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14 Pentecost - Exodus 32:7-14; Luke 15:1-10

We are all God's children.

Regardless of religion or resume, age or color, shape or size, status or story or

style, we are all of us created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully

made, to use two of the Bible's many beautiful phrases.

We are all God's children, which can make life very difficult for God.


Parents, please raise your hand if you have ever heard from, or said to, your partner, Do

you know what your child did today?


These wise souls understand what is happening with God and Moses, who are up on the

mountain, out of earshot, watching God's children break rule number one.

The LORD said to Moses, "Go down at once!"


Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted

perversely...more venting, can you believe this, I'm going to kill them all.


But Moses implored the LORD..."O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your

people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt...?


Don't let their behavior ruin your reputation—don't give them that much power.

What would the neighbors say?


You promised to take care of your children, remember?

And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on

his people.

This drives certain religious people crazy.

Their golden calf is a God of consistency who never changes his mind, who

enforces the rules, maintains law and order.


They worship a God of standards and consequences, a cosmic cop who is perfectly

rational and fair, ruling over a world where everyone gets what they deserve.


They imagine a God of integrity and glory, so the God of the Bible disappoints them.

This disappointing God, too holy to be seen, settles for and into a human face.


All the sinners and tax collectors were coming near to listen to him.


And the Pharisees and the scribes complained about it the way some of us

complain about family.


A rabbi should have better judgment than this Jesus fellow.

In the biblical world, you are who you eat with, and he's eating with sinners.


In the church we call this Communion.

Doesn't God have higher standards?


Jesus responds to their grumbling with three rather ridiculous stories.

Today we hear the first two of them, about a sheep and a coin being found.


A shepherd leaves 99 sheep exposed to chase after one that has wandered off into low

odds of survival.


A woman sweeps her house exhaustively to find a lost coin.

Both search until they find what they are looking for.


Then both celebrate lavishly, likely spending more than the market value of what they

have found.


This, Jesus says, is how heaven operates.

He doubles down with a long third story about a man who divides his estate

between his two sons; one splits and squanders his inheritance, the other stays

home.


The younger one eventually returns, with nothing left but the tail between his legs, to a

lavish celebration.


The older one stands in the field and pouts like a Pharisee about how unfair it is.

Doesn't his father have higher standards?


The story ends outside, with the father pleading with the older son, who is just as lost as

his brother was.

Because good religious people are lost too, sometimes so completely that they don't even

know they are lost.


God has too many of us children for Jesus to tell only one story.

Some of us are lost in the wilds, vulnerable to dangers we may or may not know

lurk around us, outside the flock, isolated from community, on our own, too often

dismissed as sinners and worse in places where we don't feel welcome.

God loves these people and will search until God finds them.

Some of us never left the house, stayed put faithfully, moving at the speed of coin,

reliable to the point of being taken for granted, as physically near as the quarter in

the couch cushions and the loyal son in the field.


God loves these people and will search until God finds them.

And the storyteller, Jesus, is God's search and rescue mission, seeking lost

sinners, lost tax collectors, lost Pharisees, lost scribes, lost believers, lost

doubters, because all of us, in one way or more, are lost.


And all of us are God's children.

So every time we come to God's table, every time a family member comes home,

every time a sinner trades in a god they made for the God who made them, every

time a lost child is found, heaven goes over the top with an awkwardly lavish, wondrously joyful celebration for anyone and everyone.


In the church we call this Communion.

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