Saturday, September 14, 2019

Year C, Pentecost 14, Psalm 51.1-10, Luke 15.1-10, Come Home!

“Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling,
calling for you and for me.
See on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home!
You who are weary, come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling O sinner, come home.”

There is a reason you are here.
There is a reason I am here.
It is because, deep within us, whether we know it or not, we have heard the Lord call our name.
He calls to us, each individually, by name, and begs us, as sinners, to come home.
If you want to understand the Church,
                Understand, just that.
“Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling O sinner, come home.”

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Children of God?”
Perhaps you think of the basic goodness with which God created each of us.  There is a blessed innocence about a child. 
Or perhaps when you hear the phrase “Children of God” you hear it as a contrast.
Paul writes in Romans, the 8th chapter:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.   For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
In this way, we understand ‘children of God’ as a status granted to us by virtue of our baptism into Christ Jesus.
And so it is a contrast, children of God, the redeemed, versus the rest who are not.
The Righteous. 
And the Unrighteous.
The problem with this understanding of “Children of God” is that we often equate our being a child of God with something we have done, and thereby, we deserve that status on our own merits.
There is another understanding of ‘children of God’, and that is that we are all dependent on the grace of God.
Paul writes in Romans, the 3rd chapter:
“For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift.”
If the first understanding of ‘Children of God’ is that we are all created good;
And the second understanding of ‘Children of God’ is that some are good, and some are bad;
This third understanding is that we are all sinful, but forgiven, by the grace of God, as a gift.
Of these three, the one that is not Biblical is the second one.  Specifically, none of us are righteous on our own account.  If we are righteous, it is purely by the grace of God.

“Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling,
calling for you and for me.
See on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home!
You who are weary, come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling O sinner, come home.”

Why are you here?
Consider this as a possibility.
You are here, because God recognized in you a sinfulness that begged for forgiveness, and a brokenness that only grace could heal.
Maybe you are aware of what that might be.
Sometimes we are.
Sometimes we truly sing that song,
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T'was blind but now I see.
At other times we simply do not see, and do not understand, the nature of our sin.
But God does, and God calls us.
Have you ever experienced an illness, or condition, that you weren’t fully aware of until you experienced healing???
I think of numerous examples in my own life.
My eyesight.
It’s often not until I get a new prescription that I realize how blurred my vision had become.
Or my hearing.
It wasn’t until I received my hearing aids that I realized how much I was not hearing before.
Or my alcoholism.
It wasn’t until I stopped drinking that I realized how addicted I was to alcohol. 
The list could go on and on.
Sin creeps up on us, and gradually takes control of our lives, and we often do not realize it or the extent of it, until after we have been set free.
“I once was lost, but now am found
T'was blind but now I see.”

Martin Luther teaches us that we are, at one and the same time, saints and sinner.  The Latin phrase is simul justus et peccator. 
What that means is that we come here as ‘children of God’, each of us created in God’s image, and each of us, good.
It also means that each of us comes here as a sinner, needing God’s forgiveness, and entirely dependent on God’s grace.
And finally, it means that by God’s grace, we have been redeemed, and are now that child of God once again, that is precious and good in the sight of God.
All of this is God’s gift.

But do we believe it???
And do we live it???

The answer to that lies in how we treat others, especially the newcomer that comes to our door.
When someone new comes do we see in them, a precious child of God, who has come here, because in some way, somehow, God has brought them here for healing and hope.
We should imagine ourselves as being like an emergency room in the hospital.
People do not come here because they are well.
They come here seeking hope and healing, and the forgiveness of their sins.
And we are to receive them, as fellow members of the body of Christ. 
·         People in need of forgiveness as we are.
·         People longing for healing as we do.
·         And people whom God loves, just as he loves us.
Nowhere in there is there room for us to judge, other than this: we judge them to be equally under the grace of God as we ourselves are.
This is a sacred trust that God has bestowed on the Church.
A sacred trust.
To receive those God has called to us, and to be agents of healing, forgiveness, and hope.
One of the most powerful images of the Church for me comes from my experience of being in inpatient treatment for chemical dependency.
All of us were there because we were chemically dependent and sought healing.
But all of us there were also helping to heal each other.
Even the counselors were recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. 
When someone walked in, we’d all know that they had the same problem we had.  We knew this.  But sometimes the newcomer didn’t recognize it yet.  But they quickly understood.
And, also, we all recognized that we needed each other to help and encourage the healing that would be a key to our very lives.
This continued into the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.  A bunch of broken people helping each other find wholeness.
That’s what the Church is:
A bunch of sinners helping each other experience God’s forgiveness.
And every time, even one sinner comes home, heaven rejoices.

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