Messiah Lutheran Church
Trinity 3 (June 8, 2008)
Rev. Todd Peperkorn
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE (I missed the first 20 seconds or so)
TITLE: “The Full Flock”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, as well as the epistle from St. Peter chapter five.
Jesus had a way of attracting people. It wasn’t his charisma or his ability to sell a good idea. It wasn’t his good looks or his lovely baritone voice. No, Jesus attracted people to him because He showed hospitality. When He was invited to someone’s home, He went. It didn’t matter if the person was rich or poor, prominent or at the bottom of the social ladder. Jesus went and ate with tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees, leaders and losers. One and all. That’s who Jesus is, both then and now.
But like most people who seem to attract others, jealousy was always afoot. The prominent leaders didn’t want Jesus associating with the losers. The Pharisees didn’t want Him with the Sadducees. The Sadducees didn’t want Him with the scribes, and so forth. Yet somehow in the midst of all of the shuffling and positioning and the like, the basic reality that Jesus receives sinners and eats with them was often lost, both then and now.
So it should not surprise us that the Pharisees aren’t happy with Jesus’ choice of dinner company. “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Jesus then uses a series of three parables to make His point of how God does receive sinners and eat with them. We hear about two in our text for this morning.
The first is the parable of the lost sheep. It’s familiar territory. The shepherd who leaves the ninety nine to go after the one. A couple thoughts on this parable really stand out, though. First of all, no shepherd in his right mind risks losing the whole flock for the sake of one sheep. Yet that is what Jesus tells us this shepherd is. This has to do with God’s sense of unity and completeness. When you and I hear numbers like ninety nine or a hundred, we just hear numbers. But that’s not what Jesus’ hearers would have heard. Ninety nine for the Jew in our Lord’s Day would have been almost unbearable. So close to perfection! So close to a complete and holy number. But not quite. So when we hear about this shepherd going after the one, it shows us first of all the depth of God’s love. God will go after the one no matter what. But it also shows us something else. It shows us that God wants heaven filled. He wants it complete, a full quiver, the whole set. He is not satisfied with close enough or almost there.
Think of it like this. It’s a family reunion. Every family has the one cousin that no one really knows what to do with. He’s odd. He doesn’t fit in with the rest of the family. Maybe he’s had troubles in his life that everyone else wishes would just go away. But grandma just won’t be satisfied for the reunion unless he’s there. There would be an empty space, and things just wouldn’t be whole without him. You can’t pick your family, and so you simply have to go with what God has given you.
When it comes to heaven and the Gospel, you are that odd cousin. You are the lost sheep or the lost coin in our next parable. The Pharisees wanted everything to look right. Jesus wants everything to BE right. And in order for everything to be right, God needs all of us at the table.
Dearly baptized, you have a place in God’s kingdom. It may not make sense. It may not be fair. It certainly isn’t reasonable in the eyes of the world. But our Lord knows those that are His. He won’t be satisfied until the banquet is full, like last week, or under the flock is complete, like this morning. That is God’s love for you. Micah perhaps said it best:
“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” (Micah 7:18 ESV)
God delights in this deep and abiding love. Like the grandma at the reunion, like the shepherd who must have the full complement of his flock, and like the housewife who turns the house upside down to make sure her change box is full, God wants you there. Period. There is no God like Him, feeding you with Himself, washing you and making you a fit partaker in His holy family.
God wants you here, a part of His family, forgiven and at peace. Jesus does sit and receive sinners. That means you. That means me. As we pray in the hymn:
Jesus sinners doth receive;
Also I have been forgiven;
And when I this earth must leave,
I shall find an open heaven.
Dying, still to Him I cleave:
Jesus sinners doth receive. (LSB 609:7)
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.