Sunday September 15th 2019 24th Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
The tie in between today’s readings: God’s lost and found
Psalm 51:1-2; 10-17, Exodus 32:7-14, 1Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-32
Our reading in Exodus 32:7-14 lets us eavesdrop on a conversation between God and Moses over the golden calf incident. In it, God disowns the Hebrews, calling them Moses’ people. He also threatens to destroy these sinners and start again. Moses pleads for the children of Israel, not by arguing with God about His intent, but by pointing to other aspects of God’s character. The Almighty is a God who keeps His promises to the Patriarchs. By reminding Him that these are His people by oath, Moses ties them back into identity with God and gains mercy for them. The point of this passage is not that Moses is persuasive. God rather, is revealing that He could have rightly destroyed the whole nation, but He had a bigger picture of grace and glory in mind.
There are some things which God does that are seemingly easier than others. He speaks a universe into existence as if it were a DIY project. He can plaque the Egyptians, part seas, and drop manna from heaven all without breaking a sweat. Even the judgment of the human race is only going to take a day. But relationships, they’re tough and God is all about relationships. So instead of destroying a sinner and the relationship along with him, God goes into redemption mode. He guided the events of history for the purpose of giving His only Son as a sacrifice to satisfy His holy justice against sin. The Passion of Christ had to have been the hardest thing God has ever done. But, in Christ the Son, God the Father can offer forgiveness, adoption into His family, and the fellowship of His Holy Spirit. If God did nothing else, it would be more than enough, but it doesn’t stop there. God pursues those that He loves.
In the three parables of today’s gospel, Luke 15:1-32, God is the seeker of the lost. He gets down in the dirt looking for the lost coin. He climbs and combs the landscape listening for the bleating of His lost sheep. As the father of the prodigal son, He patiently and passionately looks and yearns for his misguided boy’s return. He contrasts Himself to the Pharisees’ “Little Bo Peep” approach toward the wayward and so condemns them. Interestingly, certain realizations appear on the sinner’s side of these parables that lead to repentance and restoration back to God. In the lost coin, the sinner acknowledges that something is missing. In the lost sheep, it’s someone (the Shepherd) is missing. Finally, in the Prodigal Son, “I’m missing.” The two parties meet. Confessions are made. Relationships are restored and there is great joy in heaven.
When King David tried to hide his sin with Bathsheba, God sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. Psalm 51 is David’s heartfelt contrition that came out of that situation. It’s a passionate appeal for forgiveness and redemption to loving God who says, “Come clean and you’ll be clean.” How about you? Are you far away from God today because you are enjoying your sin for a season? Stop! Get smart and get back to your Father who is eager to have you back in fellowship. God will never despise a broken and contrite heart. Then you will know the joy of His salvation that the Apostle Paul writes about in our epistle today:
1 Timothy 1:12-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King]eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.