Divine Grace Does Not Conform to Common Sense
The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Old Testament: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalter: Psalm 14
Epistle: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15:1-10
Old Testament: Exodus 32:7-14
Psalter: Psalm 51:1-10
Epistle: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15:1-10
Merciful God, your desire to bring us into your commonwealth is so great that you seek us in the places of our ignorance, and the forgotten corners where we hide in despair. Gather us into your loving embrace, and pour upon us your wise and holy Spirit, so that we may become faithful servants in whom you rejoice with all the company of heaven. Amen.
So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? (Luke 15:3-4).
People in love will do crazy things. Sometimes they do things that do not conform to common sense. Here are some real life examples:
“I once flew from Chicago to Connecticut to fix my girlfriend’s hot-water heater because I thought she was considering leaving me for another guy. It ended up not being enough to stop her at the time—but now we're married!” —Keith, 23, Chicago
“Last August, when I was attending university in Australia, an American exchange student moved into the room across the hall from me. We hit it off and spent the next three months enjoying our time together, knowing that she had to leave and go back to the States at the end of her semester program. The day she left was the saddest day of my life. We spent two months apart, during which I flew down to Sydney, got a visa and bought a plane ticket to the U.S. I do miss Australia, but every moment with her reminds me why I left. That’s the craziest thing I've ever done for love—and the best thing, too.”—Morgan, 21, Evanston, Ill.
Of course, there are stories of people doing wild thing for love that did not end well. People do make terrible decisions for love, but the point is that people will act in love in ways that no other emotion can motivate. Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).
As human beings created in God’s image, it should not surprise us that the depth of God’s love for his people does not conform to common sense. In fact, because of God’s love for humanity God is wasteful in dispensing his grace in the hope that we will respond in love to him. Jesus tells the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23), in which a farmer throws his seed all over the place on four different kinds of soil with only one kind producing plants and fruit. No farmer in Jesus day would be so frivolous with his seeds. The actions of the farmer in Jesus’ day would have been seen as wasteful; but that is exactly Jesus’ point. God loves us so much, God is wastefully generous in dispensing his grace upon us and this world in the hope that some thorny and hard-hearts will be reached.
In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus says, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” The obvious answer in Jesus’ day is no one. No shepherd would put his entire flock at risk by searching for one lost lamb. The shepherd would search only if another shepherd could watch the flock, or perhaps he might send someone else to look; but no shepherd would leave all of his sheep vulnerable looking for one that had strayed.
But that is what God does. The one stray lamb is so loved, God goes in search to bring that one back into the fold. St. Augustine writes, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” With God we are not just one among others, we are more than a number among millions. We are beloved by God and God knows when we hurt and grieve and mourn and suffer loneliness. Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
God is so crazy in love with us, God acts in ways that make no common sense, at least as we human beings define it. That is good news indeed!
God is very fond of us.
PRAYER: Persistently forgiving God, we are a stiff-necked and stubborn people who try your patience; yet, instead of giving us up for lost, you seek us out until we return to you. Break our willfulness and bring us back from our wanderings; bend our pride and create in us pure and faithful hearts, which rejoice in your forgiveness made known through Jesus Christ. Amen.
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