THE 14TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
"For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.  I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
 "As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats.  Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?  And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
 "Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.  Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad,  I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep.  And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.  And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
1 Tim. 1:12-17
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,  and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
 So he told them this parable:  "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
 "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
An Amber alert, that’s what made my phone sound with this loud jarring noise in the middle of the night, when I was on holidays at the cottage this summer. In a sleepy headed fog I crawled out of bed to check out my loudly buzzing device, wondering what on earth was going on and that’s when I figured it out - an Amber alert. A message asking me to be on the look out for an SUV last seen on the 401 with someone’s missing child in it. I doubted that I would be of much help in the search at my cottage on Beaver Lake and so I put the phone down and tried to get back to sleep.
I must confess that the Amber alert didn’t make me the happiest camper, or rather cottager, especially since it even sounded out when my phone was set on do not disturb for the night. Getting back to sleep is not always the easiest these days, and so, I’m not fond of being woken up. As I reflected on this whole Amber alert thing I was tempted to grumble about it, but then someone wisely got me to think about it from the viewpoint of the parents or parent of that missing child. I don’t know how well the whole thing works, but I know as a Dad ,that it would mean a lot to me, that everyone with cellphone was being mobilized to be on the look out for one of my children if they were missing.
The concern over a missing child, that wouldn’t think twice about waking everyone up in the middle of the night, is the kind of care and concern that Jesus wants to hold up before your hearts today. With His parables of the lost sheep and coin, He’s directing your thoughts toward the deep care and concern that lives in the Father’s heart for each and every person that He has created. No, no one exists by accident. Each and every human being was purposely created by God, who lovingly knit them together in their mother’s womb. And so each is precious to Him, no matter how sinful or lost they may be.
Jesus tells the parables for the Pharisees because they have lost sight of this precious truth, as they are told to us this morning to keep it before our eyes. Because, yes, believe or not there is a little Pharisee in each and every one of us. Yea, that’s right, I’m talking about you and I’m talking about me. He’s that little law guy in us, who thinks he can somehow make himself right before God by being a good person, and so, he’s also the guy who’s always feeing pretty crummy about himself, because he can never get it right enough. His answer? Making himself look better by judging others.
Yes, that little law guy lives in each and every one of us. He may keep to himself a lot of the time, but every now and then he’s just got to let go, by going on and on about what’s wrong with someone else. No matter who it may be, yes, even you and me, there’s always going to be lots of faults to talk about. Newsflash: we’re all sinners which means we all sin. We all fall. We all fail. We all have plenty that others could talk about, just as we can find plenty to talk about with them.
And so we come back to the parables which are a firm, “Now cut that out” from our Lord for the Pharisee in us all this morning. Even as he looks deep into our eyes with a mournful gaze and asks “Do you not know how much I love you? Do you not know how precious you are to me? I know more than anyone all that you have been, all that you are, and all that you will be, not only because I am God, but because I took it all on me; claiming it as my own on Calvary. Yes, I know it all and still I love and treasure you.”
As I love and treasure each and every one of those that you find easy to judge and condemn. Yes, they are all precious to me, as hard as that may be for you to believe at times, but I ask you to believe it, that you may be deepened in the truth of my love for you as well. I ask you to believe it that you might have peace about all those that you love and cherish who have wandered far from me and lost their way. I want you to hold on to just how much they mean to me, so that though they fail Me, you may have hope in the truth that I will not fail them, as I will not fail you.
Look here to the altar today, where my searching out the lost by coming down from heaven and suffering and dying on the cross, that they might be found, is lived out with each and every one of you. See me coming and finding you anew this day, as I give you my body and my blood and know just how precious you are to me, not because of who you are, but because of who I am. Focus your heart and mind on my longing searching heart and see by the nail marks in my hands and feet and the spear wound in my side and know that it would stop at nothing to find and save you.
And then deepened in my love for you, let your ears be opened to hear the Divine Amber Call that goes out from the heart of Your heavenly Father, calling on the Church in heaven and earth, calling on you, to be on the look out for His lost children. And then, calling on Him for help, reach out to them with the same love that found and continues to find you, that it might rejoice over you now and forever. Amen.