship for those who have caused significant scandal and offence to society?
  • How hard do you find it to be the recipient of such grace and acceptance?
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