In chapter 15, the Gospel of Luke describes a series of teachings that Jesus gives to those who were ‘murmuring greatly’ or ‘muttering’ – against him! He’s speaking to those very unhappy Pharisees and Scribes who were unhappy that tax collectors and sinners’ were being allowed to hear him! They were expressing their profound irritation at Jesus’ apparent willingness to welcome those who were really most despised by the good, religious people!
As always, Jesus doesn’t respond to them directly but, instead, answers by describing what life is ALWAYS like as we respond to God through Him & His teachings… ‘THIS is what life lived in an awareness of God is like’ – as God’s Kingdom begins to manifest within us on earth as it is in heaven! And so He tells the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
They could all also most properly be called the parables of the ‘searching shepherd’, the ‘searching woman, and the ‘searching father’ because one of the most pressing elements that each of them has in common is this sense of urgency – compulsion even – as they describe the searching shepherd’s desperation to find that one lost sheep, the desperation of that woman prepared to be turning her life upside-down to find her lost coin, that lost son’s father who is so achingly, heart-expectantly desperate as he awaited his lost son’s return…
It’s this element of obsessively looking for something/ someone which is what we are apparently to associate with God as we follow Jesus Christ! Jesus is wanting his critics and us all to understand that all-powerful and perfectly sacred seeking instinct as something essential to who and what God is, and what needs to mark us as believers!
Whatever we can ever say about God is always ultimately beyond us – it has to be in the form of metaphor – but from passages like this we can know that at least part of what we are always to understand about God is this force of urgent seeking! Jesus is telling those critical Pharisees and Scribes (and us) about how it’s the nature of God always to be seeking hard for the actualisation of each one of us and for every part of God’s creation! God is constantly this force of love STRAINING for us to come out from wherever our truest selves has been trapped/ hidden. God is wanting us to be found – to emerge! To be actualized! God wants us to become whole as we come to rediscover ourselves as God intends us to be.
And more: just like that ‘lost-sheep-obsessed’ shepherd, that desperately coin-seeking woman, that yearning-for-his-son’s-return’ father… God won’t let it go!
Just as the essence of nuclear energy is that invisible but all-powerful energy-force which exists between the parts of an atom, so God, kata 1 Jn.4, is that all-powerful energy-force – that power of love – that exists between all those who live in love… But it’s a relentlessly expectant love which is always and urgently seeking creation’s self-actualization into God’s image!
And then, that’s us – as we are made whole, as we get actually to be engaged/compelled by that holy force – compelled to join in that seeking of wholeness for others! …having been saved out from whatever has been keeping us living less than ourselves amongst the pigs, having been discovered caught up in some bramble bush, or lost in darkness, having been brought home to a realization of whom we actually are, so we are empowered to join in that process by being useful for the emergence of others.
People truly don’t know this stuff! They don’t know as – please God – we are just beginning to know it! And as we are coming actually just to begin to know, that’s when we begin actually to just begin to be useful in God’s plan – by finding any and all sorts of creative ways of telling them!
And so I invite you now to join me as, together, we hear this ever-so-familiar teaching once again, but please, let’s be hearing it as if for the first time as Craig reads…
And as we listen, let’s ask ourselves with whom we mostly identify:
…Jesus, as he welcomes religious outcasts such as tax collectors & sinners?
…The tax collectors and sinners who are being welcomed?
…The Pharisees and Scribes who are ‘murmuring?’
Read Luke 15:1-24
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