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Luke 15,1-10 - Missing Pieces, Reconciliation

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                                             MISSING PIECES

                                              LUKE 15:1-10

Some time ago our family was putting

together a jig-saw puzzle.  We were

fitting pieces together and watching

with anticipation as the puzzle became

more and more like the picture on the

box. We were having a lot of fun.

Finally we were done, but the puzzle was

not complete. There was one crucial

piece missing. And the picture just

didn't look right. We searched

everywhere, but couldn't find the

missing piece. 

How many of you know the feeling? First

there is a sense of accomplishment as

you're nearing the completion of your

project. But the sense of achievement

can quickly turn to frustration because

of one missing piece?

Later, when the piece was found, the

hole family gathered around and rejoiced

over the now completed puzzle. The most

important piece had been found. Without

this piece the picture would never be

complete.

Jesus also knows about missing pieces.

In Luke 15 He encountered the opposition

of the religious elite because, in their

words: "This man (that is, Jesus)

welcomes sinners and has fellowship with

them."

The laws of the Pharisees prohibited any

kind of association with the so-called

"people of the land". The people of the

land were the people who did not observe

the strict pharisaic teachings and their

petty legalism. The people of the land

were not necessarily bad people. They

were just not the who's who in terms of

the Jewish ceremonial tradition.

And so it comes as no surprize that the

Lord's association with tax collectors

and sinners would draw criticism.

Jesus responded to their criticism with

a couple of parables.  Please turn with

me to Luke 15 and let's listen to the

words of Jesus:

Luke 15:4-10

4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred

sheep and loses one of them. Does he not

leave the ninety-nine in the open

country and go after the lost sheep

until he finds it? 5  And when he finds

it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders

6 and goes home. Then he calls his

friends and neighbors together and says,

`Rejoice with me; I have found my lost

sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same

way there will be more rejoicing in

heaven over one sinner who repents than

over ninety-nine righteous persons who

do not need to repent. 8 "Or suppose a

woman has ten silver coins and loses

one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep

the house and search carefully until she

finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she

calls her friends and neighbors together

and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found

my lost coin.' 10 In the same way, I

tell you, there is rejoicing in the

presence of the angels of God over one

sinner who repents."

As we look at these parables let us keep

in mind that the Jews had an

understanding of a God who wipes out

sinners from the face of the earth. The

strict Jews would have said: "There is

joy in heaven over one sinner who is

destroyed before God." They looked

sadistically forward not to the saving

but to the destruction of the sinner.

Is it not true that we also are

sometimes caught in this self-righteous

and condemning attitude?! The parables

of Jesus offer a lot of material for

self-examination for all of us.

Let us turn our attention to the parable

of the lost sheep and the parable of the

lost coin.

Shepherds in Judea had a hard and

dangerous task. The pasture on the

Palestinian countryside was scarce. The

terrain was laid with rocky walls and

cliffs, and surrounded by desserts where

wild animals lurked.

The shepherd was personally responsible

for the sheep. If a sheep was lost the

shepherd must at least bring home the

fleece to show how it had died. These

shepherds were excellent trackers and

could follow the footfrins of a straying

sheep for miles across the hills. It was

in a shepherd's day's work to risk his

life for his sheep.

Many of the flocks were communal flocks,

belonging to an entire village. At night

those flocks that were safe would come

home on time, and often the shepherds

would bring news that one shepherd was

still out on the mountain searching for

a lost sheep. The whole village would be

watching and praying for his safe

return. And then, when, in the distance,

they saw the shepherd striding home with

the lost sheep across his shoulders, a

shout of joy and thanksgiving went up

from the camp.

The parable of the lost coin expresses

the same concern for the lost. In

Palestine the mark of a married woman

was a head-dress made of ten silver

coins, linked by a silver chain. The

lost coin may have come from such a

head-dress.  In Palestine, where the

houses were poorly lit, it would be

almost impossible to find such a coin

that had been lost. But the woman would

do everything in her power to search for

her coin until it was found.

That is the picture that Jesus drew of

God.  God is like the shepherd, who does

not count the costs, but who goes after

the lost sheep no matter what. God is as

glad when a lost sinner is found as a

shepherd when a stray sheep is brought

home.

That is also the model that the church

is called to follow in it's concern for

the lost. Like the shepherd, we, as

Christ's disciples, must take

responsibility for the missing sheep and

missing coins in our lives.

Missing pieces come in different shapes

and sizes. At times, our own lives are

burdened with missing pieces. Sometimes

it seems as if the devil had mixed up

different sets of puzzle, and the pieces

just don't fit. Sometimes we feel

distant from God, and the safety-net of

the church community. We may be going

through some times of confusion and

transition in our lives. Times of

testing and trials. Be it in school, in

our family life, at work.  Sometimes we

are lost. We failed God and people. And

to top it off, we feel the guilt of our

conscience, and the condemnation of

people who do not understand our pain.

Sometimes the missing pieces are pieces

from our church community. Loved ones

and friends who turned against the

church in cinicism. Those who have

rejected the flock and have wandered off

in search of greener pastures. Those who

have fallen into the devils claws

because of their own stupidity. (People,

like sheep have a tendency to do that

kinda thing).

There may also be those pieces that got

lost for lack of proper care from the

church community. When people's gifts

and talents find greater recognition and

acceptance outside of the church than in

the church, chances are that they will

serve where they feel accepted and

valued. Some sheep are also alienated

from the group for the sake of keeping

the establishment intact.

The Pharisees, who controlled the

religious environment of that time, are

in fact portrayed as the most lost of

all. Their self-righteousness inhibited

God's grace from working in their lives.

They could not conceive of a God who

actually cared for people rather than

for a system that they had created.

Therefore, it is not surprising, that

Jesus addresses the Pharisees and

Scribes, that is, everyone who seems to

have their religion together. Leaders in

the church, as well as everyone who has

become comfortable with "having done

their part" are called to

accountability.  Our responsibility is

to point those who are lost and

struggling towards the love of God

through our witness.

God is searching and waiting for his

children who are missing. Without you

and me the puzzle cannot be completed.

Whatever the circumstances may be in

your and my life, if we are not a part

of God's picture GOD IS LOOKING FOR US.

Like the father in the parable of the

prodigal son, He waits. His heart

aching. His love burning. Determined to

find His straying child. He is patient.

He doesn't force Himself upon us. He

says: "Come home, my child. I miss you,

when you're not there."

As long as one of His beloved sheep is

missing the picture is incomplete.

Ezekiel 34:16 says, 16 I will search for

the lost and bring back the strays. I

will bind up the injured and strengthen

the weak.

And Ezekiel 18:32: I have no pleasure in

the death of anyone, declares the

Sovereign LORD. Therefore Repent and

Live!

God's heart is set on finding the

missing pieces. He waits for us with

outstreched arms, ready to receive us in

His endless grace. He is ready to carry

us on his shoulders, back to the flock.

God came to us in the life and ministry

of His son Jesus to call sinners to

repentance, and to reconcile us to

Himself. (Isaiah 53:6) We all, like

sheep, have gone astray, each of us has

turned to his own way; but the Lord has

laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all.

Jesus has paid the price for our sins.

My friend, God is searching for those

who are lost.  His intention is not to

condemn us, but rather that there may be

rejoicing in the presence of God's

angels over one sinner who repents.

God's outstreched arms are longingly

waiting for you and me. God offers His

forgiveness to all who come to Him. 

As the choir sings, I want to invite you

to come to Jesus, who is the true

shepherd of our souls. I would invite

you to respond to God's invitation by

standing in your place, or by coming to

the front, if you feel so led. You may

be a long time follower of Jesus Christ,

and maybe you're going through some

difficult times - God calls you to

recommit your life to Him. Come home,

for that's where you belong. Or maybe

you wish to give your life to Jesus for

the first time. If that's the case,

God's invitation is especially for you.

Come to Jesus; he offers forgiveness and

new life. Jesus is waiting...

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