Luke 15:1-10 (NRSV)
Chapter 15Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. Verse 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." Verse 3So he told them this parable: Verse 4"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? Verse 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. Verse 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Verse 7Just 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. Verse 8"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? Verse 9When 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.' Verse 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
One summer evening as I was ringing doorbells to stir up interest in our new congregation, I met a man sitting on his front porch, sipping a drink. He asked me what I wanted, and when I told him what I was doing, he invited me to join him. Questions followed. Then he told me some of his story.
His estranged brother had died just days earlier. Things had been said and done that required my host to ask for forgiveness, but he never got around to it. He would have to live with that. “What about God?” he asked. Could God forgive him the things he’d done and left undone? He wasn’t a churchgoer; was any sort of comfort available from God for someone like him?
Similar questions brought tax collectors and sinners to Jesus. What they heard—and what I shared with my host—was good news of a God who never runs out of patience and grace to forgive our sins, no matter what our story.
Loving God, when we feel unworthy of your grace and far away from your favor, come close to us with the assurance that nothing can separate us from your love. Stir up your church to invite and welcome any who wonder if they fit in. Amen.