9-11-2022

“JOY OVER ONE!”

Text: Luke 15:1-10

Sunday September 11th, 2022 – Pentecost 14

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Our text for this 14th Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel lesson from Luke 15 that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind that your purpose is to seek and save those who are lost and do not know you. Enable us to be in the right place and time to share (the Gospel with those you bring to us large groups, small groups or just one. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

I remember a time back in the late ’80s when on a spring training trip with the Buena Vista College Track and Field team when we had meets and practices with several colleges in the Oklahoma City area. We were traveling in two rental vans. We stopped at a gas station to get gas and stretch. After we were done, we took off again. We were running a bit late for the next meet time.

Little did we realize we had left Dave behind! He must have been in the restroom. And the worst part—we were about twenty miles down the road before we missed him! We let the other van know we didn’t have Dave. We didn’t say, “Oh well, we still have 20 instead of 21 on the team. Maybe he can hitchhike or somehow find his own way to the next meet.”

Of course, we went back to get him! It wasn’t just that we needed his abilities and talents; certainly these were important. But Dave was valuable to us.

4.

One of the biggest temptations I think most pastors and congregations face is numbers, numbers, numbers: average worship attendance, number of adult converts, average giving per communicant member. We’re tempted to measure success in terms of numbers.

So we get puffed up and proud when the numbers increase. “My power and the strength of my hands have done all this.” And we despair when the numbers are decreasing—the pews are empty, finances dwindling. We can lose heart. Worry about the future. Go into survival mode.

Numerical growth at all costs. Love of numbers is powerfully intoxicating. Our sinful nature worships at the altar of numerical success. But then we have a new god—a form of idolatry we might call “the Church Growth Movement”

Of course, numbers can be a good thing. The Book of Acts has a lot of numbers: three thousand, five thousand, “more than ever believers were added.” The Book of Numbers has a lot of numbers. In fact, God commanded a census. There were 603,550 men at the beginning of the book, 601,730 men at the end. Numbers showed how the hand of God was blessing his people.

But then, the love of numbers can also be a great temptation. King David ordered a census of his fighting men. We don’t know his exact motive, but it couldn’t have been good. God didn’t tell him to do it. It says Satan “incited” him (1 Chr 21:1). And because of it, the Lord sent a plague. Seventy thousand men fell dead. (There are some numbers for all you number-crunchers! We incur God’s wrath!)

3.

But that’s what’s so comforting about our text today. Jesus isn’t concerned about filling all the pews. He even leaves the ninety-nine in the open country. He’s concerned about a single sheep. He makes an arduous search for one lost sheep. He is filled with supreme joy when one lost sheep is found.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were muttering, criticizing, grumbling, complaining: “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (v 2). They kept on saying this aloud, kept on openly voicing their displeasure with Jesus. “This man,” “this fella,” “this guy.” Derogatory.

They didn’t even want to pronounce the name Jesus. What they said was absolutely true. They said a great truth. But they meant it for evil. It’s like when Caiaphas said more than he knew: “It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (Jn 11:50).

So, in contrast to the Pharisees, Jesus shows God’s gracious heart in the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. His utter delight is to seek and save one lost sinner. God’s Word clearly teaches that God so loved the whole world of sinners. In our individualistic society, it’s good to emphasize the corporate nature of the Holy Christian Church. But these parables also show us God’s love for the individual sinner.

Every single person is important to Jesus. One out of one hundred sheep, one out of ten coins, one out of two sons. One seems insignificant to us. But you are more precious in the sight of God than all the gold on earth. Your soul and body are precious to him. If you had been the only sinner in the world, he would have died for you. God’s love for you is radical, absurd to our reason.

To leave ninety-nine sheep alone in the wilderness to seek one makes no sense. It seems irresponsible. Nobody who counts the cost would do such a thing. It’s not worth it. We would cut our losses. We’d say, “Well, I still have ninety-nine that haven’t wandered off.” But our Lord is like an irresponsible shepherd. He’s consumed with passion to save the single lost soul. He won’t rest until he’s found that sheep. That’s a great comfort.

2.

So in this little parable, we see a great loss, an intense search, and finally a joyful finding. What a happy day it was when the lost sheep was found. The shepherd didn’t give it a beating. He was compassionate. He didn’t even compel the sheep to walk. He carried it on his shoulders. Like Isaiah 40: “He will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom [close to his heart], and gently lead those that are with young” (v 11).

And then we see how the whole community rejoiced. He calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (v 6). What great joy there is when a sinner repents. What joy God and all the holy angels know when a lost sinner is found. Heaven reverberates with joy over the repentance of one.

“This Man welcomes sinners.” Thanks be to God the Pharisees were right! Jesus is constantly welcoming and eating with sinners. He continues to do this in our midst, feeding us with his own body and blood.

Think of that in the next few minutes when you kneel here. He’s got you on his shoulders. He’s carrying you with joy. He just can’t wait for the party. You are that one lost sheep. He has found you. He has worked repentance and faith in you. There is rejoicing over you today, rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God.

So instead of getting all wrapped up in the love of numbers, we are content preaching God’s Word in its truth and purity, as the people of God living holy lives according to it, and leaving the results to God. And rejoicing when one sinner repents.

To God, One Sinner Is Valuable beyond Measure.

You are valuable beyond measure. You’re not a number.

1.

All Creatures Great and Small is a series by James Herriot, a vet from Yorkshire, England. In one story, he was lamenting about the disappearance of the small family farm. He went on a call to a huge dairy operation. Nobody had time for him. They were all rushing around; the milk truck was coming soon. The cows were just “milk production units,” known only by numbers on their ear-tags.

In contrast, his next call was to a small farmer. He was hospitable, friendly. He offered a bit of lunch before they went to the barn. And the few animals were all known by name.

So your Good Shepherd knows you by name; you are his. You’re not just a number. Many other passages convince you of that as well: “You are of more value than many sparrows” (Lk 12:7b). “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (12:7a). (More numbers for you there!) He has engraved you on the palms of his hands; you are his (cf Is 49:16).

When we returned to pick up Dave, he was standing in the doorway of the gas station waiting. He wasn’t really happy with us and was hurt that we didn’t even miss him.

But we did apologize profusely, and he did forgive us. We had some good laughs about it later—a very memorable spring training trop for sure!. And one of the best lessons we learned: it was good to know that one person mattered.

With Jesus, you’re not just a number. You’re a precious lamb. He loves you. He died for you. He redeemed you. He searched for you. He found you. He is full of joy over you. May you be convinced of that, for Jesus’ sake.

Amen.

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.