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Welcome Sinner

Luke 15:1-10

The Rev. Jon Roberts

11 September

2022

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ 7 Just 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. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

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Lost Coin, Domenico Fetti 1619-1622

Welcome Sinner!
What a glorious sound.
For once you were lost
But now you are found.[1]

Most of our lives we search and search for that thing, which is missing, knowing that it is right there, but we cannot seem to put our finger on it.

Everyone has lost something before. When you announce openly that you lost your glasses, or you cannot find your phone, what does the person near you, almost always say? “Oh, where did you lose it?” I do not suspect they are intentionally trying to stir you up, to make you feel stupid, frustrated, by questioning whether you know where you lost the item. It is their way of getting you to reflect, to backtrack and retrace your steps. “Do you remember the last place you had it?” “What were you doing at the time?” Those seem to be the underlying questions to help you remember where it might be. It does help. In the pace of life, we break routine and put things where we do not usually go or put them down temporarily, only to forget to pick them up. Sometimes, something may slip out of our possession into that couch cushion, or between the car seat and console. Sometimes it may be on a shelf in the store where we put it down to look at an ingredient. It is most likely still there when we go back. When you are reunited with what was lost, what a glorious sound, when you shout, “I found it!”

Look around, something is missing. At Christmas and Easter, from January through May, we had a lot of people in Church. Where are they now? There are many churches asking this question. Maybe we should look under the pew cushions. Maybe they are in a back room or stuck in their car. Maybe they are all laying on the beach. Quick, send somebody outside to see if the doors are unlocked.

Many will say they do not go to church because it doesn’t “do” anything for them anymore. Many are still stuck in Covid shock. It is safer to stay home than to be around others where I might get sick, they say. There is legitimacy for the homebound who have infirmity and ailments preventing them from coming here, but there is something missing when people avoid coming to church. Is this what is lost today? Is it the people who are not here? Are we not known as one of the friendliest, most inviting churches in these parts? Do we not have an inviting website, Facebook page, social outreach, and new church cards to hand out? Where are they? Think back to when you last recall the pews being full, the atmosphere of families, friends, and visitors more present.

The top three reasons why people do not come to church are:
1. The church is full of sinners; or
2. The sinners lost their way; or worse,
3. The church has lost its way.

How easy it is for us to point our fingers at those heathens who only want to be armchair quarterbacks, beach bums, spiritually laisse faire, agnostics, or sunshine Christians on Sundays, as the culprits. But whether a person attends church or not, is not the criteria for who is lost. A better place to look is inside that small percentage, that hidden place in our own life which requires self-examination.

We don’t always think about sin as something lost. We think of it as something we want to lose because Sin is an object that makes us lose things. The Devil made me do it, but in the Book of Common Prayer it says, “Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.”[2] Hold on to that thought. Don’t lose it. The power of sin makes us lost, our being found by God. Knowing your sin, and owning your sin, is imperative to your being found by God. When you know what it is, your desire, your weakness, your sin, you can claim it. The church should be a confessing Church in all its teachings helping people know they are sinners and teaching them how to overcome it.

In St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, he classifies, the multiple expressions of sin. Pride, Anger, Envy, Coveting, Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth are the seven deadly ones, and they have several subsets under each. Before one can receive God, to be found, Augustine stresses that we must pray for the glorious reception to begin and end our day, by confessing our sins. He searched every moment for that which was lost in himself, that thing that he could not quite put his finger on, so that he could be close to God and close to other people, the way God intended. For example, if we are in a comfortable position in life, a secure place, where we may be above others who are lesser our pride can take charge. “I am doing well, so I really do not need God to help me out right now. He would do well to go to somebody less fortunate.” "It does not harm you too much to let the one lost sheep go astray when you have ninety-nine more." You count your losses when Pride takes over and it rules your soul. Another example is when we get enraged by wrong-doing, unethical or immoral behaviors. We are consumed in thought, word, and deed on exacting justice but if it is out of Anger, or Envy, we will once again lose out. Knowing your sin and owning your sin, happens through self-examination and confession. Through this, we become found by God.

When we turn to Jesus, we are like the missing coin, the missing sheep, to him. This is the glorious sound heard in our Gospel today as the sinner is found. Know you are a sinner and repent. The opening of the chapter is epic. Those who don’t like, don’t trust, and don’t believe in Jesus, say, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”[3] This fellow! They have no idea because they live in their pride, envy, and anger. There are people who will misguide you, make you doubt and criticize you if you do not honor them and what they worship, their values, their identity, and their position in life. “He welcomes sinners, and he eats with them.” Today, Jesus welcomes you and He welcomes me to eat with him. If you are not a self-proclaimed sinner, you don’t belong here. “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Welcome Sinner!
What a glorious sound.
For once you were lost
But now you are found.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] 1979 BCP p.848-9 Catechism, “Sin & Redemption.”
[3] Luke 15:1-10

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