Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Sinner Magnet

This Sunday we heard a sermon about the parable of the lost son, Luke 15:11-32. Charlie was correct in saying that every time we read this, something new pops up. I appreciate Charlie bringing in the "Twelve Step building" and its use by N.A. and others, and the vital life changing and soul saving that goes on over there. That story fit in well with the parable. Overall, the rector did a pretty good job although, as usual, I have a few minor quibbles with the sermon. For one, there was one little remark about the only time Jesus gets mad is when, and I paraphrase here, people are too "Pharisaical." For another, there was too much emphasis placed on Jesus the law breaker.

When we try to limit Jesus' anger to the Pharisaical, we forget that there was the little episode of overturning the vendors' tables at the temple (Mark 11:15-19, Matthew 21:12-17; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22,. And what about the poor fig tree that withered away in Matthew 21:17-20?

When we go down the path of "Jesus the law breaker" too far, we tend to ignore Jesus the law giver. At the very onset of the parable we are told that the sinners and tax collectors themselves were drawing near to Jesus. Was it magnetism, or did they want to hear his Word, His life changing and soul directing law which He was giving free of charge to all who made the effort to come to Him? I was left wondering, "What parables or words did He tell them?"

An excellent sermon on today's Gospel can be found at A North Woods Anglican. Father Dean A. Einerson starts by describing the two parables that precede the parable of the prodigal son and goes on to quote one possible answer to the question I posed in my second paragraph.
"The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin are told in this context and they are told to the Pharisees and the scribes. These two parables are told to let the Pharisees and scribes again come to grips with what Jesus is doing. Remember back when Jesus was preaching in his home town at the beginning of his ministry and he read from Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (4:18-19)

Here he is indeed proclaiming good news. He is proclaiming release and recovery and freedom. He is proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, but he is not doing it at the expense of the Pharisees. He is seeking the one per cent who are lost but God does not forget the ninety-nine who are not lost and so he tells another parable."

Read the whole thing.

And just what was it that those tax collectors and sinners were hearing when they sat and dined with Jesus? Paul gives us a strong hint in today's reading from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.
"...we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." v. 20

It is the same call that calls me each time I approach His altar. That act of reconciliation is not a one-way street. It is not something I can ever do by my own power and will. Reconciliation is a deep and complex subject, but I know it is complete through Jesus. That is why I keep coming back for more.

1 comment:

  1. I think those who view Jesus as a "lawbreaker," fail to acknowledge that the Law, as given to Moses, was fulfilled in Him. The Law existed for a number of reasons, obviously, but primarily to convict us humans of our own separation from God and reasons therefor. When Christ died, and the Temple curtain was ripped, the Law was fulfilled. It no longer existed except by Human choice. We can choose to be judged under the law or choose to be exonerated through Christ's sacrifice and resurrection.

    As for Jesus' anger, it was not at those who, knowing nothing other than the law, chose to honor it. Rather, it was directed at those who failed to see that merely outward manifestations of "law abiding-ness" did nothing to cleanse the filthy nature of the Human heart. See, e.g. The Sermon On The Mount. See also, his comments regarding those who wear sackcloth and ashes or give alms in public view. They did so to demonstrate outward compliance with the Law, but inside their motivation was perverted.

    As for the Prodigal Son, some of us --OK, me-- view that parable as a personal, very joyous confirmation of Christ's seeking after me, and welcoming me after years of misbegotten wanderings and pig-sty wallowings away from Him.

    Sorry for the long comment.