I. Theme – Punishment and Grace
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
First Reading – Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm – Psalm 51:1-11
Epistle – 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel – Luke 15:1-10
Today’s readings praise God’s merciful pursuit of God’s people even as they sin. The readings contrast punishment and grace. In Exodus God forgives the Israelites’ spiritual impatience and lack of trust that lead them to turn from God to an idol . The Epistle and Gospel highlight God’s graceful care, which encompasses the lost and sinful. Paul offers himself as an example of one found by God, transformed by the power of God’s mercy. In the gospel, Jesus tells stories that illustrate God’s great joy over each sinner who repents.
If God’s grace welcomes back the apostle Paul, despite his persecution of early Christians, will it welcome back the wealthy whose largess has come at the expense of the poor. Grace transforms the past, and opens us to become new creations. We still may have to face the consequences of the past; but grace leads to new behaviors and openness to expanded divine possibilities for ourselves and the good Earth.
Jesus makes clear in the Gospel that everyone falls within the shadow of salvation, regardless of their past behavior and place in society. What Jesus is doing is placing worth and value on what others had deemed worthless. The Jewish mystical tradition proclaims that when you save one soul, you save the world. This wisdom provides a creative lens through which to read the parable of the lost sheep.
Each one of us is made in the image of God; therefore, each one of us is worthy. Because of that, we are valued. We belong to God. And God will seek us out to the ends of the earth as a lost sheep, into all the cracks and darkness and lonely, lost places as a lost coin. We are not forgotten to God, even when we fall into despair, into addiction, into hopelessness.