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Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Street, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 3JG.
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Sunday 15 Sept 19

GOSPEL GOSSIP

‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

St Luke 15. 1-10

Sunday 15 September

 

Once again, the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling about Jesus in the gospel passage set for this Sunday.  An easy and tempting way to respond would be ‘Get a life!’ as it would appear that these influential Jews had nothing better to do than to find fault in others, especially Jesus.  That response would not be appropriate because, sadly, that was their life – or had become it.  They were self-appointed guardians of the Jewish Law and rather than proclaiming the Law through renewed and godly lives, they enforced it so that it became a restrictive burden rather than a means of drawing close to God.

This far from the first time that Jesus had had dealings with this group.  Just in the last a little earlier in St Luke’s account, Jesus had labelled them ‘hypocrites’ – the strongest term of condemnation he would use.  He is more gentle this time and cites a parable extolling the joy of finding that which is lost, be it a sheep or a coin.  No doubt the Pharisees and scribes would have put more effort into berating the remaining sheep and herding them uncomfortably close to ensure that none got lost, or else put their coins into even tighter bags.  They were more concerned with controlling the remnant than restoring the lost.

  • Do you prefer the carrot or stick approach?
  • What would you do about something lost?
  • Is your concern proportionate to the perceived value of the lost?
  • Who do you consider to be the ‘lost’ in your life?
  • Would you go out of your way to ‘find’ them?

It’s no accident that Jesus uses the image of something living – a sheep – and also something inanimate – a coin.  One can wander off by itself and so has itself to blame, and although we might try and blame the ‘thing’ for getting itself lost, we have to accept that it’s our own fault, often through carelessness.  In both cases, sheep and coins, we, human beings, have been given the responsibility of care.  We cannot hide behind that claim that we may not have chosen this role; sometimes it is our right and our duty.

Jesus, therefore, demonstrates compassion, not condemnation over the return of the lost.  Be it the Prodigal Son, or the sheep and coin in this parable, he portrays a God in whose kingdom there is rejoicing over restoration – not even a mild telling off.  The parable is, of course, all about our returning to God, having got lost.  Yet all too often we are harsh towards sinners; either we are overly-judgemental and intolerant of others, or else towards ourselves.  We give up all to easily – searching and being searched for.

  • Where would you find the ‘lost’ today?
  • Are they places you habituate or wander into?
  • If you haven’t the courage, do decry those that do?
  • What place has forgiveness in your own life?
  • Are you prepared both to forgive and be forgiven?

Jesus was hard on those who knew the word of the Law but did not live in its spirit.  All too easily we find it easier to hide behind an agreeable faith rather than allow it to transform our lives.  We may condemn others, but do we wish to be condemned ourselves…?