There are several classic Bible stories that almost everyone knows. One of those is the story of the prodigal son – the son that squanders his inheritance and returns home with nothing, humbled.
At the beginning of our lesson, Jesus is sitting with sinners and tax-gatherers. It is interesting to note that Luke brings sinners and tax collectors into the same room. Tax collectors gathered money from people and gave them to the Romans. They were, in essence, traitors, working for the occupying army. But even worse, it was well known that tax collectors often gathered a little extra – who knew exactly what the Romans wanted – to keep for themselves. So at the time, it was not unusual for tax collectors and sinners to be lumped together.
In any case, Jesus was with these people. The Pharisees saw that and wondered why Jesus wasn’t with them. He was a rabbi – a teacher – who everyone knew had a great understanding of scripture. He should have been with the other religious people of his day, discussing these scriptures. But Jesus wasn’t! He was sitting with sinners, having a meal. This made the Pharisees upset, because they didn’t understand why anyone would want to spend time with people that the religious community had marginalised as sinners.
But Jesus had his reasons, and he explained them in his parable. He was there to find the lost children and help them return home.
But the parable wasn’t just about these lost brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. It was just as much directed toward those who had “dutifully” stayed at home. (more…)
We are just about at the mid-point of Lent. Our journey has taken us lost and found in the wilderness…with Jesus hinting at his death and Resurrection. And the Disciples somewhat clueless, perhaps in denial.
Our lessons today – introduce ‘water’ – perhaps an unusual image in this vast desert that we think of during Lent. The Prophet Isaiah welcomes those who thirst – right there in the first line of his message. With new meaning to those who are without – those who suffer from injustice, and neglect. The communities in exile. And tells us clearly – that you know what, we might not think the same way or believe the same things – but you are welcome. He tells us – “my thoughts might not be your thoughts – and your ways are not my ways” – But there’s something bigger that we share. We as a people share one God, the God of Israel.
And in Paul’s Letter this morning, God continually reminds us that our baptismal journey – through the sea and through the desert – is an ongoing process. We die and rise every day with Jesus. Our call is to live the truth of the Gospel. To live the truth of our baptismal calling. For Paul, God’s faithfulness endures and is known in this gift of unconditional love.
Our Confirmation Retreat was this past weekend – with our theme the “Intersection of Faith.” We gathered on Friday night to talk about what it means to be ‘people of faith’ – not just here, but for all religious people. The hope was to remind our 6th, 7th and 8th graders that regardless of the noise that we hear around us, we are a shared humanity…with shared beliefs – and that all people of faith are taught to care about justice and to care for one another. Not to hurt or to kill each other, but to love one another – to respect one another. Just as God loves us. Just as Jesus teaches us. (more…)
The mix of faith and uncertainty evident in Abram’s story is revealed in every generation of God’s people, including our own. In our own doubt and insecurity, we’re tempted to question God’s presence as we struggle in the day to day realities that challenge us. I’d bet that there are more than a few folks here who’ve had questions about their faith at one time or another. It’s those things that help us understand our own individual journey. And they’re also the things that bring comfort and understanding for us as a Family – as we walk together in this community of Faith.
By the time we get to the story that’s our first lesson from Genesis, Abram has just about had it with God. He’s been patient for a while. God speaks to him, and he listens… God promises, and he believes… God commands, and he obeys. But we get the sense that he’s just about reached his tipping point and has a few questions of his own. (more…)