15 September 2019Luke 15:1-10
“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.” (vv. 9-10)
Psalm: Psalm 51:1-10
Does today's reading surprise or even shock you? God seeks out the lost – some of us have heard a million sermons on the issue and can find nothing remarkable in the idea. But we will make much more sense of this passage if we put it against Jesus' world which was focused on groups rather than individuals.
We often talk about how our world is becoming more and more individualistic without really thinking about what that tells us about the life of our ancestors. Scholars tell us that in the ancient world, which group you belonged to really mattered not simply to how others treated you but even to how you felt about yourself. We may feel a bit of family pride if a relative does well, but we have, on the whole, lost the sense that somehow our sense of self-respect is totally bound up with the respect that our family as a group receives. Jesus lived in a world in which the groups to which you belonged mattered, really mattered. This was to the exclusion of those outside your group, who were often seen only in terms of stereotypes.
So, in Jesus' world, this is a shocking vision of God. Not only is God portrayed as a woman, but God is seen as reaching out beyond the group who worshipped God, to others. The lost coin and lost sheep could be interpreted as someone who was originally a member of the group who was not on the outside, perhaps because of their own actions. However, bearing in mind that Israel had a great prophetic tradition which constantly reminded them that God, as the creator of the world, had an interest in all people, it could be anyone outside the group.
- Has the message of God's care for the outsider lost is ability to shock us (and therefore to grab our imaginations)? How might we both grasp and live it out today?
- There is a real note of rejoicing in this passage. How often do you think of God rejoicing over you?