Course of Study Lecture 1.4: The God Who Seeks the Lost
Throughout the month of July I am teaching in the Course of Study for Ordained Ministry here at Duke. Twenty-one United Methodist local pastors (nearly all of them rural clergy) are taking part with me in "Course of Study 513 - Our Mission from God: Transforming Agent." The purpose of the course is to gain theological understanding for leading congregations to carry out the mission of the church as God's agent of redemption and transformation in the world. Periodically I will be posting my lectures and lecture notes from the course on this blog. I hope that this will benefit my students: and perhaps a few other readers as well.
The God Who Seeks the Lost
3. The God of Scripture is not only the God who hears the cry, and who moves in. Having become flesh and blood with us, THIS GOD SEEKS THE LOST.
(Thanks to Will Willimon and his book "Who Will Be Saved?" for the insights found in the notes below.)
In the fifteenth chapter of Luke we read that all the tax collectors and notorious sinners are coming near to listen to Jesus. The Pharisees and scribes are grumbling about the fact that Jesus is rolling out the red carpet for evildoers and then passing them the biscuits at dinner. So Jesus responds with a parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred precious and economically crucial sheep and losing one of them, which one of you does not leave the 99 all alone in the middle of the wilderness with all the wolves around, and immediately go after the one who is lost and search high and low until he finds it? (Not until it gets dark, or until you run out of water, or until it seems hopeless, or until you feel like you’ve tried everything to entice them back, or you get so mad at that sheep you give up, or until they die: but UNTIL you find it?) Which one of you wouldn’t do that?”
The answer is: none of us! Then we’re likely to have 1 sheep left.
But this shepherd hold to a different kind of math. There are not write-offs.
“And which one of you, Jesus says, when you’ve found it, wouldn’t lay it on your shoulders and scream and holler and rejoice, and when you get home you go knock on the doors of all your neighbors enjoying their Saturday and say, “Let’s party, open bar at my house tonight, I found that missing sheep!”
"Say, have you seen the other 99 anywhere?
But Jesus says there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, the 1% of the congregation that is turning to God for the first time, than over the 99 who don’t need to repent.
Then Jesus says, “Which one of you women, having 10 silver quarters, if you lose one of them, doesn’t light a lamp, burn expensive oil, don’t wait until the morning, but get out the broom, push back the sofa, move the refrigerator out onto the porch, and sweep and look through the night until you find it? Which one of you wouldn’t do that? And which one of you, when you’ve found it, wouldn’t call and wake up all your friends in the middle of the night and saying, “WOOO! Come celebrate, I found that coin! WOOO!”
But that’s the way God is over 1, one, one sinner who repents.
That is how much of a heart God has for those who are in any way lost.
What if that made us that happy, too?
This God seeks the lost.