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24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Spirituality of Conflict

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fiona Bullock

Luke 15:1–10
  • Themes: Exclusion and Prejudice Exclusion and Prejudice
  • Season: Ordinary time

The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin have inspired many children’s addresses in churches over the years. The notion of the joy of finding that one belonging lost is something to which we can all relate.  Yet as we explore the readings, try to set aside any sense of how wonderful it is to find something lost so we can appreciate just how subversive Jesus’ words are.  Are these parables not a perfect example of positive discrimination?  How does that make us feel as Christians who strive to follow Jesus’ life as closely as possible?  How does this impact on our understanding of fairness?

Gospel Reading for the Day

Luke 15:1–10

Now all the tax–collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety–nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, 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 people who need no repentance.

‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

 

Comment

“What about the faithful?”  “What about those who have followed the path?”  “What about those who have followed the directions to the letter?”  “Don’t they matter?”  “Don’t we matter?”  These are the voices I hear as I read this passage.  They are voices that acknowledge the conflict of trying to live a life according to Jesus’ teaching and yet still being overlooked when a lost soul is found.  We know that Jesus came to turn the world and its expectations upside down.  We know that he came to challenge the perceived authorities of the earth.  What we didn’t expect was that he would also challenge our understanding of fairness and justice.  

In these parables, Jesus prioritises the lost. He favours those who have gone astray and, as we struggle to follow his example of loving others as much as we love ourselves, it becomes difficult to accept that his attention may be taken from us doing well in order to seek the lost.  How can this be fair?  

Let’s consider a contemporary example.  I recently spoke with a teacher who commented on the opportunities available for students in secondary education in Scotland. Those who struggled academically but behaved well and who would have loved the chance of a work experience placement to expand their horizons were left struggling on at school.  At the same time, those who were struggling academically but whose behaviour left a lot to be desired were offered college places, extra support and work experience.  Does it mean that students have to behave badly in order to have opportunities set before them?  Should we really be advocating for this? Yet is this not comparable to what Jesus does in the parable of the lost sheep?  Even those sheep who were doing pretty well in following their master would be left in favour of finding the one lost sheep.

Bringing it down to my own experience as a parish minister, there can be a divide in the expectations I have of how I should spend my time and the expectations regular attendees of Sunday worship might have. There is a dilemma between taking care of those who faithfully come to church and support the work of the church and of reaching out to those who are not part of the regular worshipping community but who equally have questions, concerns and pastoral needs.  Should I prioritise the lost?  And how do you justify such a decision?  

My instinct says yes, we should prioritise the lost with the emphasis on ‘we.’  Why do we assume that there would ever only be one person looking for the lost? What if all the faithful were to each be searching for, encouraging and supporting those who have lost their way? How many more people would find their way to Christ?  If we are called to be disciples, to be fishers of people, then the responsibility is shared amongst us all to be part of the team seeking out the lost and bringing them home. 

At some point in time, I believe we all feel a little bit lost on our way towards and alongside Christ in our journeys.  I do not believe that once we are found, that’s it.  It’s not a case of changing your Facebook status permanently to found.  Isn’t it a wonderfully comforting thought that whenever we lose our way there will not only be the Good Shepherd seeking us out but many, many Christians all calling out our name too?  Is this not what it truly means to be a Christian, taking on Christ–like nature and setting our sense of ego aside to seek the lost or to allow ourselves to be sought out?

 

Response

Have you ever been or felt lost?  Reflect upon your feelings at that point in life. What happened?  What were you looking for?  How might others have impacted on your journey?  What help did you need?

Have you ever lost someone or something beloved to you?  Reflect upon how this made you feel.  What would you have done to get them back? Where did your concerns lie?

Think about the love that Jesus has for you, his precious child.  Is there anything he wouldn’t do for love of you?  Remember all his words of affirmation that we read in the Bible – know that these were meant for you.

 

Prayer

Lord of love,
When I feel far away
 – search for me.
When I lose something precious 
– grant me the help of others to help me seek.
When I am struggling to find faith
– show me the simple faith of others.
When I have an abundance of faith
– lead me to support those in need.
Remind me of my worth,
the worth I find in you,
the worth you see in me.

Tell me that you love me.
I need to know.
Help me to share that love with your other children.

Amen.

 

By Fiona Bullock

The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin have inspired many children’s addresses in churches over the years. The notion of the joy of finding that one belonging lost is something to which we can all relate.  Yet as we explore the readings, try to set aside any sense of how wonderful it is to find something lost so we can appreciate just how subversive Jesus’ words are.  Are these parables not a perfect example of positive discrimination?  How does that make us feel as Christians who strive to follow Jesus’ life as closely as possible?  How does this impact on our understanding of fairness?

Gospel Reading for the Day

Luke 15:1–10

Now all the tax–collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety–nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, 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 people who need no repentance.

‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

 

Comment

“What about the faithful?”  “What about those who have followed the path?”  “What about those who have followed the directions to the letter?”  “Don’t they matter?”  “Don’t we matter?”  These are the voices I hear as I read this passage.  They are voices that acknowledge the conflict of trying to live a life according to Jesus’ teaching and yet still being overlooked when a lost soul is found.  We know that Jesus came to turn the world and its expectations upside down.  We know that he came to challenge the perceived authorities of the earth.  What we didn’t expect was that he would also challenge our understanding of fairness and justice.  

In these parables, Jesus prioritises the lost. He favours those who have gone astray and, as we struggle to follow his example of loving others as much as we love ourselves, it becomes difficult to accept that his attention may be taken from us doing well in order to seek the lost.  How can this be fair?  

Let’s consider a contemporary example.  I recently spoke with a teacher who commented on the opportunities available for students in secondary education in Scotland. Those who struggled academically but behaved well and who would have loved the chance of a work experience placement to expand their horizons were left struggling on at school.  At the same time, those who were struggling academically but whose behaviour left a lot to be desired were offered college places, extra support and work experience.  Does it mean that students have to behave badly in order to have opportunities set before them?  Should we really be advocating for this? Yet is this not comparable to what Jesus does in the parable of the lost sheep?  Even those sheep who were doing pretty well in following their master would be left in favour of finding the one lost sheep.

Bringing it down to my own experience as a parish minister, there can be a divide in the expectations I have of how I should spend my time and the expectations regular attendees of Sunday worship might have. There is a dilemma between taking care of those who faithfully come to church and support the work of the church and of reaching out to those who are not part of the regular worshipping community but who equally have questions, concerns and pastoral needs.  Should I prioritise the lost?  And how do you justify such a decision?  

My instinct says yes, we should prioritise the lost with the emphasis on ‘we.’  Why do we assume that there would ever only be one person looking for the lost? What if all the faithful were to each be searching for, encouraging and supporting those who have lost their way? How many more people would find their way to Christ?  If we are called to be disciples, to be fishers of people, then the responsibility is shared amongst us all to be part of the team seeking out the lost and bringing them home. 

At some point in time, I believe we all feel a little bit lost on our way towards and alongside Christ in our journeys.  I do not believe that once we are found, that’s it.  It’s not a case of changing your Facebook status permanently to found.  Isn’t it a wonderfully comforting thought that whenever we lose our way there will not only be the Good Shepherd seeking us out but many, many Christians all calling out our name too?  Is this not what it truly means to be a Christian, taking on Christ–like nature and setting our sense of ego aside to seek the lost or to allow ourselves to be sought out?

 

Response

Have you ever been or felt lost?  Reflect upon your feelings at that point in life. What happened?  What were you looking for?  How might others have impacted on your journey?  What help did you need?

Have you ever lost someone or something beloved to you?  Reflect upon how this made you feel.  What would you have done to get them back? Where did your concerns lie?

Think about the love that Jesus has for you, his precious child.  Is there anything he wouldn’t do for love of you?  Remember all his words of affirmation that we read in the Bible – know that these were meant for you.

 

Prayer

Lord of love,
When I feel far away
 – search for me.
When I lose something precious 
– grant me the help of others to help me seek.
When I am struggling to find faith
– show me the simple faith of others.
When I have an abundance of faith
– lead me to support those in need.
Remind me of my worth,
the worth I find in you,
the worth you see in me.

Tell me that you love me.
I need to know.
Help me to share that love with your other children.

Amen.