But I Received Mercy

But I Received Mercy

Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

You remember very, very well
that day when you lost track of where your parents were or your sibling,
and you had the sinking and frightening feeling of being lost in that
crowd or sea of people. Now the reception upon being found by your parents
or siblings probably did not mirror what was proclaimed in our gospel
reading, but nevertheless you were found and there probably was a shaking
of the head and a wagging of the finger and a looking down of the nose;
but you were found and that was a great feeling.

Well, if that kid who was lost
was your little brother or sister…ho, ho, glory was found in you,
the oldest, to say, “Ah ha, youngest child, see?” You oldest
have a very, very hard life because Mom and Dad didn’t always give you
grace when you deserved it. Mom and Dad oftentimes had the expectations
so high for you, insurmountable was it, and there wasn’t always grace

Ah, but you youngest. Grace
poured out far too much for you and the abuse of such grace and mercy
was regular in occurrence, and we did not deserve it, such grace to
be oozed out over us and we abused it indeed.

Whether we were oldest, or
youngest, or middle, or what have you, all of us do know what it is
like to be found, but few of us, if any, meditate upon being found with
open arms. Few of us meditate on being found with joy in the face of
the one who found us, and not anger or pain. Remember. Remember that
great joy of being found by God.

Now it was in the midst of
your and my lostness that we were found by God, and it wasn’t just at
our baptism, that is where it began, but there have been many events
in your life that you can point to and say, “I was very, very lost
and God said, ‘Hello, my son or daughter’ with joy on His face.”
Wrapping us up in His arms, snuggling us close to His bosom and leading
us back to the flock, not to use as a poster child example of what not
to do, but rather as a poster child example of what kind of people He
receives and what kind of people He chooses to eat with.

Now the Pharisees in this morning’s
gospel reading have a hard time stomaching this. The reason they have
a hard time stomaching this is because they have not experienced grace.
They are so bound by law. Sadly, they don’t believe that grace applies
to them. So all they’re about is making sure you get your life cleaned
up first so you can show yourself worthy of such grace, show yourself
worthy of such kindness and benevolence. Show yourself squared away
before you be given such goodness and mercy. And they forget their own sinfulness,
because they’ve never really tasted grace. They are bitter and sour,
and there is no joy in their heart.

You, on the other hand, know
that joy, though Satan wishes to squish it, squelch it, and choke it,
you know that joy of being found. You know what it’s like to be received
by God again. You know what it’s like to be received by God when you
don’t deserve to be received in such a glorious manner, brought back
to the family, rejoiced over and praised, just like that prodigal son.
So our Lord reminds the Pharisees and the scribes, as well as the tax
collectors and sinners who are gathered around to hear Him, of such
benevolence and mercy in these two parables.

Now there are some interesting
similarities between these two parables, and there are some interesting
differences. Both of the parables are looking for that which is lost.
Both of the parables, the one who was searching rejoices over having
found that which is lost, and both of the parables both are taken back
to the group of people that are rejoiced over and saying, “Rejoice
with me over that which was lost and now is found.”

But some interesting differences.
The first being, in the first parable, it is a male shepherd. In the
second parable it is a female homemaker. In the first parable that which
is being sought is out in the wilderness. The second parable that which
is sought is inside of a house. And it is not to be lost upon our ears of
the great gift that God is giving us in this.

It is very obvious in the first
parable the shepherd, the male shepherd is our Lord Jesus. Think about
in the Old Testament all the times that God revealed Himself to His
people. It was not in a building. It was in the wilderness, the parting
of the sea, the pillar of fire, the pillar of cloud, the serpent upon
the staff, the quail, and the manna. All of those things God revealed
Himself to them and made Himself known, and they encountered God in
the wilderness. You and I still live in the wilderness. Heaven is our
home and this is not. We encounter God in the wilderness. We just so
happen to encounter God in this wilderness, at this place here on Red
River street.

The shepherd that grabs hold
of the lamb puts it upon his shoulders and carries it. It’s at great
cost that the shepherd seeks out the lamb that is lost. As the writer
to the Hebrews said, “For the joy set before Him endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the Father.”
Our Shepherd did, with great joy, endure the cross for you. With joy
on His face did He find you, and with joy in His heart, and with joy
on His step did He bring you back to the people of God to rejoice with

Now the second is very interesting.
It is a female homemaker who is scouring the house for a lost coin with
the lamp in her hand. Carved in the front of the pulpit, hidden a little
bit by the piano, is a lamp. Psalm 119 talks about, “Thy word is
a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Why a female? Why in a house?
Not too long after Luke wrote this gospel, the church was continually
persecuted, in fact, for several hundred years. They had to meet in
quietness of someone’s home. They could not meet freely as you and I
are doing this morning. Meeting quietly in those homes did God, in the
midst of that small number, bring other people into that house and into
the church, and did those sinners gathered around that little altar
in that house, did they seek out other sinners with the Word of God
as their lamp. So you, as well, seek out other sinners with the lamp
of God’s Word that you have had planted in your heart.

It has been said very clearly
you can’t preach what you don’t know. You know what it’s like to have
been found. You know the joy of God receiving you back again, not with
looking down His nose or with hands crossed across the chest like we
often times receive people back with the wagging of our finger and the
shaking of our head, but with joy. You have tasted such things. You
have been invited to eat the feast that He only shares with sinners,
with those for whom He came to die and pay that price.

Having tasted such great things,
are we the ones that He wishes to use with the lamps in our hands to
scour and seek and bring back those who are His. We don’t bring them
back trying to fix them. We bring them back saying, “Come with
me and hear Someone who has told me all the things about me,” like
the woman at the well spoke to the people in Samaria, in her village.
They believed, not because of what she said, but because they heard
for themselves.

So don’t put too much upon
your shoulders that you are the critical piece in the puzzle of their
spiritual life; just bring them and show them. Let them encounter Jesus
here, in the midst of His Word that lights the path.

This is very interesting indeed,
Paul’s statement in the epistle to Timothy. When an old man facing death
is writing to a young pastor, trying to impart to him wisdom, so he
sees that which he has been given as a young man. That only came to
Paul late in life and came with great pain. You know how often Paul
had to look at his life and say, “Lord, why me? Look at what I
have done. Behold what I have been apart of. How my lips have spoken
ill of you.” Paul said, “But I received mercy. I received
mercy so that in me, as the foremost and chief of sinners, Jesus Christ
might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to
believe in Him for eternal life.”

You and I can say the same thing. That I receive mercy; I receive mercy
so that you can see what God has done and not me. So you can be received
like I am received and eat with the one who eats only with sinners.
Not like the Pharisees and the scribes who cross their arms and look
down and request you become something which you are incapable of becoming,
cleaning up that which is beyond your ability to clean.

Remember your mom and dad teaching
you bad company corrupts good morals, or you are the company you keep?
Well today, brothers and sisters, this Scripture has been fulfilled
in your hearing. For the Lord of Life invites you and wishes to eat
with you, and He will not be corrupted by your vileness, but rather
He will swallow up yours and give you His. He will demolish and destroy
yours and raise you up with His righteousness. Let him who has ears
to hear, hear with joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And the peace of God, which
surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ
Jesus to life everlasting, Amen.