Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Let's Get the Party Started

I love Luke 15!  It's a wonderful chapter of grace, mercy, and unconditional love.  It starts by telling us that all sorts of  "undesirable" and "unsavory" characters were getting close enough to hear the stories that Jesus told.  His demeanor and attitude was so welcoming that the religious elites complained about His willingness to "welcome . . . and eat with sinners."  Knowing what they were thinking and saying, Jesus responded by telling them some stories.  He told of a shephered who left 99 sheep in an open field while he searched for and found a lone, lost sheep.  He told them of a woman who had 10 silver coins.  But when she lost one, she "tossed the house" until she found it.  Finally, he told them the story of the prodigal son, the loving Father, and the narcissistic older brother.  You know the type.  "It's all about me!!!" 

Far too often, when we read, study, or preach this chapter, we tend to glance over the first two stories and zero in on the Prodigal.  I think many of us can identify with him.  But I want you to focus on those first two stories for a few moments.   In Luke 15:7 and Luke 15:10, we get a little glimpse of heaven.  Jesus said, after the story of the lost/found sheep and the party thrown by the shepherd, "I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven or one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don't need repentance."  How great is that???   Jesus Himself tells us that the residents of heaven are more concerned over the salvation of ONE lost soul than a church filled with religious people. 

Then in story of the lost coin, after the party thrown by the woman, Jesus siad, "I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God's angels over one sinner who repents."  "Joy in the presence  of God's angels . . ."?   What that means to me is that GOD is doing the rejoicing.  Just like the loving Father in the story of the prodigal. 

So where am I going with this??  It's pretty simple.  Far too many of our churches have become respites for the religious.  We've become the 99, who raise a veil of religious tradition and cultural expection to keep out those who don't measure up.  We take possession of the church that rightfully belongs to Christ and restructure it as a bunker to hide from the world.  And in doing that, we've become the 99.

I think a cryptic principle in these stories is that God expects His Church to be party planners.   In everything we do, every dime we spend, every event we plan, we should be asking "What will this do to inspire joy in heaven?"   So that's my prayer for my church, for you church, and for every church that claims to be the Body of Christ.  "Lord, help us to be faithful party planners.  Help us to do the things that keep the streets of heaven filled with dancing and singing and joy.  Help us to redirecct of our focus from the "99" to the ONEs who are lost."

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