The Lost Sheep

This is a guest post by my wife, Liesl. It’s a sermon she preached on Sunday 14 September. The text was Luke 15:1-7.

I read something recently that made it very, very clear to me that to general society and the greater world, I am not really that important.

You may be wondering what I would read that would reveal such harsh truths to me, what I would read that would allow me to possibly even say to some of you that really, society doesn’t care about us all that much.

Well the always informative literature that brought me back down to earth was nothing other than… Celebrity Gossip site – Radar Online! You see I found a whole story focused on celebrities who step outside… Wait for it… Without make up on!!!!!   And while wearing tracksuits and jumpers!!!!!!! It was called Celebrity slobs!!!!…..   GASP!

Are you appalled?? That celebrities dare exit their houses without Hollywood style perfection??? How dare they do their shopping without a dress and heels, or a suit??

Perhaps you’re wondering how this brought me to the realization that the world was not deeply concerned or effected by me…

2014-09-13 23.06.17This.. This is how…

This is a pretty normal picture of me, this is how I would do my shopping, this is how I would happily exit the house… This is, to be honest my favourite outfit ever. I wear this in public and the only person who flinches is one of my aunties in Melbourne who hates clothing that isn’t in its prime. Even my mother gave up caring about 6 years ago that this jumper was my most worn outfit despite it being a holy, school jumper that she bought cheaply after I lost multiple expensive ones.

Nobody really cares… nobody took a picture to post online, nobody really made much comment or fuss.

I do not, in any way carry celebrity status.

As I’m growing up, my self-confidence takes a little less of a nose dive these days and my interest in fashion is even less than the little it ever was, but still it can be easy to feel insignificant in a big world.

Maybe it’s not your fashion choices you realize it, maybe its the realization that while certain people, politicians for example make stupid comments that get broadcast all over the news, sometimes we can’t even get our own children to hear us when we say things to them.

When someone famous dies, a whole world mourns, but daily average people are suffering and no one seems to notice.

Sometimes its challenging to find our place in this world – sometimes its easy to feel like our days just float on by without much meaning and purpose. That we are really just like a wave crashing on the ocean, moving on quickly.

It may feel that way, but if we live like that, as if we don’t matter and we have no real purpose or influence on the world then life becomes a meaningless and depressing state of being.

But if the world is quick to remind us that we don’t really matter, how then do we find our greater purpose and assurance of our importance and worth?

If I take my value and worth from things like trashy celebrity magazines and earthly values I will never match up and will never be able to find true worth, instead I need to find a better book to read.

Luckily – I have one!

You see when we look to the bible we realize that Jesus had this habit of challenging all kinds of social norms.  No wonder he came up against uncertainty and criticism by some people, he saw what was the standard way of life and the way they had warped what the scriptures were telling them and he called them on it, he did it differently and he challenged them all to live likewise.

More often than not he challenged those who were top Dog in society, he loved to have a go at the Pharisees, the religious teachers who prided themselves on being closer to God and having authority and knowledge. Jesus so often came along and pretty much I can imagine after a few times, wanted to just roll his eyes and go seriously guys, are you still not getting it? He so often tried to teach them that people were more important than the traditions and strict rules they were living by. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, even though it was considered wrong, he showed how deeply he cared for those who suffered, above what society considered right. When he hung out with women, lepers and tax collectors he challenged the idea of who was important. If Jesus was here today I wonder what he would think of the way we idolize some people yet as a society stamp others down and out.

Today I want to focus on just one of the parables Jesus told, which was that of the lost sheep.

The reading begins by telling us that these Pharisees still haven’t got it,  A group of people are sitting around wanting to hear Jesus, they are the sinners and the tax collectors ,they were sitting around listening and instead of the Pharisees rejoicing in sinners listening to this great teacher, they muttered amongst themselves about how he welcomes the sinners! I don’t know about you, but if I had a room full of what society called the sinners listening t Jesus, as a religious leader I would be thrilled! These are people who are not getting jut how much God loves everyone, including the sinners!

Jesus goes on to tell the story of a shepherd with 100 sheep, he says if one of them go missing, does not the shepherd leave the 99 to find the 1.

It seems crazy to imagine, a shepherd trying to tend his sheep and noticing one missing and then leaving all the others because of the huge value he places on a missing sheep.

Now, it doesn’t say in the Bible, but I feel pretty safe in assuming this wasn’t a celebrity sheep. It was just a lost sheep. If the bible had celebrity sheep, I’m thinking at least one of the gospel writers would have thought to mention it, they didn’t, so I’m assuming it was just a regular run of the mill, on of a hundred sheep.

But we hear that the shepherd goes and searches out that 1, returns him and further than that celebrates in his return.

He goes on to say that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than  99 righteous people who do not need to.

Now, this isn’t saying when we become saved and have repented God no longer interests in us, this story is a challenge to the pharisees, those who believe themselves to be righteous and above the need to repent. It’s about those who view themselves to be perfect and beyond the need for saving by our God.

It takes me back to my opening thought, that you know sometimes in this world it is easy to feel unimportant, to feel not enough in a world with perfect people in it.

Next to a celebrity I may not seem like a whole lot, next to people who literally have changed the world our small acts of service and dedication may not seem huge. I also know what it feels like to be a Christian who is struggling around a room full of seemingly perfect Christians. To wonder why they have it all figured out and I don’t.

But I tell you today, if you are around a perfectly saved Christian, with no faults and no need for salvation anymore, chances are you are around a Pharisee. Someone who has forgotten that life with Christ is not about building our selves up but humbling ourselves to serve others.

The story tells us that God isn’t interested in seeing Christians pretend to have it perfect. He isn’t interested in those who live good all the time and claim to be righteous people with no faults. He is interested in the one with the flaws, who admits the faults. He is interested in those who feel not enough. He is interested in hose who are real and bringing them back to the shepherd, back to God.

Because when we admit our short comings we can accept grace and wholeness in God. We do find completeness. But we don’t become like the 99 who feel complete and stop striving for more, we instead know that our wholeness and perfection is because of What God has done in us and we know that we will always need to keep coming back to that.

To be in relationship with God, we don’t need to be perfect, we don’t need to be the most important, the celebrity Christian.

We live in a broken world, we live in a place full of hurt and imperfection. God knows about our struggles, he sees our tears, he recognizes our depression, he sees our issues with self-worth, he sees our sin, he sees all the reasons we may feel like we are not enough. It would be understandable to see the faults and walk away deeming it too hard, deeming us too unworthy, ill stick with those who appear to have it figured out. But he doesn’t, that’s the exciting news. He seeks us out, he picks us up and he carries us home to a place where he can work in our lives and teach us what wholeness and love in Christ looks like.

To the world we may only be a person, who doesn’t have it all together and doesn’t seem like much, But to God – he searches for us. To God, we are his child who he loves and if you have ever seen a parent who can’t find their child, you can geta  glimpse of the pain of God when we are far from him.

So today is your opportunity to be found.

It’s not a day to focus on all the reasons we aren’t enough, or we aren’t good enough. It’s a day to let God bring you home.

Maybe you have used your weakness and struggles as an excuse, or you have let them define you. Maybe you don’t feel enough to have that deep close relationship with God, or to do the ministry he is calling you to or to just fully accept just how important you are to our God.

But today, Today God is calling you to him, he sees those things you carry and he offers rest and grace. They may still plague you, but they will not define you, because instead, you will be called a child of God:

One who is loved,
One who is sought after
One who was created

You are, exactly as he wants you, as long as you are willing and ready.

This morning  I invite you to be found, to come home. To let God take over all the reasons you may be pushing him away and to come home completely, every little part.

Theres a beautiful song by casting crowns that will play as we seek God,

It’s called Who am I? and it articulates what I have been wanting to share with you today. It asks the question, who am I? Who am I that the god who is the great creator of all would look on me with love? And it says, it’s not because of who I am but because of what you’ve done, not because of what I’ve done but because of who you are.

We can’t let our faults and mistakes keep us away, because even if we hadn’t done them, we still would not have done enough to earn what was given for us – Jesus life. It is because of his love and his death that we are welcome.

So as it plays I invite you to pray and let God speak truth into your life and be reminded of that truth: You are loved, just as you are he wants to call you child.

The Gift of Grace

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Gift of Grace, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 21 September, 2014. The Reading was Matthew 20:1-16

Have you ever received a gift, but it wasn’t what you were expecting? I’d like to tell you about a guy who was going to college in America. His father had told him that on his graduation, he would get the same present as his brothers – a new car. Now, this wasn’t just any car, but it was the top of the range, Porsche 911

A 2014 Porsche 911 GT3
A 2014 Porsche 911 GT3

, with all the trimmings. It was this that kept him going through college. He pushed through every class, he studied hard every night and passed his exams, and eventually came to graduation. He got up on stage, got his paper, and after the ceremony, his dad came over to him and handed him a present. He opened up the present, hoping to see the keys to his new car, but instead, what he found was a bible.

He was furious. He said to his dad, “I’ve spent four years working as hard as I can, to get the grades to let me pass, and all you give me at the end of it is this stupid book!” He marched off home, and threw the book in the corner of his room, never even opening it. He never talked to his father again.

Years later, one of his brothers called him to tell him that his father had died. He’d moved many times since, but he still had that bible. He opened it up, and found a letter, tucked inside. The letter said, “I am, and always will be, proud of you, my son. Your car is waiting for you at the dealership, all you need to do is pick it up.” Continue reading “The Gift of Grace”